By Emily Yewell Volin.
When school is out, dance students have more time to dedicate to training. Choosing a summer intensive program of study can be a challenge, though. How do you know if the program you are considering is a good fit for you? Dance Informa spoke with faculty from The Joffrey Academy, Cary Ballet Conservatory, Straz, Jr. Center for the Performing Arts’ Next Generation and Patel Conservatory’s Dance Department to learn more about what constitutes a great summer program and how you can be prepared to get the most from your experience.
What should a student look for in a summer intensive program?
Deanna Seay, Ballet Mistress, Cary Ballet Conservatory
In looking at a summer intensive, each student needs to evaluate his or her own goals. Does the student want a program where the focus will be on improving technique? Is the student at an age when he/she wants to be considered potential company material? Does the student want an experience focused on one discipline, or does he/she want to use the summer to broaden his/her horizons? Defining these goals can help to narrow the possibilities. A student wanting to improve a lot can look for smaller programs where they will be able to receive personal attention as well as a place that provides many hours of instruction. Those on the verge of professional careers will want to find company related programs. Students wishing to broaden their horizons can look for programs that offer classes in a wide number of dance styles.
Peter Stark, Artistic Director of the David A. Straz, Jr. Center for the Performing Arts’ Next Generation and chair of the Patel Conservatory‘s Dance Department
Students should look for:
- Training. The school should demonstrate a history of training dancers well. Check on their website for recent graduates that are dancing professionally.
- A schedule that keeps a young dancer busy and working hard. More classes will increase strength and technique.
- A focus on the type of dance a student wants to study (ballet, modern, jazz) with a sampling of other styles for diversity.
- A performing and/or rehearsing opportunity. As a performance art, in dance it is important to learn new dances and to get on stage.
Alexei Kremnev, Artistic Director, and Amanda McAlpine, Communications Associate, Joffrey Academy and Community Engagement, The Joffrey Ballet
Students should assess the quality of a summer intensive program by it’s faculty members (their experience and background), brand recognition (affiliation with professional company), variety of classes provided, performance opportunities, location and length of program.
What are the advantages to training locally or going out of state?
A family must decide how far they want to travel for a summer program. There is an expense with increased distance. Summer programs can offer a great sampling of an area for future employment. There are many excellent programs worldwide that will improve a young dancer both near and far. Do check out the security of the city, school and dormitory to determine if it meets the family needs. Also, ask about transportation for the students during the program.
The most obvious advantage to staying local is the possibility of staying at home while attending the session, or at least being close to home, which can be comforting to both parents and students attending boarding programs the first time. As long as students have access to local programs that provide the number of classes they need, there isn’t really a need to travel far at a young age. Once students reach high school age and are more mature, going out of state becomes an option parents might feel more comfortable with. That being said, there will always be those young students who have the talent and maturity for an out-of-state experience at eleven or twelve.
What advice do you have for those taking summer intensive auditions?
Alexei Kremnev and Amanda McAlpine
It is important to be as prepared as possible. Check the program’s website for any headshots or photos needed, audition fee and attire requirements. If it is possible to pre-register online, it will save you time during the day of the audition. During the audition, do your best and keep a positive attitude. If you excel in a particular area or step, be sure to stand in front or go in the first group. If you are not as strong in other areas, you may want to wait to go in the second group. Regardless, always look pleasant and smile. The judges may not realize that you may have made a mistake because they are concentrating on watching many other dancers too.
Always dress neat in a dress code. Do not wear any warm-up shorts, skirts or jewelry. Have a head shot and dance photo (arabesque is good) available even if not specifically requested in the audition announcement. Have a positive attitude and try your best. Often schools are looking for potential, not accomplishment. If a combination isn’t perfect, that’s okay as long as you gave it a good try with a happy demeanor. Try to also pick up any nuance when the teacher is demonstrating the combination. What accents are they using in the music? How are they holding their hands and head? Be open to change and to trying something new.
PAY ATTENTION TO THE DETAILS! Watch everything the teacher does when demonstrating a combination and listen to everything the teacher may say. These details are part of what the teacher will be trying to teach the student, so the students need to prove that they are responsive, receptive and truly interested. Some teachers will be very specific about where students stand and how they enter or exit the dancing space and it is important to understand and adhere to their wishes. When changing groups, students need to walk into formation quickly and place themselves immediately in the starting position. Students should appear neatly dressed. Female ballet students need to wear pink tights and a conservatively colored leotard. Black is traditional and the best choice. Men need to wear the traditional black tights and white t-shirt, which needs to be tucked in. Absolutely under no circumstances should the student wear any sort of cover-ups. Shoes, whether flat shoes or pointe shoes, need to be properly sewn and all drawstrings, ribbons and elastics should be tied and tucked out of sight. Hair should be securely pulled away from the face in a bun, French twist or other practical, yet attractive, shape.
What does a summer intensive cost?
Families with students wishing to attend a five-week summer ballet intensive will need to prepare to spend about $5,000 for tuition, room and board. A few smaller programs may cost $1,000-2,000 less. Many programs offer financial aid and scholarships, so it is good to ask.
On average most ballet summer intensive programs run about $1,000 per week, including tuition, room and board. However, this can vary greatly and many full and partial scholarships can offset some of that cost.
What benefits, aside from technical and artistic, are there to attending a summer dance intensive?
Hearing the same correction from a different teacher can open a young dancers’ perspective greatly. Of course, each teacher also has new information that can improve a dancer technically and artistically. Summer programs also pool talent from smaller schools. Students learn from each other and being surrounded by talent can be motivational and create lasting connections through one’s performance career. Many dancers enter the field professionally at 18 and it is a big adjustment to be away from home. A summer program can start to prepare a dancer to be self-sufficient and strong in a new setting.
Aside from the artistic and technical improvement that is often seen during intense summer ballet sessions (attributed to the concentration of class hours), students have a chance to meet other like-minded students and make new friends. The student can become re-inspired by seeing himself/herself in a new setting. These summer programs also expose the student to other students from other schools, and can help the student identify where she stands in relation to her peers.
Alexei Kremnev and Amanda McAlpine
Attending a summer dance intensive helps a dancer grow and mature in many ways. Often times, students form lasting friendships, make valuable connections, gain confidence and widen their perspectives.
Have fun dancing this summer!
Photo (top): Students enjoy making friends at Cary Ballet Conservatory Summer Intensive.