5 Pros on Their Summer Intensive Regrets
Attending the right summer intensive at the right time can be life-changing—and potentially career-launching. But it's up to you to make the most of the experience. From building your technique to trying new styles to expanding your network, getting everything you want from an intensive takes focus and planning. Strategize for success with these tips from five professional dancers looking back on what they wish they'd done differently during their own summer study years.
Starting Too Late
Chelsea Dumas, Charlotte Ballet
Peter Zay, Courtesy Charlotte Ballet
I didn't attend my first summer intensive until I was 17. Instead, I took classes at my home studio and went to competitions and conventions. Finally, my teacher sat me down and said, "If you want to make a career out of this, you have to start training more seriously." I auditioned for the School of American Ballet's summer intensive on a whim, but once I was in New York, everything changed. Being around the New York City Ballet dancers was so inspiring. I saw what it was truly like to be a professional, and it fueled my passion. I'm grateful I grew up as a competition dancer because it made me extremely versatile, but I wish I'd immersed myself in the serious ballet world a few years earlier.
Not Doing Research
Lloyd A. Boyd III, Ailey II
Eduardo Patino, Courtesy Ailey
Although I attended several amazing intensives, I regret not taking full advantage of everything that's out there. I picked programs because I had a personal connection there; I didn't do a lot of outside research. For instance, I chose Perry-Mansfield Performing Arts School and Camp's dance program solely because a friend had gone and had a great time. I wouldn't change the places I studied—but I could have done more. I had friends who did multiple intensives each summer. I could have benefited from trying new techniques; I've never studied Graham, or tried Alonzo King's movement. Every program offers a chance to network and meet different people. If I'd been exposed to more, I might've had a broader spectrum to choose from when planning for college and my career.
Alicia Delgadillo, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago
Todd Rosenberg, Courtesy Hubbard Street
After doing a few other intensives, I spent four summers at Hubbard Street. I fell in love with the company's culture, repertory and teachers, as well as the city. But during my third year there, I started to focus heavily on getting into Hubbard Street 2; at least one person was hired or taken on as an apprentice every summer. Soon, I was overthinking, trying too hard—always conscious of who was watching and the reactions they were having. The next year, I made myself let go of that pressure. Once I relaxed, that's when it happened! My advice is to focus on improving your technique and artistry, and learning from new people—not landing the job.
Resisting New Styles
Cecilia Iliesiu, Pacific Northwest Ballet
Angela Sterling, Courtesy PNB
I always attended every summer intensive class, but I regret not being fully present when we did contemporary styles. I was so focused on ballet! One year, I even asked to trade a hip-hop class for an additional pointe class. I didn't realize that tutus and pointe shoes are often only half of a professional ballet career; the other half tends to be contemporary work. I wish I'd been more courageous with different styles as a student. If you're really invested in your art form, you need to explore beyond where you're comfortable.
Staying In A Bubble
Kate Coleman, L.A. Contemporary Dance Company
Taso Papadakis, Courtesy LACDC
Growing up in the Chicago suburbs, summer programs were very accessible. I did intensives at Ruth Page Center for the Arts, River North Dance Chicago, Hubbard Street and other local studios. There was always something I hadn't tried yet—and it was nice not to have to pay for housing. But after I came to the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in Los Angeles for college and spent a semester in New York City, I realized that I'd been in a Chicago bubble. My dancing grew as I discovered what other cities had to offer. I found myself more open to new styles of contemporary, versus the contemporary jazz I grew up doing. This helped me find my own voice within a choreographer's movement. I also learned that there's no definite line between the concert-dance world and the commercial-dance world. I grew up with my heart set on dancing with a company, not realizing I could do concert and commercial work simultaneously. Summer study could have opened my eyes much sooner.
Michele Byrd-McPhee's uncle was a DJ for the local black radio station in Philadelphia, where she was born. As a kid she was always dancing to the latest music, including a new form of powerful poetry laid over pulsing beats that was the beginning of what we now call hip hop.
Byrd-McPhee became enamored of the form and went on to a career as a hip-hop dancer and choreographer, eventually founding the Ladies of Hip-Hop Festival and directing the New York City chapter of Everybody Dance Now!. Over the decades, she has experienced hip hop's growth from its roots in the black community into a global phenomenon—a trajectory she views with both pride and caution.
On one hand, the popularity of hip hop has "made a global impact," says Byrd-McPhee. "It's provided a voice for so many people around the world." The downside is "it's used globally in ways that the people who made the culture don't benefit from it."
Just four years ago, the University of Southern California's Glorya Kaufman School of Dance welcomed its first class of BFA students. The program—which boasts world-class faculty and a revolutionary approach to training focused on collaboration and hybridity—immediately established itself as one of the country's most prestigious and most innovative.
Now, the first graduating class is entering the dance field. Here, six of the 33 graduates share what they're doing post-grad, what made their experience at USC Kaufman so meaningful and how it prepared them for their next steps:
Every dancer knows there's as much magic taking place backstage as there is in what the audience sees onstage. Behind the scenes, it takes a village, says American Ballet Theatre's wig and makeup supervisor, Rena Most. With wig and makeup preparations happening in a studio of their own as the dancers rehearse, Most and her team work to make sure not a single detail is lost.
Dance Magazine recently spoke to Most to find out what actually goes into the hair and makeup looks audiences see on the ABT stage.