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.

Oklahoma City Ballet Intensive

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My last day at OKCB with some friends.

The summer of 2016 I attended Oklahoma City Ballet’s summer intensive. It was a very good experience with its flaws. I went for two main reasons. To spend time with my grandparents in Oklahoma and to save money on an intensive. This intensive was the best option for me because I could stay with my grandparents and not have to pay for housing. I sent in an audition tape for OKCB and heard back very soon. I believe I heard back after about a week. One thing I really appreciated about OKCB is that they would always answer emails I had with questions before the intensive in a timely manner.

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My schedule for week three.

A day at OKCB was fairly busy, starting with either yoga or Pilates at nine, which was followed by technique. After class you would have pointe then a pretty long lunch break. The afternoon would then be followed by two either none ballet classes, partnering, choreography, or variations. I thoroughly enjoyed these afternoon classes because they introduced me to a lot of new aspects of dance. My first day at OKCB I took my first hip-hop class, which was just a great way to break the ice for a bunch of bunheads at their first day of a 3-6 week intensive. I also took my first partnering class at OKCB. That class was great. I had a really good partner and the staff went at such a good pace that pushed us newbies without overdoing it. I can honestly say that first partnering class gave me a whole new look and appreciation for ballet I had never had before.

Another thing that was “introduced” to me at OKCB was musical theater dancing. This was such a blast and a great way to have fun after a long day of ballet. To me it was basically jazz with more theatrics to it. The last new thing OKCB gave me a look at was choreographing. We got into groups where we had to work together to bring our visions together to form one piece. This class was so beneficial to me even as someone who may never be a choreographer because it made me think out of the box to explore what dance meant to me, more than you would by doing someone else’s choreography.

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Picture from piece I choreographed with peers (I’m in the middle, front).

Another thing I loved about OKCB was the teachers. It was primarily company members teaching us and I enjoyed that a lot. Each teacher gave us such different perspectives and nuggets of knowledge from their differing trainings. None of them had the exact same education as the next, so they each brought a new thing to the table for us to think about in class. It was nice to have so much to soak up from so many different people.

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Last day at OKCB.

The last thing I have to talk about is the environment of OKCB. This place felt very welcoming from the beginning. The moment I walked in and had placement class there was a girl five years older than me that talked to me and helped me relax in this brand new environment. That summarizes the atmosphere at OKCB pretty well. It definitely wasn’t big happy, perfect ballet family, but everyone was open. People were just willing to talk to one another and make things a little more comfortable. It was a subtle, but helpful warmth in the atmosphere. I will always be grateful for that girl who talked to me even though I was so young because while it didn’t seem like much it eased my first day nerves a lot.

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I hope you enjoyed this little bit about Oklahoma City Ballet summer intensive. There is also so much more to this program, but I can’t write it all, so if you have any questions feel free to ask in the comments. Moving on from the summer intensive theme, so check back Monday for the next post!

GRB and Small Summer Intensives

Continuing with my summer intensive theme this week. I am going to talk about two things. First, why you should consider a smaller intensive. Secondly, my experience at Grand Rapids Ballet summer intensive.

Small summer intensives are great. Going to a smaller company’s intensive is something you should really consider any summer. To give the first, obvious reason, cost. Smaller summer intensives are way more affordable, which if you are like me, makes all the difference. While the reason they are usually more affordable is a lack of housing if you find a smaller intensive by a relative you can stay with it really is a nice break on the ol’ piggy bank.

Secondly, the more individual attention. Going to a smaller intensive allows for much more personal attention with usually smaller classes you will find yourself getting more attention than you would it at a big name intensive. You know by the end of the intensive your name tag has no purpose.

My last reason to consider a smaller intensive is that they are less strenuous. Now I understand that is one of the benefits of summer intensives is that they are, intense, but just think about it. Some summers are busier than others and going to a five-week long, 9 to 5 intensive one summer may be easy one year, but overwhelming the next. With summer being the only “off-season” of ballet don’t feel like you need to cram it with a lengthy intensive, but instead give your body a break. It isn’t bad to want to do a small intensive over a big one when there is school summer work, rare family vacations, or summer jobs.That is my take on smaller summer intensives, while they don’t provide some things big intensives provide like housing, they are great for when you need a break year.

Two summers ago I went to Grand Rapids Ballet summer intensive in Michigan. It was a great first summer intensive. I got a lot of individual attention I can be sure I wouldn’t find at other places. They also brought in teachers that gave you a lot of new and varying perspectives on dance. I had Sabi Varga, a dancer that started out in Hungary to Nicole Ciapponi with a more traditional training experience teaching me while at GRB.

My most cherished memory from going to GRB was being introduced to contemporary. I looked forward to contemporary so much, it was different from the typical modern and I loved it. Thom Dancy was my teacher and he showed me a whole new side to dance to love and appreciate. It is always the things you don’t expect at these small summer intensives that make them so great.

It was a really great experience and I have no regrets about attending a smaller intensive. Smaller intensives may not be your taste, but if you’re looking for something different and more doable you should consider them. I hope you enjoyed this post and check back Friday for my last summer intensive post, discussing my experience at Oklahoma City Ballet.

The Rock School Audition

Just over a week ago I auditioned for the Rock School for Dance Education and can’t wait to tell you all about it.

The Rock School audition tag

You might be wondering why I chose to audition at the Rock School. I decided to audition there after my friend Siobhan (in the image below) told me about her Rock School summer intensive experience and made an offer for me to come to one of their auditions with her. It may not sound like being offered to go with her was a big deal, but it was. One of the annoying parts of auditioning for the Rock School is that they don’t vary in audition sites very much, so to be presented with a way to get to one was great.

After deciding to go to the audition with my friend, I prepared. I had to take three audition photos, the usual arabesque and headshot along with a picture in second. The extra picture isn’t a nuisance unless you hire a professional photographer that charges per photo. Once photos were taken, I pre-registered for the Rock School audition in Chicago. There pre-registration process is very easy and one thing I really liked about it was that it was up for a very long time before the audition.

I chose to audition in Chicago because it would be the easiest to make happen. I was lucky to have a brother to stay with and a very affordable plane ticket. The audition in Chicago was held at Ballet Chicago. The location was beautiful. The studios were on the nineteenth story and had big windows looking out over the city. It was a very nice place to audition.

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View overlooking clouds

Now the audition itself. I arrived at Ballet Chicago about an hour before the audition and registration hadn’t started. All the studios were open for us to warm up and stretch in. About a half hour before the audition registration was open. I got my tag and went into the audition ten minutes later.

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Siobhan and I after the audition in Ballet Chicago’s nice dressing rooms.

The audition began. It was taught by Jody Anderson, a ballet master for the Rock School. The audition was going at a nice pace and to my surprise not overflowing with people. Whether or not the Rock School had anything to do with that I don’t know, but it is nice to be an audition where you don’t feel suffocated by other dancers. As the audition went on Ms. Anderson was very kind. She gave combinations just at the right level for the varying age group. Throughout the whole audition I felt comfortable, which is not typical. I really appreciate that Ms. Anderson treated it as class by giving us corrections and telling us not to stress. When the audition was through Ms. Anderson was sure to make us all feel at ease before giving us our results. That was definitely a highlight of the Rock School audition, that they give your results and placement at the end of the audition. Overall it was a great audition experience, even if you don’t want to attend the Rock School for year round or summer training, I highly recommend you audition there if you want audition practice.

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.
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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!