“DO. Practice. Steal corrections. BE INTENSE!…It’s about spending a concentrated amount of time pushing yourself to the limit and immersing yourself in your art form.”
They say once you learn to ride a bike, you’re set. For a lifetime, apparently. Once you have mastered the skill of cycling, you can hop back on at any time and be ready to go. Your body knows what to do. Many may believe that an art form like ballet is similar. The answer, however, is no. It is true that many of the postural basics of ballet carry over to everyday life. However, the body, when given too much rest, can tend to reject the complex shapes and attributes we ask of it when we enter the studio (turnout is not a natural thing). Like any athlete, large blocks of time off are not necessarily the best idea. Although the body always welcomes rest from the rigors of daily company or academy work, do not by any means get too comfortable. If you really want to challenge yourself, you won’t head out on vacation, you’ll attend a summer intensive.
If you’re contemplating joining the professional dance world, you MUST have a summer intensive under your belt. You don’t have to fly halfway across the country though-even a local program helps. As long as you are taking the incentive to further your study, your commitment will be noticed now and in the future. Conversely, a slew of summer intensives on your résumé does not guarantee entry into a conservatory or ballet company. But, honestly, it can’t hurt.
As the dance world expands and evolves, the requirements become more demanding. Everyone must be able to do everything nowadays. Intensives not only offer the opportunity to put in extra summer hours for your main area of dance study, but they also provide a chance to branch out and try new things. Some of the classes I was most unsure of at summer intensives, have led to some of my favorite memories (learning all of “Thriller” and a segment of “Music and the Mirror” in musical theatre at Ballet Austin…demanding, yet hilarious, acting classes at Bossov Ballet Theatre…one-on-one coaching sessions at José Mateo Ballet Theatre with José himself…) Many of my best stories begin with the classic opener, “this one time at dance camp…” It is a little terrifying to walk into a studio and for once feel entirely unsure of what will unfold, but 99.9% of the time you’ll have a blast and learn something that directly relates to your art form at the same time.
“This one time at dance camp…”
The summer is also a great time to say goodbye to your nagging habits and affectations. Although everyone is perfectly able to clear up a bad habit during the school semester or company season, there is something to be said for having extra time and less pressure and be able to change yourself for the better. But you must be fully committed to the process. Just because you’re at an intensive doesn’t mean the details of your technique are going to refine themselves.
Never squander time and by no means play it safe at one of these programs. It’s about you and furthering your technique and your artistry. No one is looking for a conservative, laid back dancer, who merely nods in agreement. DO. Practice. Steal corrections. BE INTENSE! It’s an intensive after all. It’s about spending a concentrated amount of time pushing yourself to the limit and immersing yourself in your art form. It is a time I miss in my own life. I am beyond grateful to live in a virtual intensive everyday inside a ballet company, but there’s something to be said for this time in a dancer’s life. Opportunities abound, all that’s needed is your passion. The effort you put forth and the choices you make can lead you on a path to greatness.