Every July, dancers are presented with a unique opportunity to participate in an unforgettable dance environment working with industry-leading teachers and mentors and living and working a dream.
Known as summer intensives, attending a summer dance program can be exciting and eye-opening. The program can not only advance your dance skills but also broaden your social mental and physical attributes.
Summer intensives are excellent for dancers to learn about different techniques and explore various dance forms. Over the duration of a program, students progress quickly and experience a new approach to learning with talented teachers and choreographers.
Many intensives offer a wide range of dance genres such as ballet, tap, jazz, contemporary, lyrical, character/folk and hip-hop. The summer programs emphasize overall dance technique, as well as working to advance the dancer's artistic skills.
Types of Summer Programs
Summer dance intensives usually fall into one of the following buckets
The Company Route : these summer programs are focused on attracting and recruiting students into their year-round school/trainee programs and eventually feed into the company. These programs are usually attached to major companies, and the dancers that are going to these programs are already strong and technically efficient.
The Training Route : these summer programs are designed to get through grueling days of intense training. Programs like these enforce heavy technique, repertoire, pas de deux, and more.
The Recreational Route : these programs are designed for the serious ballet dancer, but not looking to go professional.
Making the best choice for a Summer Intensive Program
So you have decided to attend a summer intensive. How does one find out if the program will be a good fit without getting first-hand feedback?
The faculty is a significant factor of consideration, as is the ratio of students to the teacher which is vital for quality instruction. Getting an opportunity to perform is great but should not be the deciding factor. Before signing up for a new program, research the below information to assess whether a school is offering what you are looking for.
Understand the style - One great benefit of attending a new program is that it offers an opportunity to experiment with a style you are not familiar with. Some intensives mention what technique they teach while others, particularly those not affiliated with a high-profile school or company—may not be so open about what style they are emphasizing on.
If you are dealing with the latter, scour the websites and the bio of the intensive's director (technique and training methodology is usually evident). Look at the mission statement of the program and check the bios of the regular faculty to see where they danced. Also, take a peek at the repertory. Dig into a company's press clips to see what iconic works the students have performed.
Read the schedule - Many students want as much training as they can get in a day. To pay for several weeks of a program and only get a couple of classes a day are not worth most students' time. Some programs even offer optional classes in the evening. Schedules are usually posted on the website. Evaluate to see how many hours of class are standard and whether you would like to add on extra ones.
Look at classes offered - For students serious about taking summer intensives to up their technique, specialty classes like Turns, music appreciation, dance history, and career talks are highly attractive
Check on class size - Being in a studio with 35 other dancers, will not get you the personal attention you need to improve. Class size is usually not advertised so take your clues from photos and descriptions posted on websites. Be prepared to ask if this is a crucial factor in your decision.
Find out if there will be an opportunity to perform - Some students are keen on a stage experience at the end of their intensive. Ask politely and professionally if there is no information about an end-of-workshop show or knowledge of what repertory will be chosen for your level is unavailable. It is better to get in informed rather than be disappointed at the end. Pose your question politely and professionally.
Imagine yourself there - At nearly all the big programs students stay in dorms and these offer opportunities to socialize and build camaraderie. Small programs may have host families putting up students and depending on the school location; affordable short-term rentals may be available.
The key is to ensure you have housing, food, and transportation clearly and conveniently mapped out so you can concentrate on your dancing. With detail, you can be comfortable enough to beat any isolation you may feel.
Search alumni bios - Know where graduating students from a school are placed. Are they winning competitions? Are they getting hired by important dance companies? Some of the more famous alumni appear as guest faculty, providing fantastic opportunities to learn and observe first hand from the masters of the trade. If a program is relatively unknown to you or your teachers, check out its track record to see where past students have landed.
Watch Out For Potential Summer Intensive Regrets
The right summer intensive at the right time can be life-changing and potentially career-launching. Make the most of your experience by building your technique, expanding your network and learning from the best. Here are tips on how you can strategize for success without looking back with regret.
- Starting Too Late - If you have been limiting yourself to doing what you have always done in your home location, you are probably missing out gaining exposure that only dance intensives can give you during the formative years. Don't wait until too long to attend a dance intensive, especially if you are serious about making a career out of the dance. You may have been excelling at what you have been doing, but at a summer intensive, you will get to know what it is to be around professionals and that is bound to fuel your passion to even greater heights.
- Not Doing Research - As I mentioned in the first section of the post, doing research is the central part of preparing to attend an audition. You could participate in amazing intensives, but if the reason for attending is not based on carefully thought out goals, you could miss out on making the most of these experiences. Research and try out new techniques and train with top-notch industry professionals. The study itself will help you with a broader spectrum to choose from when planning for college and your career.
- Over thinking It - You could have attended many summer programs at a particular dance school and fallen in love with its culture, teachers, and repertory. Deciding to focus on getting hired by the company and over thinking this goal to the point of it consuming you could cause immense pressure and stress. Just Focus on improving your technique and artistry and learning from new people—not landing the job.
- Resisting New Styles - Being focussed on just once dance form robs you of the chance for exposure and associating the dance form your choice with related dance forms. You always stand to gain from experiencing a different or associated dance form so be courageous with different styles as a dancer. For example, only taking a ballet class and even additional Pointe class and passing up on chances to learn contemporary will not make you well-rounded ballet professional.
- Staying In a Bubble - Growing up in a city where summer programs are very accessible could pose a trap for the less strategic. You may have different plans to attend and not worry about the housing, but it could also mean that you are in a bubble. Going to other cities and attending very different programs could open your eyes to new styles of dance versus what you grew up doing. Exposure to other Dance forms and potential career opportunities arising from this exposure could have a much more profound effect on you.
In addition to improving technique and artistry, attending summer dance intensives allow dancers to continue to engage their minds even if they are not in school. By making you work on your memory skills, develop visual-body coordination, and dance intensives also cultivate discipline, focus and time management skills. With such benefits a summer program is not to be missed. Consider our tips to plan and strategize to gain the best experience possible.