Take a (Productive) Break

College dancers juggle demanding schedules, so it can feel like when semester breaks come along, they need just that—a break. But there are countless opportunities for students to use their winter and spring breaks to try something they don’t have time for during the semester, and grow as dancers and artists. “Even though your professors are wonderful, it’s great to be around new people and gain a new perspective,” says Principia College dance minor Tessa Miller. Whether you travel near or far, learn a new technique or use your talents to serve others, start planning now to take advantage of your time off and experience something new.

Mini Study Abroad

University of the Arts students perform in Paris. Photo by Marc Domage, Courtesy Centre National de la Danse

Students often cite their study abroad experience as a turning point. But for BFA students with strict schedules or double majors with complicated requirements, a semester-long program sometimes just isn’t possible. Luckily, some schools offer opportunities to take mini study-abroad trips during short breaks. University of the Arts student Catie Leasca traveled to France and Belgium with her class over spring break, where she took workshops with Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker and Pina Bausch company members, taught classes to French dance students and performed original work at informal showings. The brief trip still provided the sense of immersion essential to the study abroad experience. “They gave us the space to experience what we wanted to experience,” she says. “Even though it was a shorter trip, going abroad let me see that the world is bigger than my school, and there is more to life than being in the studio and landing the triple pirouette.”

Get Multidisciplinary

Sometimes the most transformative experiences simply require stepping outside your comfort zone. Principia College dance students can attend an annual workshop held on campus over winter break, where they’re challenged to delve into other art forms. One year, students learned repertoire from Romeo and Juliet, and received coaching help from drama teachers. At their showing, they were required to perform sections of the play along with their dancing. “I was way out of my element,” says Miller. “Shakespeare is hard to understand, but when it’s broken down, it helps you know how your body should move and what feeling should go into each scene.”

Intensive students tackle a Complexions Contemporary Ballet-style pointe class. Photo by Breeann Birr, Courtesy Complexions.


Attending an intensive during winter break isn’t just a productive way to use your free time—it can also fuel your mind and body for the upcoming semester. “It’s a great way to come back to school with a new mind and finish second semester strong,” says Florida State University’s Mikaila Ware, who attended American Dance Festival’s winter intensive in New York City. There are plenty to choose from:


Pasadena, CA

December 27–31

New York, NY

December 28–January 5


New York, NY

December 27–31


New York, NY

December 27–30


New York, NY

December 18–21


New York, NY

January 2–12


New York, NY

January 3–8


New York, NY

January 16–20

Dates are current as of press time and are subject to change. Check company websites for the most up-to-date info.

A Movement Exchange participant teaches dance at a Panama orphanage. Photo by Carina Fourmyle, Courtesy Movement Exchange.

Global Connections

Movement Exchange, an organization bringing dance to underserved communities in Panama and India, has 21 member universities throughout the United States. Each year, college dancers travel during their breaks to set up dance programs in orphanages, lead workshops and engage in cultural exchanges with local dance institutions. Some schools, like Juilliard, host their own initiatives—sending students on projects everywhere from New Orleans to Botswana.

Photo by Gabriel Davalos, Courtesy Valdés

For decades the name Alicia Alonso has been virtually synonymous with Ballet Nacional de Cuba, the company she co-founded in Havana in 1948. Alonso died on October 17, just shy of what would have been her 99th birthday. In recent years, she had stepped back from day-to-day decision-making in the company. As if preparing for the future, in January, the company's leading ballerina, 42-year-old Viengsay Valdés, was named deputy director, a job that seems to encompass most of the responsibilities of a traditional director. Now, presumably, she will step into her new role as director of the company. Her debut as curator of the repertory comes in November, when the troupe will perform three mixed bills selected by her at the Gran Teatro de la Habana Alicia Alonso. The following has been translated from a conversation conducted in Spanish, Valdés' native tongue.

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Sponsored by Harlequin Floors
Left: Hurricane Harvey damage in Houston Ballet's Dance Lab; Courtesy Harlequin. Right: The Dance Lab pre-Harvey; Nic Lehoux, Courtesy Houston Ballet.

"The show must go on" may be a platitude we use to get through everything from costume malfunctions to stormy moods. But when it came to overcoming a literal hurricane, Houston Ballet was buoyed by this mantra to go from devastated to dancing in a matter of weeks—with the help of Harlequin Floors, Houston Ballet's longstanding partner who sprang into action to build new floors in record time.

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Health & Body
Sara Mearns in the gym. Photo by Kyle Froman.

New York City Ballet principal Sara Mearns wasn't sure she was strong enough. A ballerina who has danced many demanding full-length and contemporary roles, she was about to push herself physically more than she thought was possible.

"I said, 'I can't. My body won't,' " she says. "He told me, 'Yes, it will.' "

She wasn't working with a ballet coach, but with personal trainer Joel Prouty, who was asking her to do squats with a heavier barbell than she'd ever used.

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In Memoriam
Alicia Alonso with Igor Youskevitch. Sedge Leblang, Courtesy Dance Magazine Archives.

Her Dying Swan was as fragile as her Juliet was rebellious; her Odile, scheming, her Swanilda, insouciant. Her Belle was joyous, and her Carmen, both brooding and full-blooded. But there was one role in particular that prompted dance critic Arnold Haskell to ask, "How do you interpret Giselle when you are Giselle?"

At eight, Alicia Alonso took her first ballet class on a stage in her native Cuba, wearing street clothes. Fifteen years later, put in for an ailing Alicia Markova in a performance of Giselle with Ballet Theatre, she staked her claim to that title role.

Alonso received recognition throughout the world for her flawless technique and her ability to become one with the characters she danced, even after she became nearly blind. After a career in New York, she and her then husband Fernando Alonso established the Cuban National Ballet and the Cuban National Ballet School, both of which grew into major international dance powerhouses and beloved institutions in their home country. On October 17, the company announced that, after leading the company for a remarkable 71 years, Alonso died from cardiovascular disease at the age of 98.

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