Home Away From Home
Quinn Pendleton, from Washington, CT, attended her first summer program when she was 13. She spent subsequent summers at Boston Ballet, the Washington Ballet and the Nutmeg Conservatory for the Arts, and at 17 moved to Germany to dance with Staatsballett Berlin.
“Every year I got a little more used to going away,” says Pendleton, who’s now with Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo in Monaco. “While the idea of being alone was daunting at first, it’s easier to talk to new people when you aren’t with people you know. I still missed home, but I had fun with new friends, and I didn’t feel as homesick.”
If you’re worried that you’ll have a hard time being away from home this summer, whether it’s for a week-long workshop or a six-week intensive, try these strategies to get the most out of your summer studies.
1. Don’t worry. Homesickness is common, especially if you haven’t been away from home before. “Most summer students are homesick for the first 24 to 48 hours,” says Jennifer Wesling, dean of students at Interlochen Center for the Arts in Interlochen, MI. It’s normal to feel sad after mom and dad drive away, so don’t feel bad about the emotions you’re experiencing.
2. Introduce yourself. If you’re nervous about putting yourself out there, just remember: You aren’t the only one who doesn’t know anybody. “Often, it’s like everyone is waiting for one person to make the first move,” says Kelly Novitski, director of student life at the School of Am
erican Ballet in NYC. There’s lots to talk about besides dance—books, music, movies—so try whatever it takes to get people talking.
3. Be a social butterfly. “In dance class, you don’t get to talk much,” explains Novitski. That’s why many summer intensives offer activities—ice cream socials, field trips, movie nights—to help students get to know each other. Take advantage of them! You’ll feel better overall if you’re not just sitting in your room. “The busier you are, be it shopping or exploring,” Pendleton says, “the less time you spend missing home.”
4. Talk to an adult. You haven’t clicked with your roommates or classmates, and you’re too shy to go to social events alone. What’s your next step? Tell a counselor or staffer how you’re feeling. He or she can offer words of wisdom and connect you with other dancers who might be feeling the same way.
5. Bring home with you. Pack pictures and small items that will remind you of home and loved ones. Mementos, from a stuffed animal to a music mix made by a friend, can comfort you when you’re feeling down. There’s another perk, too: Items from home can be conversation starters for you and your new friends.
6. Weigh the benefits. Consider what you’re getting. “We ask students, ‘If you were at home right now, what would you be missing by not being here?’” Wesling says. “You’d miss dance classes, meeting new friends, performances—try to look forward rather than longing for home.”
7. Keep in touch. Write letters. Send e-mails. Call home. But try not to spend the entire conversation asking about what you’re missing. Instead, share the new memories you’re making, Novitski says. “By telling others about your experience, you can remind yourself that you’re having a good time!”
“Summer study prepared me for getting used to a new environment as a professional,” Pendleton says. However, if you do experience homesickness, remember that it gets better with time. “Now I think of home as a place to go on vacations, not where I actually live,” Pendleton says. “That’s just a part of growing up!”
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.
If you're in need of a piece that's both trendy and sophisticated, look no further than this Só Dança crop top. Featuring elegant long sleeves, a high neckline, and a delicate lace trim, it's both classic and contemporary—perfect for everything from that big audition to a long night in the studio. Enter below for your chance to win it!
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.