Ballet in Print: Where Snowflakes Dance and Swear

 

Ballet in Print: Where Snowflakes Dance and Swear, which I originally posted about just over a year ago, is now available in paperback! Currently priced at $24.99, the price will increase by one cent on 1/31/13 to $25.00 in order to qualify Amazon customers for snazzy free shipping. If you missed this when it was first published, don’t pass it up again!

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Selecting Your Summer Intensive Auditions

I’m so pleased to see how many dancers are making use of the BalletScoop list of  2013 Summer Intensives! Let’s talk about how to select auditions. I advise auditioning for as many programs as you can without exhausting yourself or negatively impacting your schoolwork, but it helps to have a basic idea of what you want early on.

So before you get overwhelmed by the 300+ program options, take a moment to consider what you envision for yourself for summer training. What are you trying to achieve in the next few years? Are you leaving home for the first time and simply focus on improving your technique? Do you need to look for work or get exposure to artistic directors? Will you be pursuing college? You maybe best served by a particular type of program, and each type offers various features.

Conservatories (generally):

  • are not attached to companies, but may have indirect connections
  • provide the smallest class sizes
  • offer heavy supervision
  • take a focused and nurturing approach
  • are well suited for younger dancers and first-time SI students
  • may serve as an audition for the year-round residential program

Company schools (usually):

  • are directly connected (or in some way affiliated) with a professional performing company
  • offer flexible supervision with expectations of somewhat mature level of personal responsibility
  • may have large class sizes
  • are particularly well-suited to older dancers and those preparing to try for professional work in the next two years
  • may serve as an audition to the trainee program, second company or apprenticeship program

University programs:

  • are run by college dance departments
  • may offer scholarships or tuition credit to the university for summer attendees
  • have a wide range of class size, instruction quality, supervision and intensity depending on the quality of the dance department
  • are ideal for younger and older dancers intending to attend college after high school

Regulatory institutions:

  • Have self-governing authority over a particular style of ballet technique
  • Offer certification to students and teachers after completion of a course and examination
  • Are well-suited to dancers pursuing professional performance or teaching careers

Stand-alone programs:

  • Are sometimes affiliated with a festival, competition or convention
  • Often bring together a hodge-podge of famous dance faculty
  • May offer opportunities to see professional performances as part of the program

Exceptions to these exist. For example Ballet West’s program is the official summer program of both the professional company and the University of Utah. And some company programs make a concerted effort to provide a highly nurturing, conservatory environment to better accommodate very young dancers.

Once you have this choice in mind, you can filter the list to show only the type of programs that suit your immediate goals. This will narrow the list considerably. After that, it’s time to the click links provided and research the websites to discover other details like:

  • courses and dance styles offered
  • tentative schedules/hours per week
  • housing and board options
  • tuition costs and scholarship availability
  • in-house faculty and guest teachers
  • session lengths and date flexibility options
  • eligibility requirements beyond age

Note that consecutive sessions are only listed separately when there is a material difference in their purpose. So for example, ABT summer sessions are listed separately because of their different locations and age requirements, while Indiana University’s program is listed as one contiguous event even though they technically have two identical programs back to back. Be sure to look for programs that are extra early or extra late — you may be able to attend 2-3 full programs if you plan wisely!

Now that you have your short list, get movin! If you can’t attend all of the live auditions you need, a DVD audition is your next best option and the time to start making it is now. Once you have audition and received your acceptance, wait-list, or rejection letters, visit Choosing Your SI to help make your final decisions.

Dear CBT: Help for Broken Pointe Shoes?

Dear CBT,

It’s been eight months since I last bought a pair of pointe shoes and my left pointe shoe is already starting to die. My right shoe is completely fine but my left shoe is becoming soft and hard to get onto for pirouettes. I had my teacher check them, and she said my left shoe was dying and that its a good idea for me to start breaking in another pair. I just wanted to know if their is a way to strengthen just my left pointe shoe to get a couple more months out of them. Thank you!

There is a way to use jet glue or hot stuff glue to give pointe shoes a bit more strength. Check out this video by Pacific Northwest Ballet principal dancer Maria Chapman to learn how:

As an added bonus, Maria shows how to find the arch point for your shoes, an important part of proper pointe shoe break-in. However I don’t recommend breaking the shank as she does, but gently bending them repeatedly instead.

I wouldn’t want you to think you can get too much time from one pair of shoes though – I went through a pair a week at my training peak. Ballet can be a sadly expensive pursuit! The important thing is to determine if one shoe is breaking in too fast compared to the other one and why. If there is a dramatic difference, it could indicate either an anatomical difference or a technique issue or both. Technique issues, fortunately, can be controlled to an extent. Talk to your teacher about whether you are working optimally on both feet. It’s possible that you are either not “pulling up” properly (shaping the foot with your own muscles and not letting the shoe take over) on the left or that your right foot is not working hard enough.

If this turns out to be only an anatomical issue, you may have a technique solution anyway, so ask your teacher about that as well. If there is not a sufficient technique solution to it, you have a superficial solution of purchasing two pair of pointe shoes – one pair with a shank suitable for the right and one with a harder shank for the left – and pairing them with each other so you have two pairs with a harder shank on the left than on the right. You want to make sure both feet are properly supported.

Thanks for reading and take good care of those hard-working feet!