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Summer Ballet Intensives – Adjusting Back to Home Life

Princeton Ballet School's Summer Intensive Program. Photo Credit: Theresa Wood

If you attended a summer ballet intensive program this year, congratulations! It is such an honor and accomplishment to be accepted into a summer ballet school away from home. I remember all too well the 6 weeks of dancing bliss, meeting new friends, being away from my parents, and of course learning a ton from the wonderful ballet teachers that were on staff. Memories like these last a lifetime – I am even still in touch with some of the friends I made at summer intensives long ago.

The hardest thing for me was always adjusting back to home life after the end of a summer intensive program. I remember leaving for American Ballet Theatre, New York at age 15, living in an apartment by myself, and walking to the studios each morning by myself. It was a big responsibility but it made me feel so grown up.  It was always hard for me to leave my family and friends back home, but once I got to the summer intensive, I never wanted to leave! Chances are, you are dealing with the exact same feelings right now after returning home from your summer intensive, and I want to share some pointers with you to help you adjust and get comfortable back at home.

Be Easy on your Parents – Your parents have missed you so much during the duration of the summer intensive. After all, their little one has been away for 6 weeks and they can’t wait to see you and spoil you when you get home. While their overly-affectionate attitude may be annoying, don’t fight it – embrace it. It is often hard to adjust back to the boundaries and rules that your parents have set at home. Sit down with them and explain your new found confidence rather than breaking the rules and getting in trouble. The key to dealing with your parents is working with them, not against them!

Keep in Touch – Do be sure to keep in touch with all of the new friends you met at your summer intensive. Social media like Facebook makes it super easy these days. Not only is it a great way to keep each other updated as to what is going on in your lives, it can also be a great connection for the future – Say if you’re looking for a roommate for next year’s summer intensive.

Respect your Ballet Teachers – You want to show off your new skills and technique, but don’t do it at the cost of making your ballet teacher angry. This is probably one of the hardest things to adjust to. For example: you go to a Balanchine summer intensive but return to a classical school. Your teacher back home definitely will not appreciate your new hands and over-crossed fifths 😉 Do your best to honor their corrections and chat with them after class. They will help you understand why they don’t like some of your new habits, but will also tell you which new habits they appreciate in a good way!

Adjusting back to home life can be tough after attending a summer ballet intensive program. Communicate with your loved ones, friends, and ballet teachers and you will be back on track in no time!

* Photo Credit Princeton Ballet School’s Summer Intensive Program. ©Theresa Wood

 

 

 

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Improve Your Penché for Ballet

Today’s video is to help you improve your penché for ballet. The penché is one of the exercises in ballet class that dancers struggle with – it requires balance, proper alignment, flexibility, and a strong standing leg. In fact, directors often give penché in auditions to see who can handle it and who topples over.

So what can you do to improve your penché? This video demonstrates a Ballet Strength exercise that addresses all of the key factors that go into executing the perfect penché such as balance, flexibility, strength, and alignment. Give it a try!

Ballet Strength Cross Training

Ballet Cross Training

The school year is almost coming to a close which means it is time to start planning your summer ballet cross training. Whether you have decided to attend a summer dance intensive program or continue to train at your current ballet school, you will need a structured plan with specific goals in mind. What would you like to accomplish over the summer to improve your dancing? The following is a list of choices you have to improve over the summer. Which one is right for you? (feel free to comment at the end!)

Summer Intensive Programs- Summer dance intensives are a great way to improve your technique and gain perspective from different dance instructors. Sometimes hearing the same correction in a different way, or from a different teacher, can make a world of a difference. Being in a different environment is wonderful as well. Dancing in a new studio around different dancers and teachers will almost feel like you are getting a fresh start. Sometimes when we are away from common distractions (like our friends at the studio) we are able to absorb corrections and information better. This is what will help you improve as a dancer.

Injury Rehabilitation- If you have suffered an injury over the school year it is sometimes best to stay home over the summer to rehabilitate that injury. You wouldn’t want to go into a summer intensive program injured and risk further injuring yourself, or worse yet, have to sit out the entire program. It is definitely deflating for your confidence and a big waste of your parents money. On the other hand, you could build-up your confidence at home going through physical therapy, taking it slow in classes at your current studio, and getting well for the coming school year. Injuries that aren’t properly rehabilitated in your teenage years will come back to haunt you in your professional life…trust me…so be smart!

Cross Training- Most professional dancers cross train over the summer. Cross training means targeting the same muscle groups that are used daily in ballet only with different types of exercises to work them in a different way. This helps to develop a well-rounded dancer who is less likely to develop injury. Since professional dancers typically have two to four months off in the summer, this is the ideal type of training for them as it will reduce burn-out, help rehab aches and pains developed during the season, and rule out any potential weaknesses for the upcoming season. (ballet cross training) Since dancers need to stay conditioned year round, this is the healthiest plan for a professional dancer to do over the summer.

So which ballet cross training plan is best for you?

Summer Program Savvy

As the end of June approaches many of you will head off to your very first summer ballet intensive program. With your suitcases packed have you left anything behind? You have surely packed enough leotards and pointe shoes to get you through the 3-6 weeks that you will be away from home. Have you forgotten the most important thing you will need for your summer intensive?

The most common thing that dancers forget to do before leaving for a ballet summer intensive program is set goals. Why are you doing this summer intensive program? To improve, right? But what exact areas of your dancing are you looking to improve? Let’s face it, without setting goals what exactly will you get out of your summer intensive experience?

Before you leave home (or even if you are in your first few weeks of the intensive) write down these questions in your ballet journal. ( I cover the journal details in a previous blog and in my book The Ballet Audition Preparation Guide)

What do I feel that I most need to improve on this summer? This could be anything from pirouettes to technique.

What have my teachers been encouraging me to improve on? This would be the corrections that you get in class or at the school year-end conference.

What do I need to do to make these corrections over the summer? Listen to the teachers, focus, etc

Why did I choose this summer intensive? List the key reasons that you decided to go to this particular summer program. Anything from teaching staff to city.

What do I most want to accomplish this summer at (fill in your summer intensive name) ? What is your ultimate goal in attending this particular summer program? Do you perhaps want to be asked to stay for this school’s year-round program?

By answering these questions and looking them over every few days, you will stay on track at your summer program. I know it sounds kind of dorky but if you really want to become the best dancer you have to set goals and remind yourself of those goals consistently. Have fun and make friends but remember, you are there to dance!

Patricia McBride and I at Chautauqua Summer Intensive

Ballet Summer Intensive Checklist

You did it! You were accepted into the summer ballet intensive that you worked so hard to get in to. Now onto what to pack! Here is a list of a few items that you want to be sure not to forget.

1.) You’re probably super excited to take your new leotards, skirts, and warm-ups but don’t forget about your regular “street” clothes too! What will the weather be like in the city where you will be dancing? Places like Pittsburgh, New York or Austin are typically very hot in the Summer so you’ll want to pack lots of shorts and tank tops for example. P.S. Don’t forget your swimsuit!

2.) How many pairs of pointe shoes will you need? One pair of technique shoes will work but you need to be prepared when it comes to pointe shoes. For a six week program I would recommend bringing four to five pairs of pointe shoes. (be sure to save one pair for the workshop performance!)

3.) Are the studios air conditioned? This is something that will also determine how many pairs of pointe shoes you will go through. If you are going to be dancing in a warmer climate where there is no AC, you can anticipate that your pointe shoes will break down or “die” faster. Check into this before you leave just in case you need to pack an extra few pairs of shoes.

4.) Bring things to do. If you are staying in a dorm or with a host family you will more than likely have a curfew. This curfew could be early so you want to make sure to pack lots to do. I recommend bringing lots of books, dvds, games, magazines or a laptop if you have one.

5.) Don’t forget your camera. With all of the fun activities that your chaperones will have planned for you in your new city you don’t want to miss a Kodak moment! The photos you take and the memories that come with them will last you a lifetime.

6.) The last thing you want to be sure to take with you is a positive attitude. Embrace the new styles, techniques and teaching staff that you will be introduced to. Even if you get frustrated, stay open minded and your teachers will recognize how well you can overcome adversity. Remember: summer study is all about getting new perspective and walking away from the experience a new and improved dancer.

I hope that these tips help you with your ballet summer intensive program packing. As always feel free to send your questions in by emailing me at nikol@balletaudition.com. I am looking forward to hearing from you 🙂

Break Bad Audition Habits

What is the worst thing that you can do in an audition?

I’m sure you ask yourself this questions each time you walk in the audition room to try out for a new ballet school or company.

If you are like most dancers, you worry yourself silly about things like what the directors are looking for, what body-type they prefer, or even what color leotard you should wear. We all worry about these things that we can’t control in the audition rather than focusing on the factors that really make the huge difference. This is what causes us to form bad habits. What we should be doing is focusing on the things that we can control. And that is just the half of it.

Luckily I have written Inside the Audition to go along with my Ballet Audition Preparation Guide techniques to tell you exactly what not to do inside the audition room! With audition season already upon us, you cannot afford to make these mistakes. They may cost you a job or spot in the company or school of your dreams.

Don’t lose out to your competitors this audition season. Download these must-have dancer guides now! Best of all, you don’t have to wait for it to be shipped, the tips are available immediately following the download.

I can’t wait to hear how much it improves your audition skills.

Happy Dancing,

Nikol Klein
www.balletaudition.com
www.balletstrength.com

How to Prevent Ballet Injuries

Ballet injuries are common career ending catastrophes for dancers of all ages. What may seem like a small ache or pain could turn into a serious injury if you are not making the proper adjustments to your technique. There are a lot of solutions offered that just mask the pain. If you do not get to the bottom of the issue that is causing the injury, it could be a life long struggle.

The following are a list of steps you can take to ensure you are doing the right things to prevent career ending injuries.

1.) See a Doctor- I know this may seem like a no brainer, but going to a doctor is one of the most important things you can do if you are experiencing abnormal pain. If you are attending a good ballet school, they should be affiliated with a Sports Medicine department or physical therapist in your city.

2.) Rest- You’ve heard this one before too. If you are experiencing abnormal pain, you need to stop dancing until you have the issue identified by a physical therapist. I know, you’re afraid that you will lose your part to your understudy, but how would if feel if you kept dancing and tore or broke something? Do your career a favor and take a much needed rest.

3.) Therapy- Once you have seen a physical therapist and they have diagnosed the problem, you need to follow through with your treatments. Your physical therapist may have you doing some strange exercises, but if you don’t follow through with them the injury will come back.

4.) Investigate- After you are finished with physical therapy and your injury seems to have healed, start investigating your ballet technique. Are you rolling in on your ankles? Are you gripping your hips? You might even want to see a Ballet Strength & Conditioning Coach like myself to help you work on technical weaknesses based on your anatomy and body mechanics. (Keep in mind that these are things that most ballet teachers are not qualified to recommend)

Sometimes your Ballet instructors, though they have your best interest in mind, will continue to tell you to force your turnout, etc. so that your body looks aesthetically correct for ballet. While this may look good, it may be doing disastrous things for your body and your career.

Take these simple precautions to prevent long lasting injuries and never be afraid to ask questions. You can try out one of my Ballet Strength programs HERE.

Nikol Klein, Certified Personal Trainer/ Professional Ballet Dancer/ Certified Nutritionist