4 Mistakes Dancers Make When Picking Summer Intensives

Boston Ballets Summer Dance Program students (photo by Rosalie O'Connor, courtesy Boston Ballet)

You've completed your summer intensive auditions and received your acceptance letters. Congrats! Now, it's time to choose where you'll be spending this vital training time. While it's easy to select the program with the biggest name, or head to the school where all your friends are going, it might not always be the best choice for you. Instead, it's most important to end up at a program that will nurture you while pushing you to fulfill your potential. Watch out for these common mistakes dancers can make as they finalize their summer plans.


Mistake: Not Doing Your Research

Set yourself up for success with plenty of advance research. In addition to looking online for info, see if you can talk to people who've done the programs you're interested in. Firsthand accounts may be more useful (and honest) than what's in a brochure.

Dig deep into what sets each program apart and consider your goals—for the summer and for your career. A program's curriculum should support them. "If you want to get into a contemporary company, you wouldn't necessarily want an intensive that's straight ballet," says Caitlin Warren, education and outreach coordinator for NW Dance Project in Portland, OR. "If your aim is to choreograph," she says, "look for the programs that offer improv and composition classes."

When solidifying her summer plans, Ellie Wagner, a 16-year-old student at Larkin Dance Studio in Maplewood, MN, says she reflects on the previous year and what she wants to improve on. "Then, I look for a summer intensive that fits what I want to learn." In summer 2018, Wagner was interested in learning more about a show's production and dancing on camera, and The Travis Wall Experience at DancerPalooza fit that bill. At the same time, she also wanted to do some artistic introspection and self-discovery, and attending Camp Protégé, a retreat-style mentorship program based in Alberta, Canada, seemed to satisfy that goal. (She also attended Generation IV and IAF Experience, and has previously done intensives at Joffrey Academy of Dance and American Ballet Theatre.)

Tamara King, the principal of Boston Ballet's Newton Studio, adds that an intensive's training philosophy should align with what you're getting at home. "Especially for younger students—say, 12 to 15 years old—consistency is important," she says. "Older students may be ready to spend a summer trying Bournonville or getting a concentrated dose of Balanchine, but hearing too many voices too early on can be detrimental." If you're not sure where you fall, ask your teacher for advice.

Mistake: Prioritizing the Wrong Things

Are you drawn to a big-name intensive because you want to be able to list that school on your resumé, or because you're certain it's a good fit for you? Are you feeling the lure of state-of-the-art facilities, or are you more impressed by a school's alumni? There's nothing wrong with name recognition and shiny studios, but they shouldn't necessarily be the primary reasons you select a program. "You want to go where you'll get the best training, period," says Michele Larkin-Wagner, co-owner of Larkin Dance Studio.

Studying with a top-tier company or well-known celebrity instructor can be the right choice if you know they're offering what you need—especially if the program will guide you toward your professional dreams. However, lesser-known intensives can also have a huge impact on your technique and artistry, and their smaller class sizes may help you foster a more personal connection with both faculty and peers. As you weigh your options, keep your focus on what's most likely to help you improve.

NW Dance Project summer intensive students (photo by Chris Peddecord, courtesy NW Dance Project)

Mistake: Following Your Friends

If you have multiple friends attending the same intensive, you might be tempted to sign up for that one as well. But as Warren says, "Follow your own path, not someone else's. What's inspiring to you? What's going to help you in the long run?" King notes that even if you do attend an intensive together, you and your friends could be placed in different classes or levels, which can be frustrating. Meanwhile, Wagner says, "being away from your friends pushes you outside your comfort zone, which often forces you to work harder."

And remember that one of the benefits of summer study is making new friends. "The dance world is so small," Warren says. "You might return the following year and reconnect, or see the same dancers at a different intensive." Summer friendships can carry through to college, auditions, and professional life. Be open, rather than insular, and watch your network expand.

Mistake: Not Challenging Yourself

Summer study is designed to be more demanding than training during the school year. You may be asked to put in more hours and throw yourself wholeheartedly into new styles. The result can be exponential growth in a condensed time frame—if you avoid settling for an intensive you know you can handle with ease.

NW Dance Project summer intensive students (photo by Chris Peddecord, courtesy NW Dance Project)

But pushing your limits doesn't mean you have to go to a different program each year. "We have students come back after a wonderful experience, who want to reinforce and build on what they learned," says King. If you developed a relationship with a program's faculty and you know you have more to gain from working with them, there's nothing wrong with revisiting familiar ground. When you've gotten everything you can, it's time to move on.

"Summer study is a chance to spread your wings," Larkin-Wagner says. "Training with different teachers and meeting dancers from all over the country can really open your eyes." The first step toward having an unforgettable and invaluable experience is to land at a program that matches your abilities and your aspirations. Once you're there, it's up to you to make the most of it.

A version of this story appeared in the January 2019 issue of Dance Spirit with the title "Summer Study Mistakes."

Dancer to Dancer
Ballet Academy East student Stella MacDonald (Erin Baiano)

It's the rite of passage every young ballerina dreams of: getting her first pair of pointe shoes. But it's important to remember that a lot (and we mean a lot) of hard work and technique-honing leads up to this moment—not to mention getting the green light from your teacher. Dance Spirit turned to Jenna Lavin, former Miami City Ballet dancer and principal of the pre-professional division at Ballet Academy East in NYC, for three exercises meant to strengthen, train, and stabilize the muscles you'll be using once you're on pointe.

Keep Reading Show less
Fitness
Rochelle Mendoza-Axle, Courtesy Stiskin

In today's dance world, versatility is key. It's not enough to be a master of one style—even when they specialize in one area, dancers are frequently asked to fuse multiple genres, or step out of their comfort zone for specific projects. With their wide variety of summer programs, Joffrey Ballet School aims to prepare dancers for the demands of a professional career. We asked five faculty members to share how they do this:

Keep Reading Show less
Sponsored by Joffrey Ballet School
Kendra Oyesanya, Marcus Mitchell, and Carlito Olivero (courtesy YouTube/Lionsgate)

Happy "Step Up: High Water" eve, y'all! Everyone's favorite internet dance show makes its triumphant Season 2 return tomorrow, March 20th, on YouTube. In anticipation of the premiere, we turned to Kendra Oyesanya (Poppy), Marcus Mitchell (Dondre), and Carlito Olivero (Davis) for the scoop on all things "Step Up"—from on-set shenanigans, to embarrassing stories, to scenes to watch out for this season (hint: Episode 2's dance battle, and the season finale's final number!).

Keep Reading Show less
Dance News
The cast of "Oklahoma!" during last year's run at St. Ann's Warehouse (Teddy Wolff, courtesy DKC/O&M)

You may think you know Oklahoma!, the classic Rodgers and Hammerstein musical that made history when it first opened in 1943 and is best known for Agnes de Mille's groundbreaking dream ballet. But the latest Broadway iteration of the musical isn't your average trip to the frontier. Opening April 7, the revival features new choreography by Mark Morris alum John Heginbotham, and swaps the traditional windswept-prairie set and full orchestra for an intimate, minimalistic staging and a bluegrass band. Coming fresh off an acclaimed run at St. Ann's Warehouse in Brooklyn, the daring, unconventional production is sure to turn heads when it begins previews on Broadway tonight. Dance Spirit caught up with Heginbotham to get all the details on the dancing, and what it was like choreographing his first Broadway show.

Keep Reading Show less
Trending-posts
BLACKPINK has worked with A-list choreographers, including Kyle Hanagami and Parris Goebel.

K-pop is in the middle of a stateside takeover. South Korea's boy bands and girl groups can always be counted on to produce catchy, upbeat songs—and, most importantly for us dance fans, to feature colorful choreography prominently in their music videos. Over the past few years, the K-pop machine has been churning out a seemingly endless stream of talented groups with choreography worth watching on repeat, and some of them are starting to make names for themselves in the U.S. Check out our list of the dancetastic K-pop bands you need to know.

Keep Reading Show less
Commercial
Briar Nolet did NOT come to play. (NBC)

Have you ever felt that the Duels round on NBC's "World of Dance" was a bit unfair? During the Duels, each act's success hinges not on how objectively good they are, but on how good they are relative to a single challenger. Which means that mediocre acts can move forward if they best slightly-more-mediocre opponents, while frontrunners who're given tougher matchups end up knocked out.

Newly-engaged goddess J.Lo and her team get that. Which is why, last night, "WOD" introduced a twist designed to make the Duels more just: a redemption round. Formerly, five acts were eliminated in each division during the Duels. But from here out, the two highest scorers of those five will go head-to-head to earn a wild card spot. And that made last night's Upper Division Duels significantly more exciting.

Who just dueled it? Who was redeemed? Who made Derek Hough scream like a teenage girl? Onward to the episode highlights!

Keep Reading Show less
Dance on TV
American Ballet Theatre principal Devon Teuscher (left) meeting with Bloch owner David Fox (right) in NYC. (Marius Bugge for Bloch)

For professional ballet dancers, the search for the perfect pointe shoe is a lifelong quest. Even the smallest adjustment in manufacturing can make the difference between a shoe that allows a ballerina to soar and a shoe that detracts from her dancing. So what goes into creating the perfect fit? A lot of hard work, patience, and masterful attention to detail. We got the inside scoop on how a Bloch pointe shoe is made from beginning to end, and went inside one of American Ballet Theatre principal Devon Teuscher's touch-up fittings with Bloch owner David Fox in NYC.

Keep Reading Show less
Ballet
Martina Sandionigi as Giselle

We updated your favorite story-ballet tutus with modern details that'll please any 21st-century prima ballerina. Who needs a cavalier, anyway?

Keep Reading Show less
Dance Fashion
Dancers are total brainiacs.

Dancing impacts pretty much every aspect of our lives—including our brains. That's right: Dance makes us smart. Like, super smart. Here are seven ways being a dancer enhances your brainpower.

Keep Reading Show less
Just for Fun
Ballet Academy East student Stella MacDonald (Erin Baiano)

It's the rite of passage every young ballerina dreams of: getting her first pair of pointe shoes. But it's important to remember that a lot (and we mean a lot) of hard work and technique-honing leads up to this moment—not to mention getting the green light from your teacher. Dance Spirit turned to Jenna Lavin, former Miami City Ballet dancer and principal of the pre-professional division at Ballet Academy East in NYC, for three exercises meant to strengthen, train, and stabilize the muscles you'll be using once you're on pointe.

Keep Reading Show less
Fitness
The ultimate dance mom: Debbie Allen with her daughter, Vivian Nixon (courtesy Nixon)

Dance moms: Where would we be without them? We all know how much support and help they give us—in addition to loads of love. Here are 10 reasons real-life dance moms are undeniably the best.

Keep Reading Show less
Dancer to Dancer
Photo by Samantha Little

It's the fall of 2018. As the Brigham Young University Cougarettes step onto the field at LaVell Edwards stadium in Provo, UT, a crowd of nearly 64 thousand erupts into cheers. The dancers take their places, and a feeling of anticipation hangs in the air: Their reputation precedes them.

The music—Ciara's banger "Level Up"—begins, and unbelievable precision ensues. Eighteen dancers attack the highly technical choreography, which nods at viral social-dance sensations and continuously builds in energy. The school's mascot, Cosmo the Cougar, joins the team on the field, and the audience goes wild. As the piece ends, the sound in the stadium is deafening. The 16-time national-title-winning group has proved once again why they're the standard for college dance team success—they're just that good.

Keep Reading Show less
Dance Team
Paloma Garcia-Lee (center, in gold) and the cast of "Fosse/Verdon" (FX)

The extraordinary Paloma Garcia-Lee, who's danced in no fewer than five Broadway shows, can adapt to any choreographer's style. And before heading back to Broadway this spring in Moulin Rouge! (choreographed by Sonya Tayeh), she's tackling the work of one of the most iconic choreographers of all time: Bob Fosse.

Garcia-Lee plays Adrienne in the new FX limited series "Fosse/Verdon," premiering April 9, which follows the romantic and creative relationship of Fosse (Sam Rockwell) and his muse Gwen Verdon (Michelle Williams). Hamilton's Lin-Manuel Miranda, Thomas Kail, Steve Levenson, and Andy Blankenbuehler serve as executive producers, with Kail directing and Blankenbuehler choreographing.

With the exception of performing on The Tony Awards, "Fosse/Verdon" marks Garcia-Lee's TV debut. "I'm really setting my sights on more on-camera work," she says. "Getting the chance to flex my muscles as an actress in this different medium, but still have the dance part, is all really exciting." (She's got real acting chops, too: While a student at the North Carolina School of the Arts, she actually quit dance briefly to study acting instead.)

Dance Spirit spoke to Garcia-Lee about "Fosse/Verdon"'s epic final callback, how she got cast, and the transition from stage to screen.

Keep Reading Show less
Dance on TV

Video

mailbox

Get Dance Spirit in your inbox

Giveaways