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After months of practicing in a cramped space at home, young dancers have dreamed of training in a spacious, airy studio. And when the facilities are as resplendent as the brand-new dance center at Michigan's Interlochen Center for the Arts, everyday technique class is to be savored.
The recently renovated and vastly expanded 26,000-square-foot Dance Center at Interlochen is now a world-class facility on par with those of premier conservatories and professional companies. Joseph Morrissey, Interlochen's director of dance, says a lot of careful thought went into the architecture: "This could not just be a building that dance is going to go into. This is a building that is made for dance." To build the best facilities for his students, Morrissey sought out Flansburgh Architects, the group behind the beautiful Perles Family Studio at Jacob's Pillow.
The northern section's three bright, cavernous studios are a dream, boasting 16-foot ceilings and an uninterrupted space that is devoid of columns—a luxury for studios of this size. Additionally, each studio features eight-foot-tall windows looking out onto Green Lake and beautiful Michigan woods. "We were rehearsing Swan Lake last year and the scenery was right there behind the dancers," Morrissey recounts. "Just look to your left, and you really were dancing on Swan Lake."
In addition to the breathtaking aesthetics, the new studios feature sprung marley floors, professional lighting grids, state-of-the-art sound systems, large-screen televisions for virtual guest artists and sophisticated climate control.
Interlochen Dance Center
Courtesy Interlochen Center for the Arts
A Central Hub for Dance
Interlochen's upgrade doesn't stop at the studios; the school renovated its whole dance center. The Nancy Hoagland Wing is a central hub for student dancers, with modern locker rooms with showers and a comfortable lounge to rest and work in between classes. With multiple studios and abundant space, all Academy and summer Arts Camp programs now operate from this central location, with the ability to run separate rehearsals and classes simultaneously.
Life at Interlochen
Ava Blain, Interlochen Arts Academy third-year student, knew she wanted to prioritize her dance training alongside her high school education. "I love the balance of arts and academics here at Interlochen," she says. "The academic teachers are all very understanding. They know you are devoted to your art, and work to integrate academics harmoniously."
At the Academy, classes are divided into two blocks: an academic block and an artistic block. Around 8:30 am, Interlochen Academy students start their academic classes, consisting of high-school level courses like English, math, science, history, and either Spanish or French. Following a morning of academics, the dance students have a break to get ready for their artistic block of classes at the Dance Center. Dance majors take a mix of classical ballet technique, contemporary, pointe, dance conditioning and repertoire, as well as rehearsal.
Taking the Stage
Fourth-year Academy student Taylor Jones, of New Jersey, didn't always picture herself at Interlochen. In fact, she didn't necessarily see herself going out of state for high school, but she knew she wanted to seriously study dance. After looking at other performing arts high school programs and self-reflecting, Interlochen rose to the top of her list: "When it came down to it, Interlochen was the best fit for me, both artistically and personality-wise, considering all of our incredible teachers and performing opportunities."
Jones admits that she's always been pretty independent, but, of course, moving away from home at 14 years old was still an adjustment. "The community here at Interlochen made it easy to adjust to the culture," she says.
Joseph Morrissey, Interlochen's director of dance, coaching students
Courtesy Interlochen Center for the Arts
Interlochen Arts Academy dance majors perform in four staged performances—two full ballets and two mixed-repertoire shows—each school year. In addition to performances in the theater, students can also take part in local touring opportunities (talk about prepping for dance-company life!).
Jones says she'll always remember rehearsing and performing her first full-length ballet, Swan Lake, at Interlochen and then taking it on tour. "Having the experience of being able to do so much in one performance at 14 is mind-boggling," she says.
Outside of technique classes and performances, dance majors are a part of Interlochen's larger ecosystem of young artists, which includes majors in creative writing, film and new media, interdisciplinary arts, music, theater, and visual arts. "I feel inspired being around such creative energy every day," says Blain. "You get the opportunity to explore other art forms through your friends, which is really unique."
Summer at Interlochen
For students looking to further their training away from home for a shorter duration, Interlochen hosts various dance opportunities during the summer. Offering multiple sessions ranging from two to three weeks for dancers grades 3–12, Interlochen summer programs focus on either classical ballet or contemporary dance. Additionally, Interlochen offers one-week intensives (starting June 18, 2022) in classical ballet, contemporary or hip hop.
Applications for both Interlochen Arts Academy and Interlochen Arts Camp are currently open online (with virtual auditions submissions). January 15, 2022, is the regular-decision deadline for Interlochen Arts Academy and the priority deadline for Interlochen Arts Camp. Financial aid is available and awarded on a rolling basis, so prospective students are encouraged to apply early.