Ballet Training
Summer intensive students in contemporary class at Arts Umbrella. Photo by Michael Slobodian, Courtesy Arts Umbrella.

Before attending the Alonzo King LINES Ballet summer program at age 18, Maya Harr did not have much experience with improvisation. In fact, she was such an introverted bunhead that even the word seemed scary. "The teacher came into the studio, turned off the lights, put on music and told us to dance," says Harr, now a LINES company member. "We didn't stop moving for 45 minutes, and I was grateful for the freedom I've found."

You might feel obligated to spend your summer honing your technique at a classical ballet program. Yet as ballet companies open their repertoires to more contemporary works from choreographers like Aszure Barton, Kyle Abraham, Crystal Pite and Nicolo Fonte, you may want to consider opening yourself up to contemporary styles and the outside-the-box thinking that underlies them. "This work is necessary for the future of ballet," says Dwight Rhoden, artistic director of Complexions Contemporary Ballet and its affiliated summer intensive.

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Boston Ballet principal Lia Cirio at age 15 in class at the Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet summer intensive. Photo by Rosalie O'Connor, Courtesy Cirio.

It's hard to believe that summer intensive season is almost over! We hope you're learning, growing, having fun and making memories at your intensives this year.

Today, we're sharing seven dancers' favorite summer intensive memories.

Isabella Boylston, American Ballet Theatre

Photo Courtesy Boylston.

Summer Intensive: American Ballet Theatre

Age: 17

Perseverance

"I was 17 (although I looked about 14) and attended the ABT Summer Intensive. I was particularly excited to be there because the year before that I hadn't been accepted."

Outside the Studio...

"My mom, my best friend Lauren Post and I sublet a tiny one bedroom on the Upper West Side and had a blast exploring the city."

Dreams Come True

"That summer I was invited to join the ABT Studio Company—a dream come true!"

Summer Intensive Survival
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At my first summer intensive away from home, my roommate and I deliberated good-naturedly over bunkbeds and decorations. But the next summer, I walked into a triple dorm room and was met with the least desirable bed choice and nearly every inch of wall space plastered with posters of teen pop artists I didn't care for. (Well, hated.) While my two roommates became fast friends, they were aloof towards me and disregarded my personal space.

It was not an ideal situation, but it was one that I had to learn to live with for five weeks. Venturing away from home for summer programs means intimate spaces, unfamiliar faces and new rules—a recipe for lifelong friends if you're lucky, tribulations if you're not. Either way, learning to deal with residence hall life is good training for what may come later in your ballet career or in college.

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Summer Intensive Survival
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I'm a young dancer, and I've been accepted to a prestigious summer program. I know intensives are a good way to get my name known in the dance world. How do I give a good impression without seeming nervous? —Lydia

Relax! It sounds like you still have several years before you need to worry about networking for a job. Instead of placing all of your focus on what the school director thinks of you, shift your priority to soaking up as much as you can from your classes. That said, you can make a good impression by working hard, being open to corrections (and quickly applying them) and asking smart questions.

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Editors' List: The Goods
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With the long, super-sweaty days of summer intensives fast approaching, there has possibly never been a better time to make sure your dancewear drawer is full—and fully equipped!—for whatever your training and performance plans might be.

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Summer Intensive Survival
Follow these tips to stay fresh and clean all summer long. Here, Pacific Northwest Ballet School Summer Course students in a partnering class. Photo by Angela Sterling, Courtesy PNB.

No matter where you're training this summer, you want to make an impression with your artistry— not your B.O. You'll be dancing (and sweating) more than usual, so follow these basic rules to help you stay healthy and keep embarrassing hygiene faux pas at bay.

✔ Change your dancewear daily.

Photo by Jayme Thornton

To ward off odors and the chance of infection, "you must wear a clean leotard and tights every day," says Deborah Hess, senior faculty at Canada's National Ballet School. For men, that means a fresh pair of socks and tights, plus a clean shirt and dance belt. Since you'll have multiple classes, you may need to change midday to avoid skin irritation and odor.

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Ballet Training
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I'm in a second company and I'd like to use my summer layoff to do an intensive elsewhere. Is there a tactful way to bring this up to my director? —Simone

This is tricky, and depends on your director. When I was a trainee, we were free to go elsewhere until the season started again—my director only requested that we stay in shape. But others may require that you stick around, or frown upon training at another school, so make sure you know where they stand. You should be able to ask a member of the artistic staff about an official policy. Understand that there may be consequences for going behind your director's back.

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Audition Advice
Photo by Nathan Sayers for Pointe

When Lilliana Hagerman auditioned for Orlando Ballet School's summer intensive, she felt overwhelmingly intimidated. “The other dancers were all so beautiful," remembers Hagerman, now a dancer with Kansas City Ballet. “I thought that if I made one mistake it would be over." Hagerman did make a mistake: She slipped and fell during grand allégro. “I got back up and I smiled," she says. To her relief, the teacher smiled back.

Summer intensive auditions give you only a few moments to make a good impression—often while crammed into a crowded room, after traveling distances in the car and with little time or space to warm up. It's hard not to obsess over a small mistake or feel discouraged if you're put on the intensive's waitlist afterwards. But according to school directors, many of your fears are overreactions. Here are a few of the most common audition misconceptions, along with what's really going on inside the teachers' heads.

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September 1 marks the beginning of a whole new year—a new dance year, that is. You're fresh from your summer intensive, getting back into a regular class and rehearsal schedule and learning choreography for a new set of performances.

It feels like a clean slate, and that makes it a great time to think about your goals for the upcoming school year. What do you most want to work on this year, and what do you hope to achieve? Whether it's finally mastering a technical challenge, establishing a cross-training routine or building up your confidence, here are some things to keep in mind:

If you attended a summer intensive, let that momentum carry you into the new school year. Students in Miami City Ballet School’s summer repertory performance, photo by Ella Titus.

Set realistic goals. According to a study that looked at New Year's Resolutions, 46% of resolutions fail within six months. That's probably because so many of us set unreasonably high expectations for ourselves, or create lists of goals that are a mile long. If you expect to perfect every aspect of your technique in one season, you're setting yourself up for frustration. It's great to challenge yourself, but you're more likely to see tangible progress when you make your goals smaller and more concrete.

Be flexible. One study found that when we make our goals a bit broader, rather than extremely specific, we're more likely to follow through. So if you're a non-morning person who wants to start cross-training before class, try aiming for 3-5 early days a week instead of making five days a week the only option.

Stay motivated. A new season, and all the possibilities it holds, is exciting—but it can also be daunting. Once you start working towards a goal, keep checking in with yourself and try these tips for keeping procrastination at bay if you start to waver.

Build on summer intensive momentum. If you attended an intensive this year, chances are you're energized and renewed after a summer of new experiences. Use that energy when you're back at your home studio: keep notes of helpful corrections you received from your new teachers, stay in touch with friends from your intensive and talk to your teachers at home about what you hope to accomplish this year. They'll probably be happy to help!

 

For more news on all things ballet, don’t miss a single issue.

Summer Intensive Survival
Students in class at Pacific Northwest Ballet School's summer program. Angela Sterling, Courtesy PNB.

When 17-year-old Rock School student Sarah Lapointe was auditioning for summer intensives, she faced a dilemma. By mid-January, she'd been accepted to a great school. But she needed to give her answer in seven days and still had four more auditions on her agenda. “I thought, What should I do?" says Lapointe. “Do I turn down this offer, or risk being wait-listed or not receiving another acceptance somewhere else?"

It's a common conundrum. For Lapointe, the answer was to contact the first school to ask for a deadline extension, which it granted. “This allowed me to focus on my remaining auditions and make a solid decision," she says.

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News

In Pointe's December 2012/January 2013 issue, three dancers looked back at the summer intensive teachers who helped inspire and inform their careers. Here, Tiler Peck remembers her own seminal summer teacher, as told to writer Joseph Carman.

 

My first summer course was at SAB in 2002 when I was 12 or 13. On the first day, Suki Schorer was on me about fixing my posture, she was on me about stretching and turning out my legs, she was on me constantly for the entire class. I was getting a little teary—I thought she had it in for me. Then after class, she told me she wanted to move me up a level.

 

There’s something about Suki, her pizzazz. There is such a liveliness about her. It makes you want to work just as hard to give it back to her. She's very hands-on. She especially worked with me on my port de bras. When you’re younger, you just want it to be correct. She said to me, “Move your elbows, make it more fluid.” She said it’s like when you use a plié to get somewhere. It’s the movement before the port de bras that’s important—to connect everything, to coordinate it and make it dance.

 

We also learned Balanchine works that summer, Concerto Barocco, variations from Agon. I found my musicality at the school. Now, as I’ve grown in the company, I can finesse my musicality and play with it. With any new performance I do, Suki is always there—like my first Allegro Brillante. I love hearing corrections from her and the stories she tells us about Mr. B.

 

Sometimes it’s hard for young dancers when you first go to a summer intensive. Remember that the advice and corrections are not to beat you down. Just get as much knowledge as you can gain. Try to hear everything and take it in. Don’t get discouraged.

 

I liked ballet, but I didn’t love it until I went to SAB that summer.

 

Ever wish you could soar like American Ballet Theatre’s Jose Manuel Carreño? This summer, aspiring professionals can train with the soon-to-retire principal at Carreño Dance Festival in Sarasota, Florida, and can learn a few of his tips and tricks. 

Partnering with former Sarasota Ballet artistic director Robert de Warren, Carreño has put together a star-studded faculty list, including Ballet Nacional de Cuba ballet mistress Loipa Araujo, School of American Ballet’s Katrina Killian, ABT soloist Gennadi Saveliev and San Francisco Ballet ballet master Ricardo Bustamante—as well as Carreño himself. Unaffiliated with a particular school or company, the program houses a mix of techniques, allowing dancers to sample Vaganova, the Cuban school and Balanchine. “Dancers can begin to understand the differences in approach to techniques,” says de Warren. “We want to teach them how to be open and respect different styles in ballet.”

One of the biggest draws of the program, however, is that students will take many of their classes on the stage of the Sarasota Opera House. They'll get to regularly practice feeling their lines without the help of mirrors and projecting their presence up to the balcony. 

Auditions take place throughout January and February. The inaugural three-week program runs from August 4 to 27. See www.carrenodancefestival.com

 

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This post has been revised to reflect the following correction: Robert de Warren is not the CEO of Sarasota Ballet.

 

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