By Emily Yewell Volin.
Dancers lead curious lives – and no time of year allows for full dance immersion quite like summer time. It’s the time of year when young dancers typically have time to participate in summer intensives and workshops, where it’s customary to spend 8-12 hours a day studying what they love – dance. So, what about the weeks between workshops or during family vacation time? How can a dancer stay fit, broaden his/her artistry, and stay prepared for auditions? Here are a few ideas to inspire summer growth in body, mind, and career preparedness.
Summer breaks provide terrific opportunity for a dancer to hone his/her overall fitness. Dance training is largely non-aerobic and a dancer needs to build his/her cardiovascular fitness and master technique. Summer is a great time to add some aerobic activity into your training regime. Swimming, fitness walking, jumping rope, biking, climbing stairs, and in-line or roller skating are just a few of the fun activities that can help increase cardiovascular strength.
Seek New Experiences and Notice Everyday Ones
Dancers are artists as well as technicians and choreographers rely upon your ability to evoke emotions and/or characters in every piece you perform. One of the best ways to train your body and mind to call upon these qualities is to begin noticing the world around you through a dancer’s eyes. Everything you do and experience elicits a postural reaction in the body. Notice these reactions and draw upon them during future class and rehearsals.
Dancing is hard work and it is easy to lose sight of the qualities that first drew you into it. Arrange to teach a class or perform for a group of people who would not otherwise have exposure to dance this summer. You may be surprised by how excited the opportunity to dance makes people. It is likely their enthusiasm will be infectious.
Summer is a great time to update your headshot. Just be sure you have not spent too much time in the sun before the shoot and that you do not have visible tan lines during the session.
Dancers are artists, technicians and business people. Make some time to update your résumé, biography, and demo reel this summer. Chances are you have new accomplishments since your last did an update and there’s never time to do your best revisions when rushed by a sudden need for the materials.
Reflection and goal setting are vital to your progress as a dancer. Begin journaling about your short and long-term goals and, if you already have a class-corrections or rehearsal journal, review your past goals and corrections. Reflect upon how much you have improved and seek to address areas still in need of improvement.
Read about dance
Reading about those who came before us in the world of dance and learning from their career paths informs our own choices and goals. Dance Informa has a wealth of inspiring interviews and advice columns. Just type a topic or artist’s name into the top search bar and see what you can find.
Live performances, online sources, movies – it doesn’t matter where you find dance; watch it. You will learn from the styles you do enjoy and you’ll learn from those you do not. Work toward establishing your own aesthetic and be open-minded.
Or, open living room! Invite some dancing friends to join you and give each other a barre or class. Some studio directors have designated ‘open-studio’ days when students are allowed to work in a studio by themselves, while the owner is on the premises. If your studio is not available during the summer months, clear the living room furniture, use some chair or sofa backs as a barre and dance.
All these dance-related activities may leave you with something choreographic to say. Play with your ideas. Be direct about what is inspiring you and try to plan and/or create a work to communicate your ideas. You may develop a short phrase or an entire piece.
Write a thank you note
Recall a person who has supported or inspired you as a dancer. This person may be a teacher, family member, friend, or someone you have never met. Write a note, either email or hand-written, and deliver it. Recognizing the people who have supported your dancing will inspire them and you.
Top photo: Dancers of Move Through Life Dance Company. Photo by Raw Studio