By: Amelia Smith-Fazio, Relationship Manager
Participating in a summer ballet intensive is exciting and fun, but can also be intimidating and overwhelming, especially for first-timers. Thriving in a new environment with unfamiliar teachers and students is understandably a challenge for some dancers. However, with the right preparation and mindset, you can leave your intensive feeling confident that you have grown as a dancer, made meaningful connections with instructors from around the world and cultivated lasting friendships with people who share your passion for dance.
To help you shine during your summer intensive, here are a few tips I picked up while studying at several pre-professional schools including the Sarasota Ballet School and the Virginia School of the Arts:
Choose your program thoughtfully. Not all summer intensive programs are created equal. There are numerous factors to consider before deciding on the program that is right for you. Many intensives are connected to professional companies, but not all of them. If your ultimate goal is to join a company, participating in a summer program that funnels into a particular company is a great way to potentially get noticed and to get your foot in the door.
Additionally, you may want to consider the technique and style that each intensive teaches. Some schools, for example, follow the Vaganova method, while others teach Balanchine technique. Consider the style you study at your home studio (if you don’t know, it’s okay to ask!), and determine whether or not you’d like to further your study of that technique or diversify your personal ballet repertoire. Similarly, if your home studio trains in one style, but the company you’d ultimately like to audition for follows another, participating in a summer program offering that training can help build your foundation.
For some, a program’s distance from home may play a factor. If you’ve never spent significant time away from home before, you might want to select a program within driving distance, so that your family can easily visit and attend your end-of-summer showcase.
Take care of yourself. Between classes and social events, summer intensive students have very busy schedules. However, regardless of how busy you may be, it’s important that your personal health and well-being come first. Be sure you are getting a full seven-eight hours of sleep every night—trust me, you’ll need that rest to perform your best in class! Additionally, hydration is key. Remember, it will likely be hot outside and in the studio, so make sure to keep a water bottle on you at all times and aim to drink at least the recommended eight glasses of water a day.
Eating a well-balanced diet will also be critical to your success at a summer intensive. If it’s your first time eating in a college dining hall, try not to be lured by the impressive variety of yummy—but unhealthy—options, like sugary cereals. Instead, eat meals that are full of lean protein and complex carbs. For example, a healthy breakfast might include eggs, fruit, and whole grain toast with peanut butter.
Put your best foot forward. While you might be able to get away with being a few minutes late to class at your home studio, don’t expect that to be the case at your summer intensive. Plan to arrive at each class several minutes before it starts to stretch, secure your place at the barre and mentally prepare. Once you enter the classroom, keep conversation to necessary interactions only, and stay focused throughout the duration of the class.
Also, don’t forget to look the part. Your attire should follow the school’s dress code, which is likely a solid color leotard and pink tights (without holes and runs!), and your hair should be pulled back into a neat, secure bun.
Keep an open mind. Summer intensives are designed to take you out of your comfort zone and push you to quickly grow as a dancer and performer, so keep an open mind. Be open to feedback from your teachers, trying new movements, performing to unfamiliar music and making friends with people from different parts of the world. Also, be kind to yourself. You might not perfect every move immediately, and you might not always feel like the most technically advanced dancer in the room. Be okay with imperfection, understanding that everyone around you is going through their own individual learning processes.
I recommend that every student serious about their ballet study consider attending a summer intensive at least once. It’s a challenging, but very rewarding, experience that will add tremendous value to your training.
Have you attended a summer intensive before? If so, we want to hear your tips for success! Share them in the comments below.