Deciding on a 2021 Summer Intensive? Take a Clue from These Pros' Experiences

January 20, 2021

For many young dancers, attending a summer intensive is their first major training experience outside of their local dance studio. Whether it’s a classical ballet program or a weeks-long workshop with a renowned modern dance company, a summer intensive can kick off the transition from student to professional. But how can you make the most of it? Three dancers share what they would’ve done differently if they could go back in time and be a summer student all over again.

Khori Petinaud, Broadway dancer, Moulin Rouge! The Musical and Aladdin

Her summer experiences:
As a student, Khori Petinaud wanted it all. “Diversity was key for me,” she says. She chose the summer program at University of North Carolina School of the Arts because it offered classes in ballet, modern, contemporary and jazz. “I knew their program would provide intense training in a small amount of time and push me technically.” She also spent summers at The Ailey School and Dance Theatre of Harlem.

What she’d do differently:
Looking back, Petinaud wishes she’d had more opportunities to learn the business of being a professional. “I wish I would’ve focused on getting logistical career counseling on key aspects, like formatting a resumé, finding an audition or taking a great headshot. It would be wonderful if summer programs provided these tools to make dancers feel more prepared when stepping into the world.”

Closeup headshoot of Petinaud, a Black woman with a blue top
Courtesy Petinaud

Devon Louis, Dancer, Paul Taylor Dance Company

His summer experiences:
Devon Louis spent a summer at the American Academy of Ballet when he was 16 years old to refine his ballet technique. “I remember looking at Arthur Mitchell and Mikhail Baryshnikov and wanting to be able to do what they were,” he says. Louis came from a hip-hop and jazz background, which led him to ballet around age 11. “I wanted an intensive that would teach me those key elements while allowing me to work on my artistry.” Louis continued deepening his ballet technique in subsequent summers at DTH, and was introduced to modern dance at Duke Ellington School of the Arts. He also attended programs at Jacob’s Pillow and The Ailey School.

Louis, a Black man with a ponytail, in a wide second position onstage in pink lighting.

Devon Louis in Kyle Abraham’s Only The Lonely

Christopher Duggan, Courtesy PTDC

What he’d do differently:
Louis regrets not doing more research as a student. “I didn’t know about all of these other dance companies that existed. There is so much out there. Do the research now so you don’t have to play catch-up in the real world.” Summer intensives can be a perfect time to learn more about professional opportunities for dancers—ask the faculty about their careers and get a fresh perspective on which companies you might be a fit for.

Jahna Frantziskonis, Soloist, San Francisco Ballet

Frantziskonis jumps in pointe shoes in a loose parallel passu00e9, with a skirt flowing up behind her.
Helgi Tomasson, courtesy SFB

Her summer experiences:
Jahna Frantziskonis did her first summer intensive when she was 12 years old, at Pacific Northwest Ballet. “PNB had a variety of teachers who taught both classical Vaga­nova and Balanchine, which made me feel that they knew how to individually train my body,” she says. Frantziskonis enjoyed PNB so much that after summers at American Ballet Theatre and School of American Ballet, she went back to Seattle to attend the program again four years later.

What she’d do differently:
Frantziskonis wishes she would’ve understood the power of self-love earlier on. “Self-love is a muscle that you have to work just as much, and learn to trust,” she says. For many students, the first summer away from home can be difficult emotionally. “You end up spending a lot of time with yourself and can easily get homesick,” she says. “It’s important to remember that you are not your emotions. You can feel them, but you are not defined by them. Use them to grow.”

Find the right summer intensive for you in our
2021 Summer Study Guide