Summer means ballet intensives and Nationals, right? Right. But it also means dancers are descending on college towns around the country for multi-week festivals—opportunities to hone their modern skills and rub shoulders with some of today's star choreographers. Interested in expanding your horizons, working with the pros and getting a taste of campus life? Here are three of the biggest and best summer dance festivals held on college campuses.
Bates Dance Festival
Bates Dance Festival is held at Bates College in Lewiston, ME, and has a strong relationship with the Bates dance department. “Many artists who teach at the BDF return during the year to teach and set work," says festival director Laura Faure. The festival's Young Dancers Workshop is offered for dancers ages 14–18, and its Professional Training Program is available for everyone older than 18. BDF is proud of its welcoming, yet rigorous, environment. “You're gaining access to an essential professional network in a noncompetitive community," Faure says. Expect classes from rising modern choreographers like Dante Brown and established masters like Doug Varone. Because of the campus setting and faculty crossover between the festival and the dance department, participants get a good sense of the college's dance program while still being exposed to a variety of teachers. High school students can meet with a Bates admissions counselor to ask questions about attending the college.
Salt Dance Fest
The University of Utah hosts Salt Dance Fest each summer, inviting local artists, University of Utah faculty and choreographers from around the country to use the school's top-notch facilities in their exploration of the creative process.
Salt is restricted to college-aged dancers, and is less focused on technique (though a few classes are available) than other summer festivals. Salt participants come to experiment in classes like “Hot Mess," taught by San Francisco–based choreographer Alex Ketly, which asks dancers to confront what it means to do something badly.
American Dance Festival
American Dance Festival takes place on the Duke University campus in Durham, NC. ADF offers two different summer training programs: the Six Week School, for dancers ages 16 and older, and the Three Week School, for dancers ages 12–16. Both are modern focused, offering everything from Cunningham to Gaga—with options to take ballet, composition and more. Participants may have the opportunity to learn existing repertory (past students have tackled choreo by William Forsythe) and have brand-new work set on them. “The ADF experience is very comparable to being a dance major," says ADF dean Leah Cox. “Festival participants can live on campus in the dorms. There's a feeling of community and stability."
Harper Watters is a ballet dancer for today's generation. A social media maestro and a charismatic performer, the Houston Ballet soloist is equally at home in front of the camera hosting his hit YouTube series, "The Pre Show"; interacting with fans on his crazy-popular Instagram account; or showing off his beautiful classical technique onstage. It's a multifaceted identity that's proven to be invaluable to his career—and it's taking him to places he never even dreamed of.
The dancers who take our breath away are the risk-takers, the ones who appear completely fearless onstage. "When you see somebody trying to travel more, go farther, push the limits of their physical abilities, that's always going to be inspiring," says Ballet BC dancer Alexis Fletcher.
But dance training can feel like it's in conflict with that idea. We spend thousands of hours in the studio trying to do steps perfectly, and that pursuit of perfection can make us anxious about taking risks. What if we fail? What if we fall?
Luckily, fearlessness is a mental skill that you can work on, just as you work on your technique. Here's how you can learn to push yourself past your limits.
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Auditioning for summer intensives in person may be the ideal—but for Anna McDowell, a 16-year-old student at Juneau Dance Theatre in Juneau, AK, it's rarely possible. “Living in Alaska, it's difficult to travel to auditions," she says. “It gets way too expensive!" Instead, each year, with help from her teachers and a videographer, she puts together a well-crafted video and submits it to schools around the country. Last year, her high-quality video helped her earn acceptance to nearly every program she applied for. Most summer intensive programs, eager to attract students from far and wide, will accept video auditions from those who can't travel to take class. But major schools look at hundreds of submissions each year, which means video auditioners have just a few minutes—or even seconds—to make a great impression. If you're about to create an audition video, follow these tips from the professionals to put your best digital foot forward.
There are zillions of things to think about when choosing a summer program, but here's one you might not have considered: using an intensive as an opportunity to focus on a new style. Maybe you're a tap dancer who's ready to see where else your rhythm and quick feet can serve you, or a contemporary dancer curious about the more traditional roots of your genre. A summer program can be the perfect place to broaden your horizons, giving you the opportunity to make technical and artistic changes that stick throughout the year.
Happy birthday, George Balanchine! The great choreographer and founder of New York City Ballet would have been 114 years old today. Balanchine revolutionized ballet, especially American ballet—and he also had quite a way with words. To celebrate Mr. B's birthday, we rounded up some of our favorite iconic Balanchine quotes.
There's a common misconception that a dancer's body has to be thin. But the truth is that talent knows no body type, and the number on the scale never determines an artist's capabilities. Here are some extraordinary dancers fighting the stereotype of what a dancer "should" look like.