Lucrative Learning

June 29, 2016

Keigwin + Company’s summer intensive includes composition. Whitney Browne, Courtesy Keigwin + Company

Small companies jump on the summer intensive bandwagon.

Large ballet and modern dance
companies have long used summer programs to help fund their seasons and find fresh talent. Now, it seems choreographers and directors of small contemporary troupes—such as Danielle Agami and Alexandra Beller—are catching on, too, establishing intensives that fuel the creative process within their own companies, create teaching opportunities for themselves and their dancers, and foster the kind of networking smaller troupes rely on. It doesn’t hurt that the extra income also raises the bottom line.

This summer, New York City–based Keigwin + Company will hold its
fifth weeklong intensive. Dancers take company class, learn repertoire and further develop essential skills like partnering and composition. Up to 75 participants attend, admitted on a first-come, first-served basis, and are divided among three studios at The Juilliard School. “Sometimes people think of these intensives as an audition on just one end,” says artistic director Larry Keigwin, “but it is also a place for the dancer to audition the company climate and the choreographer.” And it’s a good way for student dancers and Keigwin’s company members, many of whom choreograph on the side, to connect. Keigwin is also seeing the financial benefits of having education as an added revenue stream. (The workshop fee is $500 per dancer.) The program has generated enough interest for Keigwin to add a more intimate winter intensive for 25 dancers and shorter workshops in the fall and spring.

This summer, BODYTRAFFIC, an L.A.-based repertory company under the direction of Lillian Rose Barbeito and Tina Finkelman Berkett, is hosting a monthlong workshop for dancers and choreographers. The 28 dancers take technique, improvisation and repertory classes with choreographers in a variety of styles. This summer’s includes Barak Marshall, Gregory Dolbashian and Joshua L. Peugh, among others. The program has studio showings that directors of local companies are invited to attend. “It is a great way for us to get to know choreographers that interest us and witness their process,” says Barbeito. Though hosting foreign choreographers, offering more than $10,000 in scholarships and limiting the number of participating dancers has made the program less lucrative, the networking benefits are worth the expense. (Tuition for the full month is $2,650.) “Right now we are not in a place to have apprentices or cultivate dancers,” says Barbeito, “but we are making connections with dancers that, after they have another job or two, might be a good fit for us. And the showings have helped young artists find jobs with other local companies, such as Maurya Kerr’s tinypistol.”

While neither company has yet to hire a full-time dancer from one of its summer programs, both Keigwin and Barbeito believe in the value, both for themselves and for contemporary dancers, of adding education into their organizations. “I don’t get the opportunity to teach regularly,” says Keigwin, “and it seems the best way for dancers to interface with directors is to meet in the classroom.”