One of the biggest perks of a summer intensive is meeting great people. In just a few weeks, you can make lifelong friends, find that teacher who “gets” you and maybe even get to talk to your dance idol. But how exactly do you start to form these bonds, and what can you do to make sure they continue—and, ultimately, benefit your career? Read on for ways to nurture each of these summer relationships.
You’ve probably already connected with your new friends on social media, so to keep everyone from drifting apart after you leave, create a Facebook group for your class. It can be a forum to post videos, share your successes, ask for advice, remember inside jokes and find out who’s going back next year. If you all agree to post regularly, these groups can also help you reach your goals through the year. “Students encourage one another while they’re here, and then through a Facebook group, they can take that home with them,” says Michelle Chassé, director of The Boston Conservatory’s Musical Theater Dance Intensive.
Dancers You Admire
Beyond the studio, you’ll probably be sharing meals, dorms and even bathrooms with dancers in higher levels, so take advantage! Ask about how they’ve gotten to where they are and collect any career advice you can. More experienced dancers are often flattered to hear that you look up to them and may be happy to become mentors—but be sure not to come on too strong. There’s a fine line between an eager younger dancer and an annoying little sister. If you do find someone you click with, stay in touch through social media, keep him or her updated on your dance progress and try to meet up whenever you’re in the same city.
San Francisco Ballet School students in class.
(Photo by Erik Tomasson)
While you’re at the intensive, demonstrate that you’re someone your teachers will want to keep tabs on. “Work as professionally as you can—that builds an opening for a relationship,” says Debbie Roshe, a theater dance instructor at The School at Steps Summer Intensive in NYC. Being courageous and introducing yourself are strong first steps. “I’ve had students come up to me and say they’re hungry for corrections, and they just want me to know that they’re open to a lot of feedback,” says Roshe. She’s also had students ask her questions about her own dance career. Curiosity and a strong work ethic will show the teacher you’re worth investing in.
When the intensive is coming to a close, ask a staff member about how students typically keep in touch with teachers. Some instructors, like Roshe, will give students their email addresses. “Keep it professional,” she says. “Just send a message saying, ‘I really enjoyed this summer, and this is what I’m doing now.’” Remember that most teachers’ schedules are jam-packed year-round, so don’t be offended if you don’t receive a response right away. Down the road, let your teachers know when you’ll see them again. “Students will tell me when they’re getting ready to audition for the BFA program or the MFA program,” says Chassé. “It’s smart to say, ‘Remember me? I’m coming in on this day!’” Then, be sure to reintroduce yourself each time you see the teacher. “Even though teachers recognize someone, we might not be sure where we remember you from,” says Roshe.
Yuko Katsumi and students in class during San Francisco Ballet School's Summer Session.
(Photo by Erik Tomasson)
Even if an instructor is only at your intensive for a day or a week, you can still make a lasting connection. “Introduce yourself and say how happy you are to be working with her,” says Chassé. If you take a picture with the teacher, post it on social media and tag the teacher so she can connect a face with a name.
Afterward, if guest teachers don’t give out their email addresses, it’s OK to ask school administrators if those teachers mind getting emails from students. “There’s nothing wrong with emailing a teacher and saying, ‘I loved your class, and my goal is to start auditioning here or going to this college,’” says Roshe. Even if the school doesn’t give out the teacher’s contact information, an administrator might be willing to forward a “thank you” email to him or her. Guest teachers are often dancers who are currently performing. Chassé says many students can meet and reconnect with the teacher at the stage door of a show she’s in.
Program Directors and Staff
The program director and facilitators can be your best friends when it comes to learning more about future opportunities with the school. “Our office door can seem like a barrier, but it’s always open,” says Christina Gray Rutter of San Francisco Ballet’s Summer Session. “Dancers often stop by because they want to be considered for the school’s year-round program.”
Staff members are usually happy to answer any questions you have about future auditions, and it can be a great idea to send an email letting them know when you’re coming. “I’ll occasionally hear from students and parents when we’re approaching the audition season,” Rutter says. Go with a simple, “This is what I’m working on. Can’t wait to see you at the audition!”
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.
Maud Arnold is one of the busiest tap dancers on the planet. As a member of the Syncopated Ladies, Maud—along with her big sis and fellow tapper Chloé Arnold—is on constantly the road for performances, workshops, and master classes. For the average person, that kind of schedule could lead to a serious derailment of healthy habits. But Maud's far from average. Here's how the fit, fierce, flawless tap star stays stage-ready—no matter what time zone she finds herself in.
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.