Dance Training
Even if you're miserable, there's still a lot you can get out of the experience. Photo by Thinkstock

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?

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Dance Training
Arts Umbrella International Summer Dance Intensive. Photo by Michael Slobodian, courtesy Arts Umbrella

In a sunlit studio that looks out on Vancouver's skyline, Kidd Pivot rehearsal director Eric Beauchesne shows how to project shades of despair without sound or words. "Your hands mean so much," he tells the Arts Umbrella International Summer Dance Intensive students, stopping to clamp his own to his face tightly, then opening his fingers around his jaw for a different effect.

Beauchesne, who also stages choreographer Crystal Pite's works at companies around the globe, is teaching a duet from Betroffenheit, Pite and Jonathon Young's Olivier Award–winning dance-theater piece about grief and loss. Marked by Pite's signature quick, detailed moves, the section has one dancer laying her hands on her partner's arched spine, as if she's absorbing an unfathomable pain. "You really care about stopping what's happening to her," Beauchesne says.

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Dance Training
The intensive dancers learn what it takes to move specifically enough for a kickline. Photo courtesy MSG Entertainment

On a humid summer day in midtown Manhattan, construction goes on outside the Church of St. Paul the Apostle. Inside, another type of building goes on: In separate basement studios, two groups of 40 dancers focus their attention on their instructors. It's the Rockettes' summer intensive, a rare chance for students to work with professional Rockettes, not to mention Julie Branam, their director and choreographer.

Rockette Bailey Callahan demonstrates in front of one group. Hers is a classic Rockette story. She attended their intensive every summer from 2009 to 2011; being a Rockette was her dream. Then, in 2012, she was asked to attend the program's invitational week. At the end, she received her Rockette contract.

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Dance Training
Matthew Murphy for Pointe

For many students, attending a summer intensive can offer the chance of a lifetime to focus exclusively on dance and experience the rigorous lifestyle of a pre-professional dancer. But with so many options and increasing competition, auditions can feel overwhelming. Fortunately, we gathered insider tips from three top summer program directors.

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