How to Have Your Best Summer Intensive Ever
The school year is winding down, which means our favorite time of year is approaching: summer intensive season! Whether you're attending a dance program that spans three weeks or two months, set in a big city or close to home, here's advice from the experts on how to make it your best one yet.
Know That You're Not Going to Be the Best Dancer in the Room—and That's a Good Thing.
John Harnage (center) and fellow dancers at Jessica Lang Dance's 2017 fall weekend workshop (Milan Misko, courtesy Jessica Lang Dance)
"Be prepared to encounter dancers who are much stronger than you," says Rina Kirshner, director of the Bolshoi Ballet Academy's summer programs. "Being in a program where you're not the best allows you to learn not only from the teachers but from your fellow dancers, too."
Set Realistic Technique Goals.
Gibney students (Scott Shaw, courtesy Gibney)
Summer intensives are just that—intense—and the in-depth training environment is the perfect setting in which to grow technically and artistically. But don't pressure yourself to become a pro overnight. Jessie Kardos, senior manager of training at Gibney in NYC, suggests setting a few smaller, specific goals for yourself instead, from using your full plié, to improving your partnering, to picking up combinations more quickly. "Even if the teacher isn't prompting these ideas, take it upon yourself to infuse that intention into your dancing," Kardos says.
Be Flexible with Your Mind, Not Just Your Body.
Students at the Mark Morris Dance Group 2018 summer intensive (Beowulf Sheehan, courtesy MMDG)
Improving your technique is great, but use your summer to expand your perspective on the dance world, too. Artistic director and choreographer Jessica Lang urges dancers to make themselves artistically vulnerable enough to really be able to absorb the different movement styles and philosophies they're exposed to at intensives. "Learning repertory isn't all about the tricks," adds Sarah Marcus, director of education at Mark Morris Dance Group. "It's about the specificity of what the choreographer wants. Dive into the intention behind the movement."
Minga Prather (Steven Vandervelden, courtesy Prather)
Summer intensives are a great opportunity not only to make new friends from all across the world, but also to meet different teachers, choreographers, and directors—people who could eventually hire you, recommend you for schools or companies, or offer you scholarships. Lang suggests, "if there's a teacher whose class really works for you, say something to them after class. Let them know that you really appreciate their perspective." If your program is affiliated with a professional company, you can also use the summer to figure out whether or not that company is the right fit to help you achieve your goals as an artist. Hubbard Street Dance Chicago member Minga Prather, who attended the Hubbard Street Dance Intensive before auditioning for the company, recommends asking yourself the following questions: "Do you feel fulfilled? What kind of repertory styles interest you, and are they doing that kind of repertory? What kind of artist do you want to develop into?"
Don't Ignore the Aches and Pains.
Bolshoi Ballet Academy summer intensive students (Gene Schiavone, courtesy the Bolshoi Ballet Academy)
Grueling intensive schedules can take a toll on your body, which means a good wellness routine is essential."Make sure you take care of your body and balance the rigor of training with sufficient rest and a proper eating and hydrating regimen," Kirshner says. Take a few minutes in the morning to stretch and activate your muscles, incorporating a quick Vinyasa flow if you have time. Throughout the day, make sure you're doing active stretches between classes, especially when you're getting ready to switch technique styles. Wind down in the evening with an Epsom salt bath. (Don't have a bathtub? Grab a bucket to soak your feet.) Most importantly, if something doesn't feel right, don't ignore it. It's frustrating to have to sit out of class due to injury, but taking a temporary rest can prevent career-changing injuries.
Don't Make It ALL About Dance.
Students at the Mark Morris Dance Group 2018 summer intensive (Beowulf Sheehan, courtesy MMDG)
Yes, we go to intensives to dance, dance, dance, but it's also good to get out of the studio once in a while! Use your time off to get to know the city (or town) you're in. Maybe there's a college campus you can visit, to see if it might be a good fit for you down the road. Maybe there are great local arts and dance companies in the area, where you can see performances or take master classes. And be sure to set some money and time aside to shop at local boutiques and eat at nearby restaurants. It's all part of your cultural education.
Just in case you missed it: To highlight last Thursday's International Day of the Girl, The New York Times has launched a unique photographic and editorial project called #ThisIs18, all with the aim of spotlighting what life is really like for 18-year-old women around the world.
It's contest time! You could win your choice of Apolla Shocks (up to 100 pairs) for your whole studio! Apolla Performance believes dancers are Artists AND Athletes—wearing Apolla Shocks helps you be both! Apolla Shocks are footwear for dancers infused with sports science technology while maintaining a dancer's traditions and lines. They provide support, protection, and traction that doesn't exist anywhere else for dancers, helping them dance longer and stronger. Apolla wants to get your ENTIRE studio protected and supported in Apolla Shocks! How? Follow these steps:
Quinn Starner is no stranger to competitions. The 16-year-old "So You Think You Can Dance: The Next Generation" alum has been slaying the contemporary circuit for years, winning Best Teen Dancer at The Dance Awards in 2017. But lately she's been more focused on ballet, relocating from Florida to train at the Indiana Ballet Conservatory two years ago. And while she's won awards at ballet competitions like ADC|IBC and Youth America Grand Prix, in June she upped the stakes by going to the USA International Ballet Competition in Jackson, MS—an audition-only event that's one of the world's most prestigious comps. We followed Quinn on her Jackson journey.
Is there anything better than a dance convention? Frankly, we don't think so. Although we love getting a guest teacher to come to our studio for a masterclass every so often, there's just something so exciting about packing up our leotards and dance shoes and heading to a convention for the weekend. Here are 7 reasons why dance conventions are, without a doubt, the greatest things ever.
Amanda LaCount was born to move. The second the music comes on at her Dance Spirit cover shoot, the bubbly 17-year-old is shimmying her shoulders and tossing her hair. When she launches into a full-out freestyle to Whitney Houston's "It's Not Right But It's Okay," you can't take your eyes off her.
And yet with every gig she lands, Amanda is challenging some of the dance world's longest-held biases. "I'm curvy," she says, "and I like being curvy. My body is not a bad thing. It's who I am." Here's how Amanda went from talented tot to hardworking pro—and from insecure preteen to body-positive role model.
Boston Ballet principal Ashley Ellis' dancing is the perfect pairing of ethereal grace and punchy musicality. The Torrance, CA, native began training at South Bay Ballet at age 6, and attended the School of American Ballet summer program in 1998. In 2001, she was accepted into American Ballet Theatre's Studio Company, and the following year, she joined ABT's corps de ballet. In 2007, she became a founding member of Corella Ballet Castilla y León in Spain, under the direction of Angel Corella. Three years later, she headed back to the States and danced with Sarasota Ballet before joining Boston Ballet as a second soloist in 2011. In 2013, she was promoted to principal dancer. Catch her performing this season in the company's Nutcracker. —Courtney Bowers
Get Dance Spirit in your inbox
This story originally appeared on dancemagazine.com.
"So why did you quit?"
It's a question I've been asked hundreds of times since I stopped dancing over a decade ago. My answer has changed over the years as my own understanding of what lead me to walk away from greatest love of my life has become clearer.
"I had some injures," I would mutter nervously for the first few years. This seemed like the answer people understood most. Then it became, "I was just not very happy." Finally, as I passed into my 30s, I began telling the uncomfortable truth: "I quit dancing because of untreated depression."
It's the age-old debate: Is dance a sport? The answer is, without a doubt, YES. Of course, dance is much more than just a sport. But when we get down to the logistics of it all, it's impossible not to recognize it as the athletic endeavor it is. Here are 10 reasons why dance absolutely qualifies as a sport.
Let's take a walk down memory lane to this past September, when the #LevelUpChallenge was in full-blown viral mode. Literally thousands of videos of people dancing to Ciara's song "Level Up" flooded the Internet, but only one truly broke it: an amazing clip of the Wilson Central High School Dance Team—and their Assistant Principal, Ranesa Shipman. Never one to miss out on a viral dance challenge, Ellen DeGeneres decided to have Shipman and the team perform on "The Ellen Show"—and the fun didn't stop there.
You and your phone have more in common than you might guess, says Dr. Rafael Pelayo, pediatrician and clinical professor at the Stanford Center for Sleep Sciences and Medicine. "If you charge your phone halfway, it works for a few hours," he explains. "But it's not performing at its full potential, and you have to be careful about how you use that energy."
It'd be nice to just plug into the wall for nine hours until you hit 100 percent battery, but for (human) dancers, it's not that simple. So DS asked Dr. Pelayo and Dr. Argelinda Baroni, co-director of the Child and Adolescent Sleep Program in the department of child and adolescent psychiatry at NYU Langone Health, how to maximize your own battery life—ensuring you'll dance better and more safely in the process.
Two dancers from different studios on opposite ends of the country meeting at a dance competition may sound like the formula for a cheesy teen-rivalry movie. But it's actually real life for lots of dancers on the comp circuit. Meet four sets of adorable BFFs who found winning friendships at a competition.
We still can't get over the talent on "Dancing with the Stars: Juniors"—like how many YouTube tutorials do we have to watch to become half as good as these mini dancing machines? And just in case you forgot how skilled these prodigies are, this week's theme was sure to remind you: Last night, the ten couples performed to songs that came out the year they were born. (But let's be real, most of these songs aren't really that much of a throwback.)
It's safe to say that the bond between dancing siblings is one of the strongest out there. But for sisters Emma, 16, and Ava Blaser, 10, that bond runs deeper than most can even fathom: The pair continued to dance together throughout Ava's treatment for kidney cancer remission, and they say it helped them heal.
With cooler weather finally here, it's time to talk warm-ups. And while your dancewear drawer is probably overflowing with oversized sweaters, leggings and enough leg warmers to outfit the whole class, warm-up boots are often forgotten. To keep your feet and ankles cozy in between rehearsals, we rounded up dance warm-up boots that suit every style.