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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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Setting Ballet Summer Intensive Goals

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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 the following questions in your ballet journal.

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!

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?

Which Ballet Summer Intensive to Pick

Summer intensive auditions are coming to a close and chances are, you have started to receive some of your acceptance letters in the mail. Most of you audition for tons of different summer ballet programs and will be accepted into multiple intensive programs. So how do you make an educated decision about which summer intensive to attend? Here are a few helpful hints to make sure you end up in the right place.

1.) Cost- If your family is on a budget, the cost of the summer intensive that you choose will definitely be a factor in the decision making process. Did you get a scholarship? If you received a scholarship to a particular program, this means the school has an extremely high interest in you. Choose which program makes sense for your family financially.

2.) Program Length- Three week, four week, or six week? How comfortable are you being away from home for long periods of time? I used to get homesick when I went to summer intensives at age 12 and 13, so I would choose no more than four week programs. Also, will you be missing out on your family vacation?

Photo from Chautauqua Ballet Intensive

3.) Travel- How comfortable do you feel traveling far away from home? For example; since I was from the East Coast, I was hesitant to travel far from my family to attend San Francisco Ballet School’s Summer Intensive. Travel also fits into the cost category as typically you will either need to fly or drive to the program.

4.) Style- Does the school that you choose fit with the style you currently train in? Or is it different? How will your current school director feel about this? Going to a summer intensive like School of American Ballet, for example, might mean a change in technique. If your hope is to be accepted there year round, it is definitely worth it.

5.) Preference- Sometimes the best thing to do is follow a hunch. Where do you want to go most? If money is not an option go to where your heart follows!

Which ever ballet summer intensive program you choose, make sure you go into it with an open mind. This will ensure that you make the most of any situation and remember- write down your corrections!

Ballet Auditions – What to Wear

When it comes to auditioning for summer ballet intensives or ballet companies, the first impression is everything. Artistic Directors and ballet instructors are looking for dancers who look cleanly and neatly put together. They look for someone who catches their eye, but not in an “in your face” way. That’s why you want to make sure you look your best. Here are a few tips to help you look your best in summer intensive and ballet company auditions.

1.) Ditch the warm-ups. Unless you are injured, or want the director to think that you are injured, do not wear warm-ups in an audition. Even worse, you could give them the impression that you are hiding something. If you arrive early enough to the audition registration, you should have plenty of time to warm-up while you are waiting for your audition to begin. As soon as you enter the audition room, all warm-up attire should be off.

What not to wear- Are you going to a ballet audition or the gym?

2.) Wear an appropriate leotard. You are better off to pick a simple leotard in a style and color that flatter your body and show it in the best possible light. Many custom leotards from companies such as Yumiko may be beautiful but come off as too complicated and will distract the Artistic Director or teacher from your dancing. Also stay away from strappy back leotards or anything that cuts your back in half. School and company directors are looking for lines and I’m not talking about the ones sewn onto your leotard!

3.) Make sure it fits. The last thing you want to be worried about in an audition is your leotard falling off or riding up in the wrong places. Test out the leotard you plan on wearing to your next audition in class to make sure it is comfortable. Fidgeting will also distract both the director and yourself from the dancing.

A classic Mirella leotard in a flattering color is always best.

4.) Steer clear of bright colors but don’t wear black. Nothing will drive a director crazy like a fluorescent, striped or patterned leotard. Stick with solid colors that flatter your hair and skin tone. The only illusions being created should be through your dancing, not your outfit 😉

5.) Confidence. Nothing looks better than confidence. Wear it proudly and you will succeed!

I hope that these tips help you out in your upcoming summer intensive and ballet company auditions. If you need more advice about what to wear, how to fix your hair, and what is the best makeup, I have dedicated an eBook called The Ballet Audition Preparation Guide to answering these questions and tons more.

 

Choosing the Right Ballet Auditions

Now that Nutcracker season is over and it’s the New Year, chances are, you are gearing up for your ballet summer intensive auditions. With summer intensive auditions, there can be hundreds of different schools to choose from. How do you know which schools are right for you?

Make sure you start doing the research before the audition to make sure you don’t waste your time, energy, and your parent’s money. If you live in a city such as New York or San Francisco, where pretty much every Summer Intensive holds an audition, I recommend going to as many auditions as possible for experience. If you don’t live in a city where schools typically hold auditions, you will have to travel, which is something you and your family may need to discuss and take into consideration.

What style are you trained in? While it is always fun to attend a school that trains dancers in a different style than you, you want to make sure that style suits you. School of American Ballet, for example, typically looks for dancers who are trained in the Balanchine technique whereas a school like the Kirov looks for a Russian trained dancer.

Remember, your ultimate goal is to be accepted into a professional company, right? So this means you want to choose which summer intensive you attend wisely once you are accepted.

Also consider your family’s budget should you get accepted into the school. Does the summer intensive offer scholarships?

For your first summer intensive program, I recommend going to a school that isn’t too far away from home. When I went to my first summer school, Chautauqua, at age 11, I was very homesick. Luckily my family was only a few hours drive away and came up to visit me on the weekends.

As you get older, you want to look for summer intensives that have schools which feed into a professional company. The last summer program that I attended, for example, was Ballet Austin where I was offered a professional contract prior to the programs end.

Be a smart auditioner and you have the potential to get in to the summer intensive of your dreams…and possibly the professional ballet company in the future!

For more audition tips be sure to check out Nikol’s book, The Ballet Audition Preparation Guide at www.balletaudition.com.

Audition Headshot Tips

As ballet audition season quickly approaches it is time to get new audition photos and headshots. Audition photos can make or break your audition success, especially if you are unable to attend a national audition tour. So how do you ensure that your audition photos are up to par? Here are a few tips from the pros.

Tip #1 Hair up or hair down? This is a common question that comes up for dancers. While a common bun is always a good choice, sometimes it is nice for school or company directors to see what you look like with your hair down. Neither hair up or hair down is right or wrong. You should choose to have your headshot photo taken the way that you think looks best and presents YOU in the best way! Just no crazy hairstyles, okay?

You don’t want to look too different in your audition photo from how you will look in the audition. You want the director to remember you. Below are two examples of hairstyles for headshots.

The classic bun is always a great choice.

Tip #2 To smile or not to smile? Again, you want your headshot to present you in the best way possible. I am a huge fan of smiling in photos because it shows your personality in a positive light. Lots of professional dancer that I know  took serious headshots. Make sure to bring a parent or friend with you when you are getting your photos taken. They can give you feedback on the spot and constructive criticism during your photo shoot.

Hair down is a nice contrast.

Tip #3 To get pro photos or not? With professional photography equipment being affordable these days, some dancers and their parents choose to take their headshots themselves. This cuts down on photographer costs big time and allows for unlimited time and shots. Be careful when doing at home headshots or audition shots. Prepare a background and make sure the lighting is adequate to prevent shadows.

Tip #4 Don’t look messy. This definitely isn’t time for a sweaty studio shot. Present yourself for your auditions photos just like you would for your audition. Keep hair sleek and makeup minimal. Put your best face forward. Remember in a Kodak moment you want to shine!

Follow these 4 tips when preparing for your audition headshots and you will be sure to get noticed! Remember, for more audition tips and tricks you can check out my website balletaudition.com where I cover everything you need to know for a successful audition.

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