Life-Changing Summer Programs: Evelyn Kocak, Stacy Martorana, Mayumi Enokibara and Stephanie Klemons
There's nothing like the thrill of attending a summer program. Getting to experience new teachers and classes can make a world of difference in your technique. Meeting other students who are as obsessed with dance as you are can lead to lifelong friendships. And sometimes, a summer program can alter the course of your dance career. Just ask pros Evelyn Kocak, Stacy Martorana, Mayumi Enokibara and Stephanie Klemons, who shared their life-changing summer intensive experiences with Dance Spirit.
Between my freshman and sophomore years at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, I switched from the ballet department to the modern and contemporary program. My teachers had been encouraging me to change majors, though I was hesitant. I'd only taken a few modern classes as a ballet student, and while I'd excelled in them, I was scared. So the next summer, I went to the Bates Dance Festival in Lewiston, ME.
It was a truly eye-opening summer. I'd never experienced so many different styles of modern and contemporary dance. There was this whole world I hadn't even known about. Each class was exhilarating. I was sweating, dancing as hard as I could; I felt free. It confirmed that I was on the right track—there was a sense that this was where I was meant to be.
I also learned how much classical technique is necessary for modern. I figured out how to combine my love of ballet with these new ways of moving. That's been useful in my professional career—Mark Morris' work is so precise and technically demanding. At Mark Morris Dance Group, we take ballet class every day with Mark, and I love starting the day that way.
Martorana performing with MMDG. (Melanie Futorian, courtesy MMDG)
I was 15 when I first attended the Exploring Ballet with Suzanne Farrell intensive. But Suzanne had been my idol for a while. I read her autobiography when I was 12, and I knew I wanted to follow in her footsteps—to attend the School of American Ballet, join New York City Ballet and perform George Balanchine's ballets.
If you want to be a Balanchine dancer, Suzanne is one of the greatest sources to learn from. The program was pretty small—about 30 dancers—and she was the only teacher. I got to develop a real relationship with her, in an intimate environment, which was so special.
Working with Suzanne solidified my love for Balanchine technique, and encouraged me to join a company that appreciates Balanchine dancers. I actually returned to Exploring Ballet over the next three summers. Before joining Pennsylvania Ballet (a company with roots in the Balanchine tradition), I was a NYCB apprentice and danced with the Suzanne Farrell Ballet for a year.
Kocak in rehearsal. (Alexander Iziliaev, courtesy Pennsylvania Ballet)
Mayumi Enokibara, Corps de ballet, Miami City Ballet (and cast member, “Strictly Ballet" Season 2)
I attended Miami City Ballet School's summer intensive for the first time in 2011. Getting to take classes from so many company members—like Patricia Delgado and Jennifer Kronenberg—was amazing. It was my first time learning Balanchine technique, which was pretty shocking. I'd never experienced it back home in Brazil. But I fell in love, hard.
I also learned to speak English that summer. I had studied it a little in school, but I wasn't strong. At first, it was so hard to understand teachers and communicate with anyone. But the friends I made during the program were so helpful. They'd correct me if I said something wrong, so I learned quickly.
The summer program was five weeks, and in my fourth week, I was asked to stay at the school year-round, with a full scholarship. I knew there weren't opportunities like that in my hometown in Brazil, so I was extremely excited. My parents were worried—I was only 14—but they knew how much it meant to me. Two years later, I became an apprentice with Miami City Ballet, and two years after that I was asked to join the main company. It's been a dream come true.
Enokibara performing with MCB. (Marissa Matluck, courtesy MCB)
Stephanie Klemons, Dance captain, swing and associate choreographer, Hamilton
As a kid, my summers were spent at sleep-away camps, including Buck's Rock Performing and Creative Arts Camp in New Milford, CT. When I was 18, I was hired to return to Buck's Rock as a dance counselor—but when I got there, it turned out I was going to be the resident musical theater choreographer. I had no idea what that entailed! I'd never created dance for a musical. By the end of camp, I'd choreographed a number of shows, including Jesus Christ Superstar and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.
That summer really sparked my interest in choreo. I majored in dance and choreography at Rutgers University's Mason Gross School of the Arts. The year after graduation, I met Andy Blankenbuehler at an audition for In the Heights, and later I became the associate choreographer for the show's first national tour. But I often think back to my sink-or-swim summer at Buck's Rock. These days, if I'm not sure I can accomplish something, or if a new experience seems overwhelming, I remember that sometimes, you have to just go for it.
Klemons rocking out on an NYC rooftop. (Kamille Upshaw, courtesy Klemons)
Even for natural turners, pirouettes from fifth can be a challenge. You need to take off from a small crossed position and stay straight over your supporting leg, from start to finish. "It's the hardest place to turn from, because you can't access your plié as much as you can from fourth," says Jennie Somogyi, former principal dancer with New York City Ballet and director of Jennie Somogyi Ballet Academy in Easton, PA. "I'm always telling my students to plié more!"
If you're struggling with pirouettes from fifth position or want to refine your approach, try these pro tips.
It's never too early to start thinking about your dream job. And summer intensives are an essential step down the road to achieving your dance dreams—whether you want to perform in music videos, ballet companies or Broadway shows.
With 19 programs across the U.S. (plus additional international programs) Joffrey Ballet School offers options for all types of dancers with all types of goals. Whatever you may be working toward this summer, there's a program that will help you get that much closer. We put together a guide to help you find the right one, based on your dream job:
At the tender age of 9, Destiny Wimpye moved cross-country with her mom so she could train at the Debbie Allen Dance Academy. The leap of faith paid off: Destiny's spent summers training at the School of American Ballet, the Ailey School, and Pacific Northwest Ballet; performed for Michelle Obama at the White House; and danced beside Mariah Carey in a TV special for Disney. Now she's a full-time student at the Colburn Dance Academy under the direction of former New York City Ballet principals Jenifer Ringer and James Fayette, and it seems fated that Destiny will one day dance her dream role, Dewdrop in George Balanchine's The Nutcracker. "I'm a jumper and a turner," Destiny says, "so I think it fits me pretty well."
In our "Dear Katie" series, former NYCB soloist Kathryn Morgan answers your pressing dance questions. Have something you want to ask Katie? Email email@example.com for a chance to be featured!
I've been battling Achilles tendinitis for months—it never seems to get better. How can I deal with it? Could there be an issue with my technique that's causing the problem?
Ever since starting her professional career, Broadway dancer Amber Ardolino has cupped. Using the holistic wellness practice to improve performance and take care of her body, Ardolino cupped before it was cool—even beating the 2016 Rio Olympics' purple polka-dotted athletes to the punch. But Ardolino's only one dancer who has put this therapy to regular use. Dance Spirit asked Carrie Gaerte, PT, DPT, ATC, and performance rehab specialist with St. Vincent Sports Performance who works with Indianapolis' Dance Kaleidoscope; and Thomas Droge, Chinese-medicine doctor and founder of Pathfinder Institute in NYC, to explain the ins and outs of cupping therapy.
Amber Ardolino in "Hamilton" (courtesy Ardolino)
What inspires you most as a dancer? What keeps you going on the days when the motivation just isn't there, and makes you feel like all the hard work, rejection and sacrifice is worth it for the pursuit of your dream? What makes you want to run into an empty studio and create something new?
Cindy Clough, executive director of Just For Kix and a studio owner with over four decades of experience, often hangs posters with dance-related quotes on the walls of her studio, on everything from creativity to the hustle to the importance of teamwork. Sometimes the right words from dancers who have been there are just the push you need to spark your imagination and remind yourself why you love what you do.
In that spirit, here are 10 inspiring quotes from dancers on what their art form means to them, and why it's worth fighting through the hard parts:
Let's be real: Auditions can be rough. No matter how prepared you are, a lot of variables go into every audition—which means even the best of us mess up sometimes! Here are 7 audition fails every dancer has experienced at one point or another.
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Colder weather is (finally) here, which means it's time for a good dance movie binge. But which iconic films should you put on? To narrow your search, we went ahead and ranked 30 of the greatest dance movies of all time.
Of course, we know a list like this is bound to be controversial—so if you disagree with our lineup, have at it in the comments!
Oh, baby I'm a wreck (wreck) after watching Kinjaz's new music video.
Set to Post Malone's "Sunflower," the lead single from the Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse soundtrack, the vid features the dance crew's ever-fabulous men—who appear to have Spidey senses, because seriously, how else do they stay down-to-the-fingertips in sync?—performing Vinh Nguyen's super-tight choreography, with an overlay of comic-book-esque graphics by editor Jonathan Shih.
Chloe Misseldine has every reason to be nervous as she and her partner run through the challenging wedding pas de deux from Don Quixote. Their performance is just days away and the two American Ballet Theatre Studio Company dancers have only had a week to prepare. Add to that the fact that ABT principal Gillian Murphy, one of the world's most famous ballerinas, is at the front of the studio taking notes.
If you haven't followed through on your New Year's resolution to practice more self-care, then Valentine's Day is the perfect time to start. Below, we rounded up the best ways to pamper, indulge, and heal everything from your muscles, to your skin, to your mind. Your body (and your dancing) will thank you.
It's no longer just Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo and the few pointe-clad male character parts, like in Cinderella or Alexei Ratmansky's The Bright Stream. Some male dancers are starting to experiment with pointe shoes to strengthen their feet or expand their artistry. Michelle Dorrance even challenged the men in her cast at American Ballet Theatre to perform on pointe last season (although only Tyler Maloney ended up actually doing it onstage).
The one problem? Pointe shoes have traditionally only been designed for women. Until now.
Are you a college student curious about what goes on behind the scenes at your favorite magazine? You're in luck—because Dance Spirit is searching for an editorial intern for summer 2019!
We'll be accepting applications through March 1. Internships pay an hourly stipend and require a minimum two-day-a-week, onsite commitment in our NYC office from June to August. (We do not provide assistance securing housing.)
If you're interested, please send a cover letter, resumé and two writing samples to Margaret Fuhrer at firstname.lastname@example.org. Be sure to put "Summer Internship Application" in the subject line. All attachments must be formatted as PDFs.
We will interview selected candidates in March in person or by phone, and let candidates know by mid-April if they have been chosen. Please note that we do not accept high school students, or any students under 18, and that we give preference to college juniors and seniors.
We can't wait to meet you!