Summer Dance Intensive -Is Your Dancer Ready?

It’s almost the end of February. Here in the Northeast, we have just finished shoveling from the 4 inches of snow that fell overnight (Sorry Boston, I know you guys are at 100ft), we are recovering from record number low temperatures that fell below 0 degrees (-15 to be exact).  What better time to start thinking summer thoughts, and to be even more specific, Summer Dance Intensives?  Auditions & Registrations have begun for the many summer intensive opportunities, and while dancers are itching to keep dancing while their studios close for summer break, it’s important to think about how ready your dance is for a summer intensive.

Dance intensives are titled as such because, well they are INTENSE..5-10 hours of dance every day for a week or more.  Not only does the dancer have to be physically prepared for those longs days, they have to be mentally prepared as well:

  • Away or local/Big or Small?: The major dance intensives (American Ballet Theater, San Francisco Ballet, The Rock…etc , offer a larger scale experience that requires housing in their home cities.  Is your dancer ready for an experience away from home?  Is your dancer equipped to adhere to a strict daily regimen without your prompting? Many of the larger programs, do not encourage parents to watch classes, or even call the students throughout the week.  Parents are encouraged to email only.  If this sounds too daunting to a first timer, look to your local dance schools for programs that allow the students to come home daily.
  • Whether your intensive is away or local, dancers have to be prepared for new teachers. New teachers with different styles of teaching and perhaps more stringent rules.  If it is a comprehensive program, there may be a new teacher teaching a different dance style each day of the program.
  • Students may have doubts about their skills. “Will everyone be better than me?’, “Am I good enough?” This is normal. Just about every dancer is going to have some doubt going in.  If your intensive required an audition and you got in then obviously the judges felt you ARE indeed good enough.  Encourage your Dancer to their strengths and be open to learn and improve those areas that are weaker.  An intensive is yet another opportunity to learn and improve.  Dancers should be thinking about what they can learn & how to bring this back to their home studio.
  • Be prepared to meet new people. Here is an opportunity for dancers from different places to meet, share experiences and form new friendships! Talk to your dancer about not comparing themselves to the people they are meeting. Everyone is coming in with their own dance experiences, and just like in the home studio, each brings their own strengths
  • Prepare your dancer for long days. Most intensives happen mid to late summer so there has been some time away from the dance studio.  Dancers should stay in shape during their hiatus so that they aren’t prone to injury coming back to a week-long of intense dancing.  Activities such as swimming & running are great ways to stay in shape while not in the studio.  This article offers some excellent advice on how to prepare physically for an intensive: click here to read article.

Above all the intensive is meant to be a positive learning experience, a great opportunity to learn new skills, improve existing skills and broaden the dance education.

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Choosing a Dance Studio

"Love the ones you dance with."

“Love the ones you dance with.”

‘We have so many dance schools in my area, I’m ready to start my child in a school, but how do I choose one over the other?”

While I had a lifelong love affair with dance, I didn’t know if my daughter would, so I hopped at the first opportunity to throw her into a dance program, any program. We started out with the creative dance/ballet program at our local YMCA.  Turns out this was a great move for us, our teacher came highly qualified, the classes were small (7 students, and on some snowy days we were the only ones that showed up so we had a ‘private” class).  Then the inevitable happened, our teacher ventured out and opened her own school too far from home, so the search began. At this point I was somewhat familiar with other schools in the area, I called around, allowed her to do some “try it” classes and ultimately chose a school.  To be fair, she had been spending the last 2 summers participating in this school’s dance camp, but at the end of the search they were chosen based on these criteria:

  1. The studio was clean, and safe. It was a professional setting with standards that I valued (dress code etc.). It not only looked good but it felt good.  I wouldn’t have a problem dropping my daughter off there for a few hours.
  2. The teachers were qualified. By qualified I mean I checked their bios which were easily found on the studio’s website.  They studied dance all their lives; they studied dance in College; they went on to dance with various companies & troupes in other cities. There was experience.
  3. They offered a variety of classes. At this point, my daughter was taking ballet and modern, but I also wanted her to experience jazz. The classes were offered and the schedule was amenable to allow her to take them all. Not all kids want to be ballet dancers, find a school that is equipped to train all dance genres.
  4. I wasn’t looking for a competition team (although if you are, you definitely should ask if there is one) but I wanted opportunities for cross training. There was. It came in the form of a group of select students who were chosen to be part of their Company.  It came in the form of Summer Intensives. It came in the form of opportunities to dance in NYC each summer at selected Master Classes.  Cross training is important if your student wants to be a well-rounded dancer.
  5. They provided a sort of report card each year that gave the dancer a note of their progress and areas of weakness. My daughter eventually promoted to pointe shoes.  It wasn’t done by age, but by readiness.  A fact that frustrated her but made me more confident of our studio choice.  She had friends from other schools who went on pointe as soon as they turned 10, while her teachers worked on readiness, watched her technique and made sure she wouldn’t hurt herself. All of this was important.

Let me hit you with some consistent facts about choosing a dance studio:

  1. Dance is an expensive habit. Tuition fees, dance shoes, costumes, recitals all come at a cost.
  2. Dance is a huge time commitment. I love to hear the travelling soccer moms talk about how much time they spend on the field, I can totally relate. I’ve finished many projects in the dance studio waiting area.
  3. Like any physical sport (yup, I said sport) there can be injuries. My kid started at 4, by age 15 we were seeing a sports medical specialist for the pain she was experiencing due to her turnouts.  Let’s not talk about the back pains, knee pains, and various braces, supports, elastic bandages and protective gear we’ve had to purchase.

Yes, this can be an overwhelming task. But believe me when I tell you when you walk into the right studio, you can feel it.  GO to the OPEN HOUSES, ASK QUESTIONS, Let your student TRY A CLASS, TALK to the teachers (they are the experts) and GOOD LUCK!