Advice for Your Summer Intensive

Advice for Your Summer Intensive

Find out the keys to making the most of your summer intensive.

Find out the keys to making the most of your summer intensive.
Summer is an opportune time to get sweaty, take loads of classes, improve upon your technique and artistry, and make new friends. Once you’ve found the program that is right for you, you can prepare to immerse yourself in dance and reach the next level!

Why a summer intensive?
Summer allows for more time to focus on dance. There’s no school, no homework, and, instead, that extra time and energy can go toward your craft.

“Everything is great about summer dance,” points out Billy Blanken, a faculty member for the Pre-Professional Core Program at Peridance Capezio Center, among other schools. “It’s much easier to focus without the added pressure of school.”

In addition, a summer intensive can take you out of your comfort zone and aid in your growth as a dancer. If you attend an intensive outside of your home studio, you will meet new people, take classes from a variety of teachers, be exposed to many different dance styles and maybe even learn new choreography and have a chance to perform! You’ll also likely be dancing multiple hours a day, which is great preparation for a professional dancer’s schedule.

“These intensive programs have a lot of dance hours during the day,” adds Vanessa Martínez de Baños, co-director of DoubleTake Dance and an instructor at several summer intensives, including Leon Dance, Dancewave, Peridance and Joffrey Ballet School. “Each night, they can go home (or to their residence) to take care of their body, rest and review what they did in class, allowing them to be focused on just dance, therefore learning faster.”

“Students frequently come from all over the world, and these intensives are the platform that expose them to different classes, teachers and choreographers that will push their limits and take their training to the next level,” said Martínez de Baños.

What summer intensive is right for you?
Nowadays, the number of summer intensives out there is huge. You can choose intensives from contemporary dance companies, schools attached to ballet companies, dance studios across the country, Broadway workshops, commercial-based dance and more. The options can feel overwhelming! It’s always a good idea to talk with your dance teacher or studio director about which intensive may be best for you. Together you can discuss your goals, your level and style, and whether you want to stick close to home or venture far away.

In addition, “talking to other students about their experiences at different programs is very helpful,” advises Ashley Carter, co-director of DoubleTake Dance and who teaches at summer intensives for Round Rock Repertory Dance Centre, Tarrytown Dance, Peridance and Joffrey Ballet School. “Also, researching the faculty is important to make sure that the dancer is training with people he/she is interested in. Finally, some intensives are more ‘intense’ than others. Be honest with yourself as to how hard you actually want to train!”

If you have a dream company, consider choosing the intensive of that company’s associated school, or participate in that company’s repertory intensive, if available. Keep in mind your goals and area of interest, but also contemplate what types of classes will really push you.

“With so many options,” Blanken says, “it’s good to consider what you are missing in your training and not the area that makes you the most comfortable. Companies require extreme versatility from dancers.”

Make the most of it!
Once you’ve chosen a summer intensive, there’s nothing more to do than soak it all in and make the most of your experience!

Before you start, Carter recommends making sure you’re in reasonably good dance shape. “It will prevent you from getting too sore or injured in your first week,” she adds.

Once you’re there, be prepared for placement classes and/or casting. Be sure to trust the teachers’ judgment; they will place you in the level most appropriate for you.

“Just because you are always front and center at your studio doesn’t mean you will be in the highest level or be featured at all,” Blanken explains. “That doesn’t matter; putting in the work does to help you grow. Good work will always get noticed.”

A first impression always matters. Remain open-minded, respectful and friendly to the staff and other dancers, and greet your teachers and each class with wide, eager eyes!

“New teachers and new styles can be a challenge at first,” Martínez de Baños says. “Be polite, ask questions in class, and always pay attention to other students’ questions. Present yourself like you want to be remembered. Teachers will remember you if you are hard-working and have a positive attitude in class.”

Blanken also suggests keeping a journal. Record any corrections you’re given, write down combinations you love, and jot down your feelings and progress over the weeks. He encourages dancers to work hard and be open to different styles and pedagogies but warns dancers to work safely.

“If someone is asking you to force your turnout, you have to be smart,” he offers as an example. “You can work to strengthen your turnout muscles, but nothing is immediate or should be forced.”

Take care of your body!
In the summer months, when you’ll be dancing and sweating a ton, it’s important to take care of your body. Eat plenty of food, stay hydrated, and rest when needed.

“Dancers at summer intensives need to fuel their body like professional dancers,” says Emily Harrison, MS, RD, LD, a registered dietician with Dancer Nutrition LLC. “That means starting with a strong breakfast (don’t skimp on carbs like oats and whole grains), eating regularly throughout the day and refueling in the evenings with a good dinner. Your body needs nutrients in a big way if you want to get stronger and reduce your risk for injury.”

Whether you’re on your own for meals or your dorm or residence has a cafeteria, Harrison recommends eating lots of antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables, watching out for oversized portions of heavy foods such as meats and cheeses, and getting protein from beans, nuts, seeds and soy. In your dance bag, pack healthy snacks – low sugar energy bars, popcorn and dried fruit. And the occasional dessert or junk food is okay, Harrison says; just put limits on your intake.

A water bottle is a must in your dance bag. Harrison says to aim to drink three to four large water bottles per day when dancing a lot. And pay attention to how your body feels throughout the day.

“The first two signs of dehydration are fatigue and poor balance,” Harrison explains. “Thirst doesn’t even register with the brain until you have already lost one to two liters of water. Hydration in the summer months is critical for performance, injury prevention and even decreasing soreness from day to day.”

Enjoy summer dance!
No matter how long, how intense or how far away your intensive may be, enjoy summer dance while it lasts. It’s a great time to improve and experience what life as a professional dancer may feel like. But while you’ll want to work hard and not miss classes, it’s also important to enjoy your experience!

“It’s fun, it’s scary in a good way and a blessing to be able to spend a summer doing what you like to do best,” Martínez de Baños enthuses. “Take everything in, and in September, you’ll be a much better dancer.”

By Laura Di Orio of Dance Informa.