Summer vacation is here and for dance students that means one thing, summer intensives! Ballet Arizona company dancers are sharing their top tips to make the most of your dance intensive.
The School of Ballet Arizona students in the 2019 Summer Intensive.
Summer intensives will have a huge impact on your training. I was able to soak up a lot of information and ideas that I took back with me, to work on at my home studio. Being in class with different dancers and teachers was informative inspiring and it helped shape the dancer I am today. To make the most out of your intensive, my advice is to focus and cherish each class. Remember that during the year, you have school, other activities, and preparing for upcoming performances. During the summer, you have the unique opportunity to be more singularly focused and really hone in on your technique. That being said, don’t forget to have fun! If you take the joy out of your dancing, it is just exercise!
Make friends! They make your summer intensive so much fun and you can meet people from all over the world. From my past experience, if you give 120% of your energy for all of your classes, you will get so much stronger. Teachers will notice your effort and give you corrections. Teachers at The School of Ballet Arizona (SBAZ), love hard and smart workers. This means giving all of your energy in class to be productive. But, remember to care for your body to prevent injury. One last thing, Arizona is hot! Staying hydrated is crucial to keeping you healthy in the summer.
Abby Phillips Maginity
I’ve attended Joffrey Midwest, BalletMet, and the School of American Ballet twice. Every summer program helped me grow as a dancer in a different way and I really encourage going to as many different programs as you can. It makes you more adaptable to different styles of ballet. Be nice to everyone! Be the most authentic version of yourself and I promise you will make life-long friends. The ballet world is actually pretty small. I still run into dancers from summer programs I attended way back in the day and trust me, first impressions last a long time. Listen, listen listen! To every single correction that is given, even if it wasn’t directed toward you or if you think you’re already doing it. There’s is always room for improvement. Even now, I’m still listening and trying to improve. I would suggest to bring a journal and write down anything and everything! Your current teachers might already be giving you the same correction, but someone may say it differently and suddenly it just clicks! Write down good things and not so good things. The more you write, the more you remember. Plus, it’s fun to look back at years later to reminisce on! Lastly, if you’re anything like me (or most ballerinas), you’re probably a perfectionist. It’s important to try your best but also try to not be so hard on yourself. It’s ok to not be perfect all the time. Your mistakes actually help you learn and get better. Remember you’re exactly where you’re supposed to be, you’re special, and you’re valued. No one else dances like you!! So relax, smile, and just have fun!
Summer intensives are always a great moment to narrow into your training. Seeing different talent around is inspiring and can create healthy competition. In my own experience, seeing so many good dancers and all the long days of classes, gave me a sense of how hard I had to work if I wanted to make it to a professional career.
Keep your eyes and ears open, because it will be over before you know it. As someone that grew up at a small-town studio, summer intensives were my first access to serious ballet training. It usually wouldn’t be until I got back home that I realized how much I improved. It takes dedication to spend your summer training when you could be relaxing at home. So get the most out of it, and treat every class the same. No class is unimportant or less valuable than the others. As a male dancer, I can’t stress the importance of conditioning and weightlifting enough. When done correctly, it will negate injury. And the techniques and exercises you learn will maintain your body when you don’t have studio access. Another way to maximize your success is to take notes. Keep a notepad in your dance bag, and when you get that correction that makes everything “click”, write it down. Later, when you are struggling with a pirouette, you can check back to the exact cue that helped you. Last and perhaps most important, enjoy your summer. Make friendships and have fun. Dance is hard enough on its own, there is nothing to gain from beating yourself up or treating each day like a competition. A career in the ballet industry is a marathon, not a sprint, so don’t burn yourself out.
Summer intensives are such an important part of your training as a dancer. To help you make the most of your training this summer, here are a few tips that have helped me:
When the teacher is giving corrections, try them full out instead of waiting to apply them during the combination. This allows you to get the feeling of the step into your body while your mind is thinking about the combination as a whole.
Try to challenge yourself to learn combinations quickly by going in the first group. I know the days can be long and your mind might start to wander off, but having the urgency of going in the first group can help you stay focused!
If you can, repeat the combination multiple times. Try going with the first and third group to get more practice in, but keep a balance and don’t wear yourself out. Doing the port de bras full out in the back while another group is dancing is a good trick to improve your arms and keep your focus without over-working yourself.
Summer programs, just like your year round classes, are what you make of them. However, they present a unique opportunity. Without all of the added stress of your usual year round obligations, it’s a great time to focus on specific things about your technique you’d like to improve. Even now, I find that the summer is a great period for growth. I would suggest choosing one or two things to really think about for yourself, and try to be your own driving force to make those things better. Your teachers will let you know everything else you’re also need to work on, so don’t worry that anything will be neglected.
Step outside your comfort zone. Don’t be intimidated by new dance styles and teachers. Do your best to listen and learn, and if something feels unfamiliar, don’t be discouraged! It will only help to broaden your knowledge and skills. Remember to eat well, drink lots of water, get a good night’s sleep, communicate to your teachers if you have an injury, and most importantly, have fun!
My experience with summer intensives have been great and helped propel me forward in my career. I attended my first summer intensive in New York with the Bolshoi Ballet Academy. I was 15 years old, and by far the worst dancer in the room. However, I loved it. I was meeting so many dancers from around the world and instantly gained so much info about other schools and styles, it really opened up my eyes. Two years later, I returned to the Bolshoi intensive and ended up being awarded a two-week, all expenses paid trip to stay and learn at the Bolshoi Academy in Moscow, Russia and perform in their Spring Gala. From that opportunity, I was the first Mexican American to be invited straight into the graduation class the following school year. My advice is work your hardest, have fun, and network!