Attending a ballet summer intensive away from home can be a valuable part of a dancer’s training. When a student should consider an out of town summer intensive is such an individual question. It is always best to ask your teacher for recommendations on both when it is appropriate to consider going away and programs to consider that would be a good fit for you and your particular skills. Good candidates for embarking on the ballet summer intensive adventure are students that are highly focused and driven plus are at least 13-14 years old.
Going to a summer intensive will provide opportunities to learn under multiple instructors. This can expose a student to different teaching styles, differences in technique, and new ways of hearing a correction. Even though a dancer may receive a certain correction numerous times, that guest instructor might say it in such a way that impacts a dancer, finally making sense in order for the dancer to make that needed adjustment. In most cases this is an opportunity to take classes with live music (which might be a new experience to many dancers). A teacher has more flexibility in giving combinations with a live pianist, plus the artistry and beauty of a live pianist can be inspiring. This is also an opportunity to meet and work with a variety of dancers from all over the country. Not only does a student have the privilege to learn from notable instructors but they also have the opportunity to be seen by a professional company that they may be thinking of auditioning for in the future.
If a student has the talent and artistry to pursue a career in dance, then by the age of 16 they should be looking at companies they might be interested in and attend that company’s school for the summer. It is an opportune time for the company to get to work with dancers and for the dancer to evaluate the personality of the company. This concept can also apply to university programs as well, such as University of Oklahoma’s summer intensive program.
Things to consider when selecting a summer intensive program include program length and content, quality of the program, location and travel, living accommodations, supervision for younger dancers, and of course cost. Not all programs are equal in their quality and some may be better suited for students rather than others making your teacher’s recommendations critical. There are some fabulous programs out there such as, American Ballet Theatre, School of American Ballet, Boston Ballet, Texas Ballet Theatre, Tulsa Ballet,
Personally, I have been teaching at Houston Ballet’s summer intensive for many years. It is a time when the company is looking for future HBII dancers and full time professional division students. Although they also accept students as young as 12 in their 5 week program, I have seen several that have had real problems with being away from home. The result is often home sickness or having to leave the program before the end. Sometimes these students are just too young to handle the pressure of being away from home plus in a professional environment.
Fortunately for our BCH students Houston Ballet is an ideal option if they have the talent, skill, and artistry to get into the program. They can still live at home and commute to the program thereby cutting the cost essentially in half. For the younger dancers it is a valuable experience without leaving home.
HB is one of the country’s biggest summer programs making it very competitive to be accepted. Thousands of students from all over the world audition for this program, however, they are only able to accept about 300-350 students. It is a happy day for those who receive an invitation.
If a dancer is serious about improving their craft and possibly desires a career in dance, they should consider the benefits that attending an away summer intensive program can bring.