A lot of parents of young dancers who are just becoming eligible to attend these Summer intensive programs are asking me to help them decide if they are ready to go and how to choose a good one. I am hoping to open up a discussion here, where you will ask questions and share experiences to help you to decide if a summer program is right for your dancer. I have experienced my own 2 children going to programs and received lots of feedback from parents and children about their experiences. I would also like to share with you some of the trends I have been noticing in the past few years.
First of all Summer Intensives are NOT sleep away camp. Its all about hard work. Yes there are occasional field trips or theme park excursions on the weekends and if your dancer is not too tired or sore to go they can be fun. There are no camp-fires, no experienced counselors to help handle homesickness and no group experiences to build unity and friendship! Summer Intensives are just that, 4-5 classes per day, rehearsals for a final performance, stiff competition, and often multiple teachers who do not have much time to get to know the dancers
Many professional schools use their Summer Intensives to find prospective students for the school year. Many aspiring professional dancers use summer intensives to see if a certain school might be a good fit for them and if the directors might be interested in them as prospective employees in the future. It’s also a great time for an advanced dancer to try a different style of ballet, learn choreography that is in the repertoire of the company it is attached to, or to get special coaching in pas de deux or see professional dancers first hand in class or as instructors.
The popularity of ballet and dance seems to be growing rapidly. The number of summer intensives programs have exploded in the past 10 years. Remember, running a professional company is expensive and the income generated from several hundred students studying and boarding at a summer program has led many programs to creatively consider how to capitalize on the good name of their company. Some of the income generating innovations include alternative locations in different cities that can accommodate more students. Special programs for collegiate age students, or young dancers have seen a rise in junior programs. This is all well and good as long as the summer program is offering top notch classes, the best and most experienced faculty and promoting a consistent standard of the dancers they accept so that the environment is challenging, stimulating and carefully monitored.
Young dancers can make excellent progress during the summer when they arrive in the mornings, fresh rested and not fatigued and weighed down by homework. I love having students during LABA’s 4 week Summer Intensive where I often feel I can accomplish months of work in just a few short weeks. If the dancers that are arriving are calm and relaxed, are getting lots of rest and nutritious meals they can make huge strides during a Summer Intensive program. I strive to no overfill the classes and to give them plenty of quality time with instructors who are experienced with the age groups I have in my program, and who they might not have access to at other programs. With my regular students I often have the added advantage of knowing how they tick, which group (or teachers) they will work best with and how to bring out the best in them in the time allotted.
As you prepare to dip your toes in the water ask yourself some the following questions:
*Do I have money to spare to spend on a Summer intensive so that I will not have to skimp on year round training or away training later on, to compensate for the cost of a Summer Intensive?
*Is my young dancer ready to go away for an extended period of time. Can they manage sensible eating choices, doing their own laundry and cleaning their room without too much assistance?
*Can they keep track of their belongings? Can they sew their pointe shoes?
*Are they able to discern between soreness and injury and are they able to speak up for themselves if they are injured and cannot dance?
*Can they handle criticism, and competition without becoming overly stressed by it?
*Is your dancer mature enough to handle different styles and information and to adjust to new teachers and their way of teaching?
Once you decide to take your dancer to some auditions, then consider the following preparations:
*Check the programs that are not too big. Look for programs with limited enrollment and a strong experienced teaching staff at the location you are going to choose.
*Check their audition sites and times, locations and fees of the auditions, then set up a calendar for the auditions your dancer would like to attend.
*Figure out what audition photographs are needed for each location and make sure you have the photographs needed for the auditions you plan to attend. TIP: do not use commercial head shots or school pictures. Make sure your picture looks like your dancers looks at ballet class. Snap a picture at home before class, or ask Iker for a photo shoot apt if you need more complicated poses.
*Arrive at the audition site at least 30 minutes before with your paperwork complete. (pre register if that is an option) Write your child’s name and phone number on the back of the picture.
*Video auditions are complicated and time consuming. Attend an in person audition wherever possible. If you need a video you will need to book a LABA teacher in a private session for approxomately 2-3 hours to achieve a suitable dvd audition.
*Get away from the studio and have coffee with a friend while your child is taking the audition and try not to let the “dance moms” make you nervous that your child is NOT doing enough, dancing enough, taking gymnastics, not wearing custom pointe shoes, travelling to New York on the weekend for extra lessons, taking multiple private lessons, taking height enhancing drugs, seeing a sports therapist, or not taking more than one intensive…….(believe me I have heard them all)
OK now its your turn. Please share your summer intensive experiences here. I’m hoping you will weigh in and ask questions and we can get the conversation going right here.