Choose the Right Summer Program: A Checklist
Want to try a new summer intensive? How do you find out whether a program will be a good fit if you don't know anyone who went there? “We tell our students that faculty is a big factor, the ratio of students to teacher is important for quality instruction, and performance opportunities are great but not the be-all, end-all," says Nancy Davis, founder and co-artistic director of The Portland Ballet in Oregon. Before you sign up for a new program, research this information to assess whether a school offers what you're looking for.
Suss out the style.
One benefit to a new program can be experimenting with an unfamiliar style. While some intensives state up front that they teach a particular technique, others—particularly those not affiliated with a high-profile school or company—may not flag their stylistic emphasis. But program websites offer a lot of clues. Read the bio of the intensive's director (a good indicator of whether, say, Vaganova or Bournonville lies in their background) and the program's mission statement. Look at the regular faculty's bios to see where they danced. Also take a peek at the repertory. A big draw for The Portland Ballet's program, for instance, is its relationship with The George Balanchine Trust. Dig into its press clips, and you will find that students have performed iconic works like Tschaikovsky Pas de Deux.
Read the schedule.
Many students want as much training as they can possibly get in a day. “To pay for six weeks and only get a couple classes a day is not worth their while," says Westside School of Ballet artistic director Martine Harley, whose program in Santa Monica, California, has students dancing four and a half hours a day. Some programs even offer optional classes in the evening, if you are still standing at 6 pm. Generally, schedules are posted on the website. See how many hours of class is standard and whether you can add on extra ones.
Look at classes offered.
Serious about your technique? Be alert to specialty classes like Turns, one of the many offerings on The Portland Ballet's schedule along with music appreciation, dance history and career talks.
Check on class size.
If you are in a studio with 35 other dancers, you may not get the personal attention you need to improve. While most programs do not list their class size, look at the website descriptions and photos (and if necessary, be prepared to call and ask).
Find out if you'll perform.
Some students want stage experience from their intensive. If it is unclear whether there's an end-of-workshop show, or if there is no information about what repertory will be chosen for your level, ask. Even if it feels pushy, it's better to know than end up disappointed. Have your questions prepared ahead, and be polite and professional. You will show your maturity by making clear you take the experience seriously.
Imagine yourself there.
Nearly all the big programs use dorms, which offer camaraderie and social opportunities, not to mention meal plans. Smaller programs sometimes offer host families for out-of-town students instead. Depending on the school's location, there may also be affordable short-term rentals. Make sure you have housing, food and transportation mapped out so that you will have everything you need to concentrate fully on your dancing. Plan with an eye to making sure you will not end up feeling isolated.
Search alum bios.
Where do the school's graduates end up? Are they winning competitions? Getting hired by major companies? Often, some of the more famous alums may show up as guest faculty, such as New York City Ballet principal Tiler Peck for the Westside School of Ballet. If a program is relatively unknown to you or your teachers, check out its track record to see where past students have landed.
Capezio, Bloch, So Dança, Gaynor Minden.
At the top of the line, dancers have plenty of quality footwear options to choose from, and in most metropolitan areas, stores to go try them on. But for many of North America's most economically disadvantaged dance students, there has often been just one option for purchasing footwear in person: Payless ShoeSource.
When Sonya Tayeh saw Moulin Rouge! for the first time, on opening night at a movie theater in Detroit, she remembers not only being inspired by the story, but noticing the way it was filmed.
"What struck me the most was the pace, and the erratic feeling it had," she says. The camera's quick shifts and angles reminded her of bodies in motion. "I was like, 'What is this movie? This is so insane and marvelous and excessive,' " she says. "And excessive is I think how I approach dance. I enjoy the challenge of swiftness, and the pushing of the body. I love piling on a lot of vocabulary and seeing what comes out."
Back when Robbie Fairchild graced the cover of the May 2018 issue of Dance Magazine, he mentioned an idea for a short dance film he was toying around with. That idea has now come to fruition: In This Life, starring Fairchild and directed by dance filmmaker Bat-Sheva Guez, is being screened at this year's Dance on Camera Festival.
While the film itself covers heavy material—specifically, how we deal with grief and loss—the making of it was anything but: "It was really weird to have so much fun filming a piece about grief!" Fairchild laughs. We caught up with him, Guez and Christopher Wheeldon (one of In This Life's five choreographers) to find out what went into creating the 11-minute short film.
When Hollywood needs to build a fantasy world populated with extraordinary creatures, they call Terry Notary.
The former gymnast and circus performer got his start in film in 2000 when Ron Howard asked him to teach the actors how to move like Whos for How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Notary has since served as a movement choreographer, stunt coordinator and performer via motion capture technology for everything from the Planet of the Apes series to The Hobbit trilogy, Avatar, Avengers: Endgame and this summer's The Lion King.
Since opening the Industry Dance Academy with his wife, Rhonda, and partners Maia and Richard Suckle, Notary also offers movement workshops for actors in Los Angeles.