Summer Intensive Reality

          Summer intensives, one of the most exciting things to do as a young dancer. You get to experience new schools, teachers, styles, choreography, and cities. It is a great way to make new connections in the world of ballet and is a priceless experience you will cherish even after you have finished dancing. In honor of auditions for the tremendous programs beginning I thought it would be only right to talk about theses programs in a more honest tone. While I most definitely agree with what was said at the beginning of this post, there is so much more to summer intensives that are not discussed. Let’s start with the obvious, pressure. There is immense pressure to go to these programs, especially if you want to dance professionally. With ballet becoming increasingly more competitive it is seen that attending summer programs is a must. It is true that you should continue to train in the summer, so you don’t lose what you have worked so hard to achieve, but are big name programs essential. I know from my own personal experience that it feels as if you’re even less likely to make it as a dancer if you don’t attend one of these programs. That just isn’t right. As a young teenager, no one should feel as if they need to attend a program once a year because their future depends on it.
          The second reason why summer intensives are just plain stressful, cost. The cost of these programs is overwhelming. It gives me anxiety to think that for me to attend one of the smaller lesser known intensives it would still cost up to over a thousand dollars to have decent summer training. Yes, scholarships are offered, but that only covers tuition and not the most expensive aspect, room and board. Scholarships are also very scarce making it not even a factor for dancers like me. I work my butt off to be where I am as a dancer and I do well, but I know that I am not the best and I know it is unlikely I will receive a scholarship. Whether scholarships are based off of merit or financial aid, it is unlikely you will receive one that can help you out the way you may need. In addition there are an abundance of other expenses. You must pay for pointe shoes, audition fees, travel, and activity fees for whatever intensive you choose. Some may wonder why you don’t just get a job to pay for it, but that is just near impossible. As ballet dancers, we spend all of our time dancing and have no time to work. The stress of money is extreme unless you are very wealthy or one of the lucky few that get a scholarship.
         Don’t get me wrong I love summer intensives. Some of my most cherished ballet memories have happened at summer intensives. They have provided me with new views and appreciations for the art form. It has been at summer intensives, that I have had ah-ha moments about my ballet career. I just want people that can’t go and feel like they are the only ones, to know that they aren’t. This year I will probably do a very small program because I just can’t afford to go to a bigger program this year. That isn’t the ideal situation, but that is real life because not all of us are the next Dusty Button or can afford it. So if you feel defeated or frustrated about summer intensives this year, for any reason, know that you are in the majority and there are other people going through it too despite what you see on media. Keep working and giving your best effort because that is what will really help you succeed.
P.S.
This is not a bash on summer intensives, just an honest perspective on them. If you can go to one this summer, congratulations and have fun!

Tips for Summer Success

Here are my five tips for making the most out of your summer, especially if you aren’t doing a summer intensive.

1. Stretch like nobody is watching- Even if you are already flexible, stretch. The summer is the best time to work on weak points and stretch multiple times a day, so take advantage of it.

2. Put on your yoga pants- Yoga is a great thing to do to keep yourself in shape over the summer. It will work your flexibility in new ways and will help you strengthen. It is also a good warm up for your stretch session.

3. Take your medicine- Do the things you hate, but are necessary. This summer I’m working on my adagio and how to reach my full extension. Summer is the perfect time to make yourself do things you don’t care for, but need to work on.

4. Do some abs and back ups- There is no need to be working out intensely everyday to stay in shape over the summer. The things I would make sure you aren’t skipping out on is abs and back. This is your core and center, what sustains you in ballet, so be sure to keep them in check with back-ups and crunches. It will make coming back in the fall easier.

5. Give a mini barre- Give yourself some barre everyonce in awhile. You should do this just to be sure you can still access your turnout, work through your feet, etc. It doesn’t have to be hard or complicated.

6. Take some classes- Try your hardest to find at least a couple classes to take. They don’t need to be high quality or a regular thing, but take something to keep yourself in check. Look at other smaller studios for these classes.

I know this was short, but I hope this post helped you out. Check back next Monday!

Rock Summer Intensive Part III

Here is my final post on the Rock, hope you enjoy!

My last post said how I had high hopes for the rest of week two and they were fulfilled. I loved it. Tuesday was a shorter day, seeing as it was the Fourth of July. Class was good and I had a great time at a firework outing with my friends. Everything about the outing in the evening was fun, from an intense game of Money in the Middle to pretty fireworks, even the bus driver was a blast. It was so nice to have a good day not only in ballet, but also outside of it.

Wednesday was a good fulfilling day with class from my favorite teacher to start me off, and then class from the ballet master, Justin Allen. Justin’s classes grew on me a lot, the first one I had, I didn’t care for, but I really enjoy them now. He doesn’t waste time and always keeps class moving, so you get all you can out of it, which I really appreciate.

On Thursday, I woke up not feeling too hot, I didn’t have a fever or anything drastic, but it was rough. Despite the headache and sleepiness, this day was great. I had a very basic morning class, by my luck, so I didn’t have to throw my achy body into anything. The afternoon brought class from Chase O’Connell, a Ballet West principal. He was very kind and I liked his teaching, after technique he also taught partnering. Partnering was really good, my partner was very kind and pushed me a little. I really appreciated this, it helped me to do better in class and grow my confidence. So shout out to my really awesome partner.

By Friday, I was feeling better, much to my relief. I started the day with Jody, the teacher that had run my audition and I was really happy to have her. Her class was definitely the most comfortable one, in terms of teacher-student relationship. Everyone was a little more relaxed. It was nice to have the final day be one with jokes and laughter. After Jody’s class, was Beckanne Sisk’s class, another principal from Ballet West. She was so kind. She took pictures with nearly everyone after class and answered people’s questions of advice patiently and carefully. Not only was she a good person, but she was also a good teacher. Beckanne not only really helped me with my turns on pointe, but also gave me great tips for my technique as a whole.

I can safely say will and already do miss the Rock. The atmosphere there was great, I was inspired by others to work my hardest and do my best. I loved the training and it was such an amazing opportunity to be exposed to Balanchine. This school had definitely made me crave more and has truly inspired me to go out and work to be better. I hope my little bit of documentation of my experience was enjoyable to read and check back next Monday for a new post!

Rock School Summer Intensive Part II

So week one is complete and week two has begun. Here is what I have to share.

Week one had a rough end, I’m not going to lie. Wednesday was filled with good teachers and I had partnering, which I always enjoy. It’s just a nice variation from everyday dancing. Thursday was when I started to feel not great because I didn’t feel I had worked very hard in class. Friday and Saturday were good classes, but the days themselves were pretty bad. I won’t go into detail, but those days showed me things can go wrong despite your best effort and you just have to brush off and get back up.

I will say I have high hopes for week two after seeing how today went. The morning started with a refreshing class after a lazy weekend. The afternoon followed with class from Bo, the school’s artistic director. Not only was his class a nice pace, but the combinations were different and challenging. Another huge pick me up was definitely Bo complimenting my weak point, my turns. After those technique classes I had a pointe class that went back to the basics. I didn’t love the class itself, but glad I had it because it forced me to work out kinks. Like medicine, it doesn’t taste good, but it’s good for ya.

I’m looking forward to the last four days that come with this intensive. I know this post is brief, but I’ll be back Friday with one last post on the Rock.

Rock School Summer Intensive

So, of course I messed up and didn’t write yesterday. Anyways time to tell you about the Rock!

Well, it has been a good start. I’ve actually been at the dorms since Friday, since I came with a chaperone. On Sunday everyone else arrived. I helped people move in and greeted. If I’m perfectly honest, I actually really liked being here early because I acquainted myself with all the chaperones and could settle in a little sooner.

I actually waited all day for my roommate to come in, then registration came to a stop and I went asked administration what was up. Turned out my roommate was coming anymore. Lucky for me the suite next door had only one girl, so she became my roommate.  Overall the dorms are quite nice, they’re pretty clean and comfy. The non teaching staff has been incredibly nice, so the non dance aspects have been very enjoyable.

Monday started and I got to wake up at a fairly decent time of 7:30. Walked to breakfast with roommates and friends, then had a wealth of time to get ready. At 9:45, the bus left for the school. After a 45 minute ride, we had arrived and had a brief, uneventful meeting with artistic directors Bo and Stephanie. Then at last at 12:00 I headed to my first class. It was with Sun-Mi and was the perfect class to jump back into ballet. By the end my butt had been slightly kicked, I was sweaty, and it felt great. Following that was lunch. The afternoon brought class from a former PNB dancer.

I came home exhausted because even though it is only three classes, you are worked hard. I won’t get into a whole lot more detail because you probably won’t want to read it all, but I will explain what the Rock program is like.

If you want something that works on all types of dance, don’t come here. That isn’t what they focus on, it is almost exclusively ballet. Since we do only ballet (for the most part), you have just three to four classes. It is definitely a good idea to come here if you really want to focus on ballet. Another thing is that, depending on where you’re placed for board, chances are you’ll have a 45 minute bus ride to ballet and then another one back. This really isn’t bad to me, I take naps on it, but I feel people should know about this because it may bother them.

To close it up, it has been a good first two days, with fun teachers, nice dorms, tasty food, and lots of hard work. I will do my absolute best to write again on Monday with another Rock update, so see you then!

An Update

Sorry for the hiatus, but I’m back! I needed a little bit of a break with school coming to an end and the start of summer, but I can assure you my weekly schedule is resuming.

This post is just a little update on what is going on. Since the official season has ended, I have taken several standalone classes. These have been really great for me. It was so nice to go back to class even though I had only been away for two weeks because it honestly felt like something was missing. I had finished my exams and was flustered, so to go back to a class was so therapeutic.

These classes have been great also because they are teachers I don’t usually have. They both focus on the basics and really work on that strong foundation, which was great. Another thing I could really appreciate about one of the teachers, was his focus on mentality. This teacher always reminds me to have the right mentality, so I’ll pass his message because it’s really great.

He always encouraged me to forget about the people around me and just be me. He stressed that I can’t change who I am and I need to accept and embrace that. You have probability heard this before, but with the start of summer intensives and being surrounded by abundant talent, it doesn’t hurt to be reminded.

Outside of these helpful classes, I’m now getting ready to go to the Rock School for Dance. I will leave Thursday, (and continue to blog) but I’m not very prepared. It hasn’t quite hit me that I’m leaving so soon, but I’m very excited. That’s about it, not much, but come back Friday for another post about packing for summer intensives!

End of Season

Yesterday I had my final show of the season. I also have pictures for the first time in forever.

After a long and stressful season, it finally came to a close and I’m not going to lie, I was happy. This had been a tough year, I was never quite in a spot I felt fit whether that was a class or a role. Throughout the year it always felt off. It was hard because I was in a weird in between place of levels. I had close friends on either end of me, but was always slightly secluded from each side since I had connection to another. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad I was put in the in between place of levels to be pushed, but it was hard mentally. I couldn’t claim to be fully apart of one side or the other, so for that to end is a huge relief. It is time to move into the higher level officially along with friends from the lower level and I couldn’t be more excited.

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final real class of the year

Anyways, my final week of classes were a great end to the season. Tuesday was made up of rehearsals, but they actually ran smoothly for the first time. Wednesday was a fun and easy class that ended with a fulfilling fitness to my favorite song. Thursday brought a jazz combination to “Beautiful Liar” that definitely pushed me out of my comfort zone, but in the best way. Along with jazz was regular ballet and variations. We do variations every year, but this year was special. I really, truly enjoyed it and felt good about my dancing, the smile on my face wasn’t because there was an “audience”, it was there from joy. It was definitely the cherry on top.

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After some good classes, the long awaited end of season show came. A lot of work went into it and it definitely felt like we needed more time, but in the end it came together. Sure, there were several mistakes, but it felt right. All of us performers came together, even though we were exhausted and presented a great show.

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almost showtime

This may not have been my best season, but at least I can say I finished it with a bang. There was stress and frustrations all year, yet it had its moments and the end was definitely one of them. I really hope you enjoyed this post and check back next Monday for more!

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Dear Diary Times Two

Today is a little advice post that can apply to dancers, but almost anyone else. I am suggesting that you start two journals, for two separate things.

The first journal I recommend starting is for a more personal use. I suggest jotting down every day (or as close to) what you did, how you felt, and other things from the day you just had. This is a great way to relieve yourself of any emotions that may have built up in the studio, allows for you to go back and read about good days, and is a great way to wrap up your day. There are so many other good reasons to start this personal journal. It helps get rid of stress, understand thoughts, pushes you to remember things, and so much more. The last reason to start a journal is years from now you may go back and read it and get to relive a great role or summer intensive.

The second journal is for ballet (or other things for my non dancer readers). After a class or two go back and write down corrections from teachers or things you want to work on. You can use this to help keep track of things to improve and make goals. This is also a great tool for when you are preparing a piece or role for performance. While we remember a lot of corrections, a lot can also go out the window by the next day. Try and push yourself to write down corrections or tips after every other class. It may be annoying at first, but it will soon become a habit. This journal will be so helpful for targeting your specific flaws and it can help you to remember corrections from one time experiences such as intensives or master classes.

I hope you try keeping the two journals to help you relax and to help your dancing. I know it has been helpful to write down my thoughts, since there is always a lot going on.

Come back next Monday to hear about my end of season show that is happening this Sunday!

A Rough Audition

Part of the reason I started this blog was to share my experiences as a dancer, but recently I’ve just been writing advice posts and not much of my story. Today I’m going to talk about an audition I had Friday and how my dance life has been going in general. This post is just a little story time on what has been going on dance wise for me.

Ballet has been crazy busy for me recently, with end of season show coming up there has been endless rehearsing. This is all coming after a different performance, “Peter and the Wolf”. “Peter and the Wolf” was an exhausting, but ultimately fulfilling experience. I was cast at the bird and was in two of four performances. We had relatively little preparation and it was definitely a stressful. Once it was over we had to dive right into end of season preparation, but that isn’t what I’m talking about today.

This past Friday, Cinco de Mayo, I had an audition for a second company position. It isn’t as serious as other second companies, that are more of jobs, this second company is similar, but not as intense. Anyways this audition went pretty well, there weren’t any major mess ups. The problem was, it wasn’t my best. I knew I could have done better, but I wasn’t dancing to my fullest potential. My turns were faulty, my adagio weak, and overall I felt frustrated.

This had been happening for a while in class since I got a minor back injury. I can’t sit out to let it heal, but I have had to hold back in class in order to stay healthy enough to dance. Due to this I felt I had declined from earlier this year and it felt discouraging. The audition ended and it wasn’t terrible, but it could have been better. I knew I had done well enough, but to know I could have done better was better. Despite this crappy feeling, the next day I got up went to class and rehearsal.

Moral of the story, push through. I’ve been struggling recently with little things in ballet, but have forced myself to continue on and I hope you do too. Some classes are better than others and we just have to hope the next one is the best yet. If you find yourself feeling this way, keep going.

Check back soon, for my opinion on new jazz shoes and hopefully some more stories like this one!

Bigger Isn’t Always Better

Today I’m talking about the benefits of a smaller company. I feel there is always pressure to be at some big company or some big school, but this isn’t always true. Every dancer needs something different and smaller companies might be it and here is why.

More performing opportunities as a student has been a nice benefit from being at a smaller school. With a smaller company, they will pull more from the school for performing opportunities. It’s for this reason that I have been in productions other than Nutcracker and Spring Showcases (aka recitals).

Another benefit to training at a smaller school or company is more personalized attention. This is sometimes found in bigger schools, but not that much. It’s common sense, smaller class, more attention for each student. For some dancers that little bit of extra attention can make all the difference in their training.

The last reason to consider a smaller school is if you want a more laid back ballet schedule. If you don’t want a ballet or dance career, you’ll most likely prefer the easier small school schedule that is common.

Overall every dancer has different needs, if you want to be a big fish in a little pond a smaller school is probably better. Some may want a reputation with bigger companies and in that case you should consider a bigger school. My point is don’t throw one method or the other aside based off what you hear from others.

Sorry for such a short post, please check back next week for a review!

Annoying Ballet Stereotypes

We all face annoying stereotypes from none dancers. Here are a few for none dancers reading this to avoid and for dancers out there to know I feel your pain.

1.We don’t eat- Just like athletes, we need fuel to dance, so stop being surprised when we eat a real meal. In addition if we say we aren’t hungry, we aren’t hungry, we’re definitely not starving ourselves contrary to belief.

2. We don’t care or know about sports- Just because I don’t play a sport, doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy watching them. Not only do I like watching them, I know what’s going on, too.

3. We all listen to classical music- This one is just weird. Sure we like it because we listen to it in class, but that doesn’t mean I go home and listen to it.

4. We are mean- Movies about the arts or dance world always paint dancers as snobby, stuck up, mean girls, but I swear we’re nice.

5. We are frail- Another one that is complete bogus. If you’re dancing nine hours a day as a professional, you have to be strong. You need core strength, hip strength, ankle strength, and endurance, if you have those things I’d say you aren’t frail.

6. We are very girly- There’s nothing wrong with being girly, but don’t assume I am because I do ballet. Just because I’m a ballerina, it doesn’t mean I love wearing makeup, shopping, and being the pretty princess with a crown and tutu.

7. It’s just a hobby- This is more a stereotype of ballet rather than ballerinas, but it is still annoying. Even if you don’t do it professionally, this isn’t a hobby, it’s a passion.

8. It’s easy- The worst stereotype of them all, ballet is easy. It isn’t, it just isn’t, you can take my word on this one.