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.
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!

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.


Seniority or Merit?

Piggy backing off of my last post with casting, I’m going into the debate of seniority or talent. It is a well-known issue on whether the oldest people with the most experience get the coveted role/position or do the most talented. This occurs not only in ballet, but everything such as school sports or who to hire for a job. I’ll give my stance on each side and hopefully you’ll comment your thoughts below.

Let’s start with why seniority should get the best part. Seniority has (to go with the classic argument) been there the longest. The people of seniority have waited their turn and now they deserve their chance. It isn’t fair to let someone younger get the better role if they’re brand new after you have been waiting years to get the better role. Another reason to choose seniority is that eliminates the chances for favoritism. You wouldn’t want the same talented person getting the good roles year after year.

Now let’s think about why the more talented person should get the role. The first reason to choose the more talented person is that it motivates. If you have to be the best for the reward, you will work harder to get there because you have incentive. Another reason why the talented should get a better part is that it may give the best product in the end. With the best person performing the role it will result in the best performance.

Overall, I prefer rewarding merit with better roles over rewarding seniority because it pushes people to work a little harder. I think both sides have their benefits and downfalls. Sorry the post is so short, but be sure to check back next week and let me know what you think down below, seniority or merit?

Reality of Casting

Today, I’m discussing the realities of casting. While it would be nice to think casting goes to who truly deserves it, that isn’t always the case. There are so many factors that play into casting that it can sometimes be a struggle when it goes an unwanted way. Some factors that play into casting beyond talent are schedules, seniority, and sizing.

The first way casting can go, is that you aren’t cast at all. This can be very upsetting, but you just have to keep a positive outlook. As said before there is a lot that can go into casting, beyond who is technically best for a role. All you can really do after not being cast is get back up and better yourself, so you’ll get the next part.

Another way casting can go is being cast, but it in a role you don’t care for. I think everyone experiences this at least once in their dance career and it can be very hard to handle. The first thing I have to say about being in this scenario is it is out of your hands. Ultimately we have no input in casting and it is what the caster sees fit and best for whatever the casting is for. As dancers we are under the director’s (or whatever other position’s) control and we need to respect their decision even if it upsets us. The other thing I have to say about getting a role you don’t like, is be grateful you got one. Even if it isn’t your ideal role, you should be happy you have one at all.

The final way casting can go, is getting the role you want. Even when you get the role you wanted, there are things to remember. The number one thing to remember is to be humble, especially if it is a major role. You should be happy you received that casting, but not so over the top about it that you put down peers. The other thing to remember is that now that you have the casting you worked for, you must continue to work to keep it. Just because you received a role, doesn’t mean you’re guaranteed to perform it if you slack off upon receiving it.

Overall casting can be either very upsetting or very exciting and no matter which way it goes you need to do three things. First, keep a positive out look on the scenario no matter how cheesy that may sound. Second, always keep working, whether it’s to keep what you have or to advance to better casting. Lastly, remember it is out of our hand. Casting can go anyway depending on many things, so keep that in mind.

I hope this article helps dealing with casting struggles and be sure to check back for another post on Monday!

Branch Out of Ballet

Today’s post discusses the importance of trying styles of dance outside of ballet, even if you think you don’t like them.

My first reason for why you should expand your dance education to different styles is because it will help you bring personality to your ballet. You can have the best technique in the world, but if you can’t bring artistry and personality to your dancing you won’t get far. It isn’t always easy to add this artistry, but I find taking classes such as jazz that are a little more free help bring this quality out.

The second reason I advice broadening your horizons is that it can give you a new view and approach to the same old move. If you struggle with turns in ballet, but come at them with a different approach in contemporary or jazz this can carry over into your ballet training.

The next reason to try new dance styles is that it can give you a break. They allow you to take a new and challenging way of dance, while giving you a break from the strict barriers of ballet. Other styles allow for a little more relaxation, especially if they aren’t your main focus like ballet.

The final reason to start other varieties of dance is that they will help you professionally. You will not be able to make it in the real world of ballet with only ballet training. This becomes clear with new modern choreography popping up everywhere and with no ballet company being strictly ballet. To give yourself the best edge, you want to be as versatile as possible and what better way to do that then have training in other styles.

Overall I highly advice trying a style of dance other than ballet. It will help your ballet dancing and your career opportunities. Not to mention, it is a great way to have fun and let loose. I have always enjoyed classes in jazz and contemporary and wouldn’t mind trying out hip hop and ballroom as well. So, go and try a new style and be better for it!

The Balancing Act

Today is all about balance, not only in ballet, but with school and ballet. To me there is a triangle of ballet, school, and sleep. All of those things are really important, but it’s really hard to have them all. While I don’t always balance these things, I do have some tips on how to get there.

  1. Manage Your Time

This is harder than it sounds, but try to plan out way ahead of something. Being a dancer takes time, so figuring out when you will get school stuff done is essential. It will be hard to do this in the start, but once you get into the habit of planning out your school life with your ballet life, it will get easier.

2. Learn to Say No

I myself struggle with this, but it is necessary with tight schedules. Whether it is deciding to take an easier class or saying you can’t do that optional piece, know your limits. Yes, you want to challenge and push yourself in school and dance, but if it’s too much then it’s counterproductive.

3. Ask for Help

If you need help, don’t be afraid to ask. Go to your teachers and ask for help with those harder questions and material. You have nothing to lose and it can only make your life easier if you understand things better.

4. Routine

Getting into a routine will make it easier to get things done. If you have a routine it helps you know what you need to do next and makes it harder for you to get distracted and procrastinate.

5. Sacrifice for Sleep

Final tip, forget the rest and get some sleep. Above all else you need to feel rested and healthy, so once in a while (not everyday) just tell yourself this one homework assignment doesn’t matter or I can skip strengthening for one night.

None of these tips are easy to do right away and it takes time to get used to it, but once you have them down it makes merging ballet and school just a little bit easier. I know I definitely struggle to say no and I struggle to just set everything else down and go to bed, but once you do it, you won’t regret it!