Tips for Y'all from Houston Ballet's Intensive

This summer, a handful of students attending summer intensives around the country will be sharing their experiences with Pointe. Here, Maddy Graupmann recounts her first few days at Houston Ballet.


Hello! I'm Maddy Graupmann and I am 17 and a level 7 student in Houston Ballet's Summer Intensive. This is my second summer in Houston and I just completed the year-round program there as well.


Last summer, being my first away, I was so anxious to come! I was counting down the days from around 80! When I got here I couldn’t believe how many other dancers there were. I had never seen so many—especially coming from my tiny Minnesotan town of just 7,000! The first week, I was so nervous—everyone was trying so hard to do their best to set the standards high. Over the next few weeks, I began to make friends that I will never forget. My class's repertoire piece for the final performance was the second act of Giselle. I'd never done corps work before, so I was intimidated and excited. I remember my dance teacher at home telling me once that you don’t have to be a soloist to stand out. There is always that one corps de ballet member that can shine, even though she is doing the exact same thing as everyone around her.

This summer is very different from last. Now we are at the company's new location in downtown Houston doing barre work overlooking the Bayou!  The new Center for Dance opened in early spring 2011, so it's still in mint condition. There are six floors, with studios on the 1st, 3rd, and 5th floors, and dorms on the 6th. Every studio has floor-to-ceiling windows so we have a constant view of the hustle and bustle below. It makes us feel more integrated with the city.

In the dorms, there are 16 of us with 4 to each bathroom. All the boys and girls share a kitchen, living room, and laundry room. I love living here. We all get along really well, to my surprise! There are people from many different states and countries, such as Spain, Brazil, Japan, Australia, Romania and Mexico. It's awfully nice to get up, eat breakfast, then ride the elevator down to class!


All of the people in the office are so helpful! Lauren Adams is the go-to girl and is always there to help you with a smile. Mrs. Kier helps with the dorm kids and makes sure we keep up with our chores. (Yes, we have chores!) Everyone is willing to help us. Our dance teachers are phenomenal as well. Some of my main ones are Sally Rojas, Susan Bryant, and Krissy Richmond, all of whom danced most or all of their careers in Houston Ballet. We also have Miss Lenzi, Miss Busch, Claudio, Miss Murphy, and Andrew Murphy, to name a few. They push the students to their maximum and really succeed in bringing out their full potential. It’s so amazing how much each student improves in just 6 weeks.

We also have a wide variety of classes, not just ballet! We have modern, pas de deux, drama, variations, dance fitness, Pilates mat classes, Yamuna ball rolling, and a sort of jazz that we like they call X-treme dancing. We never get bored. Level 7’s rep for the last show is Serenade by Balanchine and Coppelia’s friends as well. Since we have 60 girls in our level and only 3 casts, Coppelia is going to be a pretty popular girl!

Some goals I've made for myself this summer are to loosen my hips for better extension, hip placement and rotation, quality of my arms and hands, shaping the feet en pointe, and relaxing my tension. I have already seen some improvement with only one week down! Let’s see where I can get to with five left. Here’s a tip for all y’all future Houston Ballet dancers: If you are in Sally Rojas’s class, make sure you get your weight forward on your legs!

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