2017 Summer Intensives – Top US Ballet Programs

Credit: Rosalie O'Connor

Credit: Rosalie O’Connor

Happy Turkey Month! And what a busy month it is – Nutcracker rehearsals, finals and the start of audition season.

Last year BalletScoop discontinued the big list of all summer intensives. This was a tough decision, and I know how many of you enjoyed it and relied on it year to year. In the future I hope to collaborate with a colleague of mine to develop a truly interactive and more easily maintainable database of programs (stay tuned for more on that next year)!

In the meantime I’ll continue share with you links to the finest programs that every dancer should know. As far as these schools go, if you are within driving distance of an audition location, don’t think twice about – go!

 

American Ballet Theatre (NY, AL, TX, CA)

School of American Ballet (NY/CA)

Bolshoi Ballet (NY/CT) – Click here to learn about the BBS SI approach.

Pacific Northwest Ballet (WA)

San Francisco Ballet (CA) – This year’s site has had a beautiful overhaul!

Ellison Ballet (NY)

Boston Ballet (MA) – Also featuring a new updated website!

Houston Ballet (TX)

French Academie (NY)

Gelsey Kirkland Academy (NY)

Kirov Academy (DC)

The Rock School (PA)

Need to find a regional program? It’s worth looking at the Pointe Magazine list.  Keep in mind that it’s based purely on opt-in paid placement (so Pointe won’t list programs that don’t pay them money), but it’s still a solid starting point. If you don’t see what you’re looking for, feel free to drop me a line in the comments below and I’ll help you out if I can!

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38 thoughts on “2017 Summer Intensives – Top US Ballet Programs

    • Juliette Dupre says:

      Hi Janelle! Fortunate for us in the USA, there are hundreds of quality ballet summer programs that I strongly recommend. That said, this list was limited to the very top, best of the best programs. Miami is such an exceptional program. CPYB is as well. Both have been run by some of the best pedagogues in the ballet community. However I chose to limit this list the most recognized schools with longest-standing success turning out professional dancers. Miami is a younger program, and CPYB lacks the connection to an internationally recognized ballet company that might put them into that top 5% type of category. That said, I’d certainly consider them if this list was just a touch longer.

      • S M L says:

        Thank you – this is helpful to me! My daughter is on the older side of things and attending her first ballet SI (she’s 17). She chose CPYB because her aspirations are to attend a college program and work toward a company placement down the road. She has trained in all styles and attends a studio that competes. She knows she needs to focus on her ballet training moving forward and in spite of what she is being told, felt CPYB would offer her a solid reboot in her technique.

  1. Allison Segapeli says:

    Hello, I was wondering if it is a good idea to go to an audition for experience. I am sixteen years old and i have been training seriously for only three years. I am considering going to the San Francisco Ballet audition because this is a dream school of mine and I am hoping that later I might be able to get in. I’m worried because, although I am in the higher age category I am not on par with my peers. Thank you

    • Juliette Dupre says:

      Hi Allison, While there are a variety of opinions on this mine is that in most cases it is a great idea to audition for experience. Particularly when you start getting to professional auditions. At 15 I auditioned for Miami City Ballet. I had no expectations of being selected, but it took a bit of the first-time jitters off of future company auditions for me once it really matter. Summer auditions are similar, you certainly get more comfortable the more auditions you go on, and used to the process and expectations.

      Another reason I believe in auditioning for experience is the exposure. You never know what connections you might make, not only with teachers and ADs but other students who could be in your classes in other schools later, or who could be your colleagues one day. Last but not least, the more you are exposed to the level of quality in dancing that is expected of you for success at your age, the more clear you can be on your goals. Merde!

  2. Scott says:

    Hi Juliette – my daughter was just accepted into the Boston Ballet summer program for the 10-14 year old girls. She is ecstatic but needs to commit and pay her (large) deposit before hearing back from the other programs. Do you have any insight into how that program compares to the other programs for older girls? i.e.: what is the background of the instructors, what is the level of skill learned, etc.

    • Juliette Dupre says:

      It’s the most annoying thing that some programs insist on commitment before the audition season is over. But it’s the system we have and the truth is there’s no perfect answer. BB is an excellent school and attached to one of the few regional ballet companies that is recognized as superior to most other regionals, and nearly on par with what New York has to offer. (The others being San Francisco and Pacific Northwest in my opinion.) But finding the right program is more about what the student needs right now (her teachers should share this with you) in their development than it is getting into The One Best Program (which doesn’t exist, I’m sorry to be the one to say it.) They all have their pros and cons – teachers are excellent here but they are at many others as well. She will certainly be pushed, and would be so at many other schools. Being near a professional company of that stature is a major plus though, as is their quite excellent training facility. Sorry I don’t have a perfect answer for you, but Congratulations to her on this really great success. It’s a great program and she should certainly be proud. Good luck in your decision!

  3. Alicia says:

    My 14 year old was accepted into Ballet West’s program this year. Any feedback you may have? She did ABT last year, and got into their program again this year. Just looking to compare, perhaps.

    • Juliette Dupre says:

      As with most program comparisons, it’s a bit of apples and oranges! Best thing is to look at the latest reviews on Ballet Talk for Dancers http://dancers.invisionzone.com/ They are both great programs, but obviously ABT is more consistent and more widely recognized as well. I’m an ABT certified instructor so full disclosure I’m a big believer in their pedagogical style and philosophy, but it’s not the Be All End All. Ballet West is solid, and it’s an opportunity to broaden her network and discover different experiences. So what this comes down to is what you’ve probably seen me tell others – the most important thing is what the dancer needs right now developmentally and where they will be most likely to be open to information and progressing. That’s not necessarily going to be the big national school, but maybe it is. Communicate with her teachers and they should help you make a decision on what’s best. Last but not least – it’s possible there’s no wrong answer, that she would progress just as easily at one as the other, and that’s a great position to be in. 🙂

  4. Deepak says:

    Hi Juliette,

    Thanks for putting this together. We are learning the world of ballet and this helps a lot.

    Is your list ordered by ranking? Is there a ranking of these schools available, by different criteria of course?

    Deepak

    • Juliette Dupre says:

      Happy to help. So, for you and all the folks who ask this question – yes, this is somewhat ranked by my own opinion. However these are so top tier that they are all of the highest quality. What differentiates these programs from year to year is usually not quality, it’s the context and the philosophies. Those points are important to evaluate in the context of what the particular students is best served by, which is why I often recommend a conversation with his or her “regular” teacher to help decide between programs. Good luck to you!

  5. Keith says:

    My daughter is accepted into ABT TEXAS, she is 13, first time SI. How do you recommend abt Texas for a first SI? Clearly there is more prestige in being accepted in NY AND OC, is the training still “top ranked” in Texas? Do girls ever start in Texas and move up to more elite programs? Or am I looking at this completely wrong? 🙂 Please advise, thanks!

    • Juliette Dupre says:

      Yes I think you have a good handle on the generally accepted situation. ABT NY is considered by most to be the more prestigious program of ABT, but ABT’s philosophies are consistent throughout all their programs, making it very high quality. And yes it’s a common strategy to go to a regional ABT program to try to get priority consideration or better prepared to get into ABT NY the following summer. Time is on her side, and Texas is a great starting place for that age. Good luck to you!

  6. Wendi says:

    Hi! My daughter is 12 and was recently accepted into ABT NY, ELLISON, PNB, SFB and BOSTON. What two schools out of those would you recommend for the best technique training?

    • Juliette Dupre says:

      Hi and welcome. You know what I’m going to say…! Those are fabulous options, but what’s best for her right now depends on what she needs developmentally right now and the right environment for her for optimal learning, which is different from child to child and dancer to dancer. You and she and her teacher probably know her personality and needs best and there’s probably one or two programs that she is leaning to, so you should keep that in mind. I have a personal bias towards ABT (full disclosure I am a certified ABT teacher) especially for younger dancers because their training is very clean (comprised of the best practices and analysis of the main schools of thought on ballet worldwide) and their program is designed philosophically to care for the dancer as a whole person, which I think is especially critical for younger dancers.

      Ellison faculty come mostly from a strong Russian ballet tradition, which is my own background. Russian and Vaganova training is best suited to dancers with bodies already well-suited to ballet’s demands. SFB and PNB tend toward the Balanchine style. This is a fast, exaggerated and more impure style (that’s not bad, it’s an evolution) that is in my opinion best suited for layering on top of a more traditional classical education once the dancer is 15+. However if she has dreams of joining a Balanchine company perhaps the time is now to expose her to those repertoires and styles of movement.

      Boston’s faculty has a mishmash of styles, I’m not sure of their focus currently, but the AD comes out of the Russian and Vaganova traditions. Boston’s facilities are outstanding and newer, as are PNB, Ellison and SFB. ABT’s NY facility is much older and historical. Then there’s price to consider, unless money is no object. Maybe one offers a scholarship or is just more affordable overall. Last but not least – please look at the feedback from former students on Ballet Talk for Dancers, http://dancers.invisionzone.com/. I’m a big advocate of their SI reviews feature for a reason – feedback from first-hand experience is a really important data-point for an SI shopper. CONGRATS to your daughter and have a wonderful summer!

  7. Zoe Harrel says:

    Hello! I got into Bolshoi, Joffrey Chicago, and Miami City ballet for summer intensives. One of my main goals for the summer intensives this year is getting into their winter programs. I do not live in the best area for ballet and really want to get out of my town! With Bolshoi, though it is an amazing program, I have no chance of getting into their winter program. Although, my dream is to dance in Russia at the Bolshoi Ballet, I think I have a better chance of dancing at the Joffrey or Miami ballet over the school year at my age. Which of the three should I choose?

    • Juliette Dupre says:

      Hello! I can’t tell you where you should go, but I’m happy to help you think critically about each option. They all have their pros and cons. 🙂

      If you feel strongly that you need to prepare for a year-round program and you feel that you are being truly honest about your assessment with the Bolshoi (and I can understand your feeling about it considering just how exceptionally rare it is for the Bolshoi to let in even the best students from outside their country), then yes it is not a bad idea to strategically favor US schools that are more achievable. However the Bolshoi training is certainly worldclass and I wouldn’t dismiss that opportunity lightly.

      Joffrey and Miami have very different setups during summer and during year-round. For starters, Miami is a Balanchine style school and company. Is Balanchine something that you’re passionate about? I imagine its not the case since your dream is the Bolshoi, which is generally a Vaganova technique based school and company.

      So then finally we have Joffrey on the table, with more of a mishmash of styles and techniques. In my opinion, favoring the gymnastic tendencies of ballet versus the technique and artistry recently, the program has been reworked yet again with its own definition of trainee. (Trainee is more typically reserved for dancers who are one-step below apprenticeship in a company, however Joffrey Ballet School uses the phrase Ballet Trainee for its student program. I have some issues with this given that JBS has no company affiliation at all. It’s a bit misguiding.) Classes are supposedly based on the famous Kostrovistkaya book, School of Classical Ballet. Now most truly great teachers, master teachers, and teacher’s teachers frown on ‘teaching from a book’ because the teacher’s obligation is to understand what the students need at any point, not just spit out what a text tells them to. There are many other concerns about that approach that I won’t go into. While the Kostrovistkaya book is recognized worldwide as being excellent for teachers to study as a foundation, as I myself have, it reflects a very specific choice of student’s physical body which I’m not certain Joffrey has attained across the board.

      I truly do not wish to disparage Joffrey, and as a venerated institution with faculty who are exceptional I prefer to give them the benefit of the doubt that they are not simply ‘teaching from a book’, but using it as a foundation from which to build a more thoughtful program. However given the strange metamorphosis that continues to occur every few years at Joffrey NY, I hesitate to strongly recommend it recently. As we see more students graduate from the program with successful careers, I think there will be more confidence in the program. I am reserving judgment until there is more information, as I suspect many of my colleagues are doing.

      For this and all programs, I do strongly recommend you visit Ballet Talk for Dancers for more insights from recent students. http://dancers.invisionzone.com/ Best of luck!

  8. Katie says:

    Hi, Juliette. I’ve kept an eye on your website over the past few years. It has helped me navigate an unknown world – that of ballet summer intensives – during my daughter’s first few years of summer programs. Thank you!

    My daughter is now 15. She attended Nashville Ballet’s summer intensive for a couple of years, then ABT-Austin, and, last year, ABT-NY. She was accepted into Nashville Ballet, Boston Ballet, and Houston Ballet last year but chose to go to ABT-NY. She has received some audition results back this year: acceptance into Nashville Ballet, Boston Ballet, The Washington Ballet, and ABT-NY. She was waitlisted for PNB. She recently auditioned for Gelsey Kirkland and will hopefully receive her results this week.

    We’re in a conundrum as to which intensive to choose. I know you cannot help us choose, but can you give any information regarding Washington Ballet and Gelsey Kirkland? I think my daughter has decided not to attend ABT-NY again. It was a perfectly fine program, but she really wants to experience different instructors and styles of ballet. She thinks she may have more of a shot getting into year-round programs at Washington Ballet or Nashville – maybe even at Gelsey Kirkland – than Boston Ballet. We’ve read tons of information at Ballet Talk for Dancers, but there doesn’t seem to be much current information about Washington Ballet or Gelsey Kirkland. Thanks in advance for your help!

    • Juliette Dupre says:

      Thank you so much for your feedback! Sounds like you’ve made part of the decision quite soundly already in terms of getting exposure to new instructors, so well done. To address the what appear to be the top two favorites for you: Gelshey Kirkland’s school as you may already know was created specifically to foster and continue the nearly lost art of storytelling ballets. If your daughter has a particular interest in or desire to improve her abilities for story-length ballets, developing artistry, learning dance acting, and learning the big classics, GKA might be the clear winner just based on that. It’s been my pleasure to at times go take class in the same facility that the school operates. Ms. Kirkland is very present in the school’s operation and advanced classes.

      A lot of what I know about Washington comes from a dear friend who’s photo you can see on the About BalletScoop page. She spent a half summer there after the initial half at Boston where I was at the same time. Her story is a perfect example of how what matters most for a student is sometimes intangible. Ultimately at Boston she had a mediocre experience, while conversely I had a exceptional time. Then at Washington, she seemed to have a completely elevating experience. That was many years ago, and now the school is led by the legendary Julie Kent, former longtime principal of ABT. So its very possible that Washington’s training philosophies could be too similar to what your daughter has experienced in the past for it to really expand her horizons the way that you’d like.

      For others on your list, I feel that Houston consistently produces very clean and strong dancers. It’s been respected nationally for a long time as a well-rounded and well-designed program with a particularly good mens’ program, so partnering training tends to be some of the best in the US. Boston has had enjoyed similar reputation and combines Russian training with Balanchine (due to the school director’s background at NYCB). It can be a good place to dip your toe slightly into Balanchine work in my opinion, if there is curiosity about that. (Which I’m guessing there is due to the PNB audition.)

      Nashville is good but it doesn’t have as strong a reputation as the others – which means that it could be a great option to start getting seen for transitioning to a company eventually and to check out a regional contender. 15 is too young for most dancers to be auditioning for companies, but essentially if summers are her exposure time for looking at companies, making connections, and seeing what’s out there, she basically has just 3 left if she is interested in going into a company after high school. If she’s doing extremely well, maybe ABT, Boston and Houston are possibilities. However regional companies can be a terrific option in this competitive landscape so that’s something to consider. Hope this all helps, congrats to her and best of luck!

  9. Andrea says:

    Hi Juliette!! I have two daughters ages 9 and 11 and I believe they have a great future as ballet dancers. I live in South America and I am willing to make all the efforts required to help them achieve their dreams. Which are the best summer programs they could attend? specifically for this ages? Although I want to give them the best I would like something more like a normal to intense program but not hardcore Russian ballet training. Thanks for all your comments and advices.

    • Juliette Dupre says:

      Hi!! That’s amazing, I truly applaud your support of them. My initial reaction is that, since you mentioned being from South America, perhaps culture fit is one of the things you’re looking for. Diversity is an issue that’s getting increasing attention. If you feel that your daughters have strong South American cultural ties and you’d like them to go to an environment where they can see successful dancers from that part of the world, you might favor a school like Miami City. Extremely good ballet training, and very welcoming to dancers from all backgrounds and featuring an Artistic Director that is two rare things: female and latin origin (Cuban). MCB accepts dancers as young as 9, which is a bit rare as well and suits your needs I think. I should certainly also mention for this issue two NYC options, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater (summer starts at age 11) and Dance Theatre of Harlem (which auditions students as young as 8).

      So what are ‘The Best’ summer intensives for your girls in general? Well that could simply coincide with the list I posted in November of the top SI programs in the US. I’m curious why you want to avoid Russian training and what exactly you mean by ‘normal to intense’ is unclear, but on face value of that comment, Bolshoi, Ellison and Kirov are not what you’re looking for. If you don’t want hardcore Russian, you may also not want hardcore Balanchine. If that’s the case, SAB, PNB, Rock, and SFB are probably also not what you’re looking for.

      So that leaves the programs comprised of multiple philosophies of training where you are likely to encounter a variety of stylistic approaches. For me that’s: ABT, GKA, Boston, Houston & possibly FAB. I can’t say where is going to be best for your daughter, as you know my comments are general and made without knowing what they need and what they are like as dancers, but I hope this will provide some overall guidance. Best of luck!

  10. Lauren Mueller says:

    Hello, I’m just wondering where Joffrey’s summer intensive in Chicago ranks. I’m having a hard time finding any reviews on it.

    • Juliette Dupre says:

      Hi Lauren,

      There are reviews on Joffrey Chicago on Ballet Talk, do check those out. You might want to look at the archives section. It’s a good program! Unlike the NYC different school with a similar name, Chicago is connected to a professional company which is really lovely for a young dancer to experience. In my opinion the school has been on an upward trend, slowly but surely improving its standards over time. They also have one of the broader age ranges offered, from 7-21.

  11. Lauren Mueller says:

    Hello, my 9 yr old daughter was recently accepted into Joffrey’s summer intensive in Chicago. Do you have any thoughts on their program?

  12. jdraptis says:

    Hi Juliette! Thank you for this incredible post! Two questions:
    1) Any thoughts on Ballet Hispanico in NYC?
    2) Im stuck between doing a summer intensive in NYC (got into GKA, will be auditioning for FAB) or just taking lots of open classes at Steps on Broadway… Which do you think is the way to go?
    Thanks!!!
    Joanne

    • Juliette Dupre says:

      You are very welcome! I love Ballet Hispanico, it’s one of the only schools in the US that trains in Cuban technique, a niche derivative of Russian and Vaganova training. It’s also one of the most diverse companies in the US.

      Great question #2: Taking open classes is best for mature dancers who are in the process of auditioning for companies (so unable to commit to a regular program) or is past the point of age for summer programs. Open classes are not designed to present any kind of holistic experience or path for dancers, and offer little personalized instruction- they are for maintenance and self-improvement of already professional level technique, for dancers who already have a very full understanding of the nuances of their own abilities and what they must do and work on in each and every moment. This is not ideal for a dancer who is preparing for a first professional job or who is earlier in their career. So my strong recommendation would be to commit to a solid program like GKA or FAB, both great options by the way. Merde!

      • jdraptis says:

        Hi Juliette! Thank you for your thoughtful response 🙂
        I think i will be definitely doing one or the other, but im so torn between GKA and FAB!! Any advice!! :O

        • Juliette Dupre says:

          Anytime dear. But this is where I leave you – The two schools are quite different in their pros and cons, but it depends on your goals and what you need to work on, which is not something I can determine for you. You must look closely and make the decision for yourself. They are both GREAT options, so as you may have heard me say before to other dancers in your position, there may actually not be a ‘wrong’ choice here. 🙂

  13. Beth Luneke says:

    I can’t thank you enough for all the knowledge you shared in your replies to the questions. I had become completely overwhelmed in looking through year-round program information and this has helped me separate my options into buckets to create direction.Two questions for you:

    1) Is it safe to assume that this information about SI’s generally applies to the school’s year round programs also?

    2) Would you please share your thoughts on Harid Conservatory?

    • Juliette Dupre says:

      My pleasure and thanks for your feedback! For your first question, the big picture on an SI typically mirrors the year-round, but there are some critical details that may be different. For instance for hours of training, some schools do far more in the summer and some do far less compared to their year-round schedule (notably SAB is one such school) for their own convenience or philosophical purpose. Additionally its common practice to invite guest faculty to many summer programs, thus injecting other teaching methods and expertise into summer that is not the same as year-round in some ways.

      Harid is a very special school in my opinion, as one of the only high-quality schools for ballet and academics that is tuition-free. Certainly a unique idea in the US outside of a few expensive private institutions. It has trained some of the best dancers of the recent past generations. It’s a very exacting and thorough program from what I know of it, and intended for gifted dance students, the same way you would consider a gifted young academic. The school focuses on the Vaganova method, and last I checked the faculty had all studied the method in Russia, with key instructors holding completed degrees and credentials. This is a critical point for me, I find it unethical for dance schools to claim they offer Vaganova training (Vaganova style is somewhat acceptable to say I suppose, but Vaganova method and training are something very specific) if they do not hold the related *teaching* credentials. Schools throw that term around all the time and often don’t even realize how flagrantly they are doing it because of that lack of education. I digress… Harid is an excellent option!

  14. Boris says:

    PLEASE SUPPORT YOUNG DANCERS, YOUNG TALENT!

    TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN:
    We kindly ask you to forward the following information about ART of – Ballet Summer Courses to the dancers or students in your institution, company – theater or school.
    Many thank in advance for your help and cooperation.

    Dear Students, dear Dancers,
    ART of is pleased to announce the
    Ballet Summer Course MADRID,
    Ballet Summer Course ZURICH 2017 &
    Ballet Summer Course MARSEILLE

    With kind support of WILLIAM FORSYTHE.

    With our ART of – Ballet Summer Courses we are more than ever committed to give you the opportunity to further your technique, develop your artistry and broaden your repertoire.

    The »ART of« Ballet Summer Course MADRID 2017 will take place from the 17th of July until the 29th of July 2017 in association with the Conservatorio Superior de Danza de Madrid where the Ballet Summer Course will be held.
    http://www.madrid.art-of.net

    The ART of Ballet Summer Course ZURICH 2017 will take place from the 7th of August until the 19th of August 2017 in the beautiful studios of ZHdK – Zurich University of the Arts.
    http://www.zurich.art-of.net

    Ballet Summer Course MARSEILLE 2017 will take place from the 27th August – 2nd September 2017 in association with the Ecole Nationale Supérieure de Danse de Marseille.
    http://www.en-marseille.art-of.net

    EDUCATION PLAN:
    Classical Ballet
    Forsythe Workshop
    Pas de Deux Classes
    Women Pointe Classes
    Men & Women Technique
    Variation Classes – Repertoire
    Improvisation Technologies
    Musical-Artistic Expression Classes
    Personal Coaching
    Classes with a Sport Scientist
    Media Service
    Choreographic Workshop

    We look forward to welcoming you in Madrid, Zurich or Marseille!

    Best regards,

    Your ART of

    UP NEXT:
    ART of – Ballet Summer Course ZURICH
    7th – 19th August 2017
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    ART of – Ballet Summer Course MADRID
    17th – 29th July 2017
    http://www.madrid.art-of.net

    ART of – Ballet Summer Course MARSEILLE
    27th August – 2nd September 2017
    http://www.marseille.art-of.net

    • LU Min says:

      Hi,Boris
      I’m interested in talking with you for the ballet programs which you have posted here, I’m a Summer program coordinator for couple of professional Dance Schools in China. would like to contact you and see if we can work together to develop some business?
      My contact is utopia_lm@yahoo.com

  15. Lindsay Kinsella says:

    Hi! I am looking to audition for summer intensives this year and was wondering if you had any information on and comparing CPYB, Boston, AAB, and ABT summer intensives. I don’t want completely Balanchine style or extremely strict Russian although I do like the slow style of Russian over the quick Balanchine.

    Also, if you know of any other more mixed style intensives that would be much appreciated.

    Thank you!

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