You've spent all spring preparing for this. You killed it in the audition, obsessed over the packing list, connected with your roommate on social media, and taken so many extra pointe classes that your Band-Aids need Band-Aids.
Bring on the summer intensive!
A summer spent studying with a well-known company or prestigious academy can be a highlight of a dance student's year. Showered with fresh input and exposed to new techniques, many dancers find a summer intensive to be an empowering, uplifting experience.
But what if it isn't?
If teachers don't "get" you, or unfamiliar techniques leave you feeling as graceful as a baby seal on land, a summer intensive can go sour in less time than it takes to kill a pair of pointe shoes. But no matter what, there are still ways to make the most out of the experience.
Leave your expectations at home.
Stay open to a different experience than what you had planned. Photo by Matthew Murphy for Pointe
High hopes are one thing; unrealistic ones are another. Charging yourself to come home with a quadruple pirouette on pointe may be exciting—or impractical. Each new season brings a fresh potential. Pencil in a mental image of what you hope the summer will look like; just don't draw it in permanent marker.
Give yourself permission to fail.
Open yourself up to criticism in order to grow. Photo by Jim Lafferty
You can't succeed if you're not willing to fail. During my first summer intensive with Boston Ballet, my best friend always wanted to stay after class to work on her fouettés; I invariably declined, embarrassed at how bad mine were. She cheerfully fell out of hundreds of turns, looking awful for weeks—but in the end, one of us went home with great fouettés, and the other didn't.
Summer with strangers is a great place to push yourself out of your comfort zone, look ridiculous and just maybe come out of it even better than at the start. You won't know if you don't open yourself up to possible criticism and failure.
Know that nothing is forever.
Focus on exciting things ahead, not what you're unhappy with now. Photo by Lena Bell/Unsplash
It's hard when you're in the middle of a bad summer experience, but remember this is just one season of your life, and it will end. By the fall, you'll be back with teachers who appreciate you and friends who "get" you, and a newfound appreciation for your year-round school. Rather than dwelling on what's wrong, think about what's waiting for you in the fall—a chance at a plum Nutcracker role, or a promotion to a higher level—and the summer will be over before you know it.
Make lemonade from lemons.
Getting through a tough summer will mold you into a stronger dancer. Photo by Matthew Murphy for Pointe
Maybe the teachers ignore you, your roommate is a walking nightmare or your favorite leotard gets a nasty permanent stain. But don't sleepwalk through the rest of the intensive. Carefully observe other dancers' corrections and apply them to yourself. Soak up as many new variations as you can to expand your repertoire.
There's a freedom to be found in having nowhere to go but up.
If nothing else, a less-than-perfect summer will teach you patience, and mold your independence and work ethic as a dancer. Take those pitfalls and turn them into springboards to a stronger, more resilient you.
And think of all the good stories you'll have to tell in the Nutcracker dressing room.