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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.