Why You Should Try an Unfamiliar Dance Style This Summer
Christopher Perricelli leading class at Gus Giordano Dance School (courtesy Amy Giordano)
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.
An intensive's deep-dive format can feel totally overwhelming, even in a style you're confident in. But that unique format is also what makes it the best time to try something new. "Immersing yourself in intensive summer study allows for pure focus," says Limón Dance Company program manager Becky Brown. Unlike a master class or workshop, a summer program permits dedicated practice over the course of several weeks, giving you the time you need to absorb detailed instructions.
Embrace Being Not-Perfect
Feeling out of your depth is a good thing—it means you're growing. But don't be nervous that attending a summer program outside of your style will mean weeks of awkwardness and discomfort. Michelle Chassé, director of Boston Conservatory at Berklee's Musical Theater Dance Intensive, often sees contemporary and ballet dancers attend the summer program, but the compressed time frame and high level of intensity quickly help them feel at home. "Students are really challenged, even bewildered, in the first few days of the program," she says. "But by the end of the first week they've already begun to absorb and digest what they're being taught."
Boston Conservatory at Berklee's musical theater dance intensive students Celia McLennan and Michael Haggerty (photo by Eric Antoniou, courtesy Boston Conservatory at Berklee)
Reap the (Career-Building) Rewards
In addition to the training you'll receive, an intensive is a major networking opportunity, because it gives you time to build relationships. And if you spend part of your summer with an entirely new dance community, you're likely to create dozens of relationships that might not otherwise have been available to you. "Use the intensive as an opportunity to expand your network of contacts," says Amy Giordano, executive director of the Gus Giordano Dance School in Chicago, IL. "Parents, teachers, photographers—you're exposed to all these new people."
Change Your Big Picture
It seems counterintuitive, but spending a summer studying an unfamiliar technique might just make you better in your "home" genre. "Every style incorporates inspiration from the others," says Brian Young, owner and director of Sweatshop Dance in Denver, CO. "So learning a new style of dance might be just what you need to connect the dots, even in the styles you're most familiar with."
Or a summer program experience could change the course of your career. Student Ilana Cohen studied primarily ballet before attending her first Limón summer program. "I'd started to feel stuck in my ballet training," she says. "My body wasn't physically shaped to do it, and while I had taken classes in more contemporary styles, I didn't understand them because I couldn't see what the goal was." When she first started studying Limón technique, the framework and instruction made sense. "Before the intensive," she says, "it had never occurred to me that it would be possible to consider a career in dance."
Want to branch out, but not sure which intensive might be right for you? We've got some ideas:
If you're a bunhead who's ready to loosen up, try: Complexions Contemporary Ballet summer intensives
If you're a contemporary dancer who wants to dig into improvisation, try: The Gaga intensives
If you're a tapper who's eager to explore rhythm in a different way, try: Belén Maya flamenco workshops
If you're a comp kid who lives for acro, try: Bandaloop
A version of this story appeared in the January 2018 issue of Dance Spirit with the title "The Summer Study Style Challenge."
(From left) Darriel Johnakin, Diego Pasillas, and Emma Sutherland (all photos by Erin Baiano)
Dance Spirit's 2019 Cover Model Search finalists: Darriel Johnakin, Diego Pasillas, and Emma Sutherland! One of them will win a spot on Dance Spirit's Fall 2019 cover. Learn more about the dancers by clicking on their names here:
vote for your favorite below. You can vote once a day now through July 15.
We also want you to
get social! We'll be factoring social media likes and shares into our final tallies. Be sure to show your favorite finalist some love on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, sharing their profile pages and using the hashtag #DanceSpiritCMS.
When it comes to injury-prone body parts, knees reign supreme for dancers. But a little strengthening can go a long way in preventing painful outcomes. We turned to Dirk Hartog, a physical therapist with Westside Dance Physical Therapy in NYC, for three exercises that'll support and stabilize your knees.
James Whiteside (Jayme Thornton for Dance Magazine)
Say you're perpetually impeccable designer Thom Browne. Say you're planning your Spring 2020 Paris menswear show along a "Versailles country club" theme. Say you want a world-class danseur to open the show with some kind of appropriately fabulous choreography.
Who do you call? James Whiteside, of course. On Saturday, the American Ballet Theatre principal—wearing pointe shoes and a glorious pinstriped tutu—kicked off Browne's presentation at the École des Beaux-Arts with a 15-minute, show-stealing solo. Whiteside choreographed the piece himself, with the help of detailed notes from the designer.