Ballet Careers
Sarah LaPointe, here in class at Charlotte Ballet, uses her summer layoff to teach and catch up on college. Todd Rosenberg, Courtesy Charlotte Ballet.

For a new professional dancer, the concept of a summer layoff—when ballet companies go on an unpaid hiatus for several weeks (or months)—can be a welcome change of pace, an anxiety-riddled uncertainty or a bit of both. While it should feel rejuvenating to take a break after an intense season, fear of financial instability or getting out of shape can overshadow the good. Here, six dancers share how they leverage their summer layoffs to be both productive and restorative.

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Photo Courtesy Freshify

Dancers know there's no time like summer for sun, sand...and sweat! Gross but true: Whether your summer intensive has air conditioning or not (just because some people like to yell about how AC is bad for dancers), there's no denying that summertime dancing brings with it all kinds of sweatiness—and resultant smelliness.

Consider this quintet of products your Anti-Odor Justice League. They're sworn to protect you—not to mention your fellow dancers!—from the sweaty, stinky, just-plain-nasty worst of all that higher temps threaten.

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Health & Body
Photo via Pixabay

Summer is supposed to be carefree and fun, but for dancers, the season often marks a transition out of your regular routine and into a new environment. While it's undoubtedly exciting, the summertime shake-up may also trigger feelings of stress and anxiety. We've gathered six of our best tips to help you adjust—and deal with anxiety—whether you're heading to an intensive, on leave for the summer or performing on tour.

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Summer Intensive Survival
Caralin Curcio at the International Summer Course for Professional Dancers. Photo Courtesy Kathleen Breen Combes.

While New York City Ballet was off last August, corps member Sasonah Huttenbach was hard at work at the Danish Ballet Masters program, a two-week Bournonville workshop in New York City led by former Royal Danish Ballet dancers Mogens Boesen and Linda Hindberg. While they have always offered a student intensive, last summer Boesen and Hindberg added a program for working dancers. “A lot of professionals just lean toward open classes or giving themselves class during layoffs, but sometimes you need the basics because you're rehearsing and performing so much," says Huttenbach, who attended the student intensive twice before joining NYCB. “It was great to spend time off perfecting my alignment and technique."

Wondering about how to spend your summer layoff weeks this year? While teaching or performance gigs are good ways to stay busy, off-time can also be perfect for brushing up your technique, exploring another style and networking with a broader range of dance professionals. From big cities to the beach, programs geared towards professionals can help reinvigorate your career and remind you that you can always go back to summer camp.

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Ballet Careers
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Need some inspiration for staying in shape this summer? These four dancers know how to balance rest, cross-training and fun to start off their next season right.


Photo by Charlie McCullers, Courtesy Atlanta Ballet.

Jackie Nash

Atlanta Ballet

Typical summer break: mid-May–August

On rest: I need to take one solid week, at least, to let all those last bits of the season go. After Nutcracker we push straight through until May, so a lot of little things in my body need to heal, and I want to have some mental space to go over how the season went.

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Health & Body
Matthew Henry via Burst

Whether you're heading off to a summer intensive or loading up on classes at your hometown studio, buying fresh and seasonal produce is a great way to get the fuel you need for dancing. Fruits and veggies are tastier (and often cheaper) when they're in season, since they are more locally abundant and don't have to be shipped from far away.

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Featured Article

Jackie Nash (Photo by Charlie McCullers, courtesy Atlanta Ballet)

Jackie Nash: Atlanta Ballet

Typical summer break: mid-May–August

 On rest: I need to take one solid week, at least, to let all those last bits of the season go. After Nutcracker we push straight through until May, so a lot of little things in my body need to heal, and I want to have some mental space to go over how the season went.

 Summer gig: For the past five or six years, I’ve danced with Atlanta Ballet’s 12-member, dancer-run summer company, Wabi Sabi. We start rehearsing three to six hours a day one or two weeks after the season ends, with performances in July and August. I don’t need to do maintenance beyond that because the shows finish close to the beginning of our season.

 Taking class: When we’re not working on Wabi Sabi, I either teach or take class during the Atlanta Ballet Centre for Dance Education summer intensives to stay in shape.

Nutrition: Because I have more time, I look for new recipes. I love grilling fish outside and having people over for kebabs, getting to be more social.

Branching out: I own a house in East Atlanta with my husband, fellow AB dancer Heath Gill. We like to catch up on gardening, painting and house maintenance things.

 

Figgins in Jorma Elo's 1st Flash (photo by Rosalie O'Connor, courtesy Aspen Santa Fe Ballet)

Jenelle Figgins: Aspen Santa Fe Ballet

Typical summer break: Six weeks total, usually in May and September

 On rest: Working 7,900 feet above sea level means that the demand on our bodies is very high. I try to take a couple weeks to rest. My routine is to spend time at a spa here, getting massages and physical therapy, and going to the hot springs and mineral baths in the area.

Cross-training: Later on during the break I start getting physical. Aspen is really special because a lot of social activities are active and outside. A lot of us go hiking in the summer. We also have access to great yoga classes. I need to lengthen and stretch, and I avoid exercise that will make me too tight.

 Taking class: We are the only dance studio out here, so it is difficult. We tend to get out of town because Aspen is so small. If I travel on my break, I take classes at home.

 Nutrition: I love to cook. On layoff, I have more time to focus on my diet and research how I can turn my food into medicine. Turmeric is good for my mood and is also an anti-inflammatory—right now I am into turmeric-and-blood-orange lemonade.

Branching out: I’m Buddhist, so I like to chant and meditate. I try to “shed” all the stuff in my mind and alternate in self-questioning about how my thoughts and energies are serving dance and my life. It’s a great time for me to let my mind go beyond my job. I’m also continuing to learn with online college courses.

 

Skylar Campbell (photo by Christopher Wahl, courtesy NBoC)

Skylar Campbell: National Ballet of Canada

Typical summer break: Four weeks, dates vary

On rest: Balance is my favorite word and key for any athlete. At the end of the season you are most likely in top dancing shape. Rest is good, but I don’t like to throw it all away, because our layoffs are short.

Cross-training: During the season it can be difficult for me to cross-train. I love to change up my routine during off weeks, because it’s important to keep moving. I do resistance training at the gym and take advantage of swimming. If I have a principal role coming up, focusing on long-term cardio can help. If I go home to California, I am lucky to be able to train at the Pilates studio my parents own in Orange County.

 Taking class: For every week I take off, I need just as much time to get back.

 Nutrition: The first week, I do a cold-pressed-juice cleanse because I don’t need as much fuel and replenishment. After that I ease back into my regular diet.

 Branching out: I try to let my mind out of the ballet bubble. I exert my energy on playing the drums. It is a great outlet when I’m not dancing.

 

Porterfield and Paul Michael Bloodgood in Balanchine's Agon (photo by Tony Spielberg, courtesy Ballet Austin)

Oren Porterfield: Ballet Austin

Typical summer break: mid-May–August

On rest: I definitely need a week of seeing music shows, drinking beer, eating pizza—real people fun. Austin is a great city for music and my husband is a gigging musician. I have to take a little time away to get perspective before going back to demi, demi, grand.

 Cross-training: I can’t do the same thing every day. We’re lucky to have access to a Pilates studio, so we can take group apparatus class and use reformers. I take yoga around town and do it at home with “Yoga with Adriene,” a YouTube channel. I have a gym membership, too.

Taking class: I usually don’t take off of class for more than two weeks.

 Nutrition: I am definitely more forgiving of my body standards during layoff. I appreciate being curvier in the summer, which is something I don’t appreciate as much in season. I try not to ever go on a diet—moderation is the best thing. I eat real food, and if I eat food that isn’t so good, I make sure I move more.

Branching out: I have an apothecary line I started a few years ago (ritual-goods.com), and I make essential-oil perfumes and sprays. I do pop-ups. In the summer I have more opportunities to learn more about herbalism and experiment.

Candice Thompson, a former dancer, is a freelance writer based in Atlanta.

Audition Advice
Students in Miami City Ballet School's summer repertory performance. Photo by Ella Titus, Courtesy Miami City Ballet School.

Getting ready to audition for intensives? Click here to find the best summer study options for you!

By the time Washington Ballet dancer Andile Ndlovu was finishing his training in South Africa, he faced a risky decision. After attending a ballet competition in 2008, he received summer-intensive scholarship offers from The Washington School of Ballet and Dance Theatre of Harlem. But choosing between schools would determine more than his summer plans. The right intensive might lead to acceptance into a professional-level training program at summer's end, whereas walking away empty-handed would mean going back home, to begin again.

Many dancers on the cusp of graduation can relate. Summer intensives often serve as a lengthy audition process for year-round opportunities, a gateway to traineeships or second-company contracts that bridge the gap between student and professional. But choosing a summer program essentially means committing to a company school—before it's committed to you. If you're researching summer programs and know you want to move into a more professional sphere by summer's end, here's how to ensure that you're making a smart, career-minded decision.


Andile Ndlovu with Avana Kimura. Photo by Dean Alexander, Courtesy The Washington Ballet.


Assess Your Options

When prioritizing which intensives to audition for, start with schools affiliated with dream companies. But it's also important to investigate other options and to be very realistic about where you'd be happy day to day. “You have to take away the name brand and take a really close look at the company, at the people, at the repertoire," says San Francisco Ballet corps de ballet dancer Isabella DeVivo, who received a traineeship through SFB's summer program in 2012. “I liked how broad the rep was here."

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