Summer Study Survival Guide

Summer intensives are a great way to boost technique and make new friends. They’re also just what the name suggests: intense. For most dancers, summer study means leaving home for the first time, dancing many more hours a day than they’re used to and trying out different dance styles. But challenging as they are, summer programs are often the most memorable and productive periods in a dancer’s training. Check out these tips from 10 notable summer program alums on how to make the most of your experience.

On Thriving in the Classroom

Jason Luks: dancer in White Christmas on Broadway; attended the Slide tap intensive

“When you’re learning so much in every class, it’s hard to remember everything by the end of the day. Take a minute during lunch to write down combinations and corrections from the morning, and another minute to write notes after the day’s classes are over.”

Shawn Ahern: Pilobolus Dance Theater; attended American Dance Festival summer course

“Don’t be afraid to introduce yourself to your teachers. The connections you make at summer programs can open doors later in your career. ‘Please’ and ‘thank you’ go a long way!”

Lia Cirio: principal with Boston Ballet; attended Boston Ballet Summer Dance Program

“We all know competition exists at summer programs, and it’s hard to ignore. It can feel discouraging when other dancers get more attention than you or a better part than you. But if you watch carefully, you can learn from what they’re doing right—and even from what they’re not doing so perfectly.”

On Staying Happy and Healthy

Carly Anderson: commercial dancer; attended Pacific Coast Dance Fest

“Stick to your bedtime. Staying up late with friends is fun, but you don’t want to be sleepy in class the next day.”

Melody Lacayanga: commercial dancer; attended Pacific Coast Dance Fest

“Warm up properly every morning. If you know that your body needs something that isn’t in the class warm-up, take a few extra minutes to work out the kinks.”

Christiana Bennett: principal with Ballet West; attended Pacific Northwest Ballet Summer Course

“I was homesick almost every summer, and the thing that really helped me was getting involved in different activities. Go on every field trip that interests you. And don’t be afraid to call your parents and tell them how you feel. It will get easier!”

Jeanette Delgado: principal with Miami City Ballet; attended Miami City Ballet Summer Program

“Many programs have physical therapists, and it’s great to talk with them even if you don’t have a serious injury. Injuries often stem from weaknesses; the therapist can assess your weak spots and give you some preventative strengthening exercises to do.”

On Trying New Styles

Julia Erickson: principal with Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre; attended Pacific Northwest Ballet Summer Course

“To grow as dancers we have to force ourselves outside our comfort zones. My dad calls it ‘repotting’: Once you move a plant to a bigger pot, it flourishes in a way it couldn’t in the smaller pot. Trying new styles at a summer program—aka the ‘bigger pot’—can be scary, but it’s also how we improve.”

James Whiteside: principal with Boston Ballet; attended Boston Ballet Summer Dance Program

“Watch your teachers very carefully and take in all the details that you can. Each of the many instructors at a summer program has her own style, and the ability to pick up different styles is valuable in today’s companies.”

Tara Dunleavy: Radio City Rockette; attended the Rockette Summer Intensive

“Don’t be discouraged if a movement feels awkward on your body at first. It takes a little while to adjust to a new way of moving.”

Photos top to bottom: Lia Cirio and Lasha Khozashvili, photo by Gene Schiavone; photo of Christiana Bennett by Jesse Coss; photo of Julia Erickson by Nicholas Coppula.

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