Summer Intensives: Auditioning and Choosing the Right Program For You

Posted by on 01.08.2016

Ask any professional dancer about their training and you will find that many of their fondest memories are drawn from summer intensives. For five or six glorious weeks you get to visit a new place, dance all day, and make new life long friends. You experience new teachers, new styles, and new choreography. You find yourself away from the comfort of your home studio and get a taste of a whole different side to the dance world that you may not have known existed. But more importantly you begin to see what the world of professional ballet looks like, and it leaves you wanting more.

Miami City Ballet School dancers. Photo by Daniel Azoulay

Miami City Ballet School dancers. Photo by Daniel Azoulay

Why are Summer Intensives so important to ballet training?

For most ballet students, attending a professional ballet school year-round is not possible. Since there are so few of these schools in the country, most students do not live within commuting distance. Making a commitment to leave home at a young age to attend a professional school can be daunting. Fortunately, summer intensives make exposure to the highest quality training much easier.

Dance studios are their own ecosystem. They function and grow entirely on their own, often without much contact to the outside dance world. SI’s offer the opportunity to discover what else is beyond the walls of your studio. My teachers encouraged me to go away for the summer telling me that it was important for me to know “what else is out there.” I found so much more than I ever imagined: there were dancers my age or younger whose dancing was more advanced, different styles, different kinds of pointe shoes, and different choreography. Everything I experienced changed my approach to my training when I returned home.
How do I get the most out of the audition process? 

Chances are you have probably read a lot of articles offering advice on the topic, but honestly the answer is simple: just be yourself. Put on your favorite leo, slick your hair into a nice neat bun, and break in a pretty pair of pointe shoes. Feeling good about yourself is important, so give yourself some love!

Have a good hearty breakfast with lots of protein for extended energy and carbs for short term energy. Don’t take the “I’m not going to eat because I want to look skinny” path. That meal won’t make any difference in your appearance and it serves as essential fuel for your body and mind. Your body will thank you!

Next, just trust your training and your technique. Trust that the work you have done in the past year will serve you well. Your technique doesn’t change overnight, so just focus, remember your correction, and put on a smile. A dancer who is confident and enjoying themselves in class will always draw attention.

The audition process serves as a learning tool for later in your career. Just relax and be yourself. In the end you want a program that wants you for you, not for someone you were pretending to be on audition day.
How do I choose the program that’s right for me?

With your auditions are complete, you are looking at an inbox full of acceptance letters (it never hurts to dream big! You can do it!). How do you decide which to choose? If your friends are all attending a program together, does that mean you should choose that one too? Here is a guide for deciding what is best for you.

Distance is number one. How far away from home could you go and still be comfortable? Five or six weeks is a long time and you want to make sure that you aren’t distracted by homesickness. You want to get the most out of this program. This is the time of year when your technique will improve the most.

Check out the teachers. What is their background? Do they offer different styles? Have they been teaching for a long time? These schools will all have a distinguished faculty but looking into their backgrounds helps you grasp which styles you will be working on.

Look through the schedule. Do you want contemporary and jazz? Do you want 6 days of classes a week? Are variations classes important to you? A school’s schedule will offer you a look into the their syllabus and give you an idea of the focus of the program.

Talk to your teachers. Often the teachers at your home studio can give you insight into what program will serve you best when it comes to enhancing your training. They may know one of the teachers or know of other dancers who attended the program. Don’t be shy to ask around.
Once I have chosen, how do I prepare for my SI?

Just because the audition process is over, doesn’t mean the preparations for the summer are over: keep working hard. You will be encountering a lot of talented dancers at your SI, so establishing and maintaining a good work ethic will always serve you.

Summer Intensives are an exciting time; an experience you will remember your entire life. Savor this time and enjoy every minute. Work hard and good things will come to you.

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