2016 Summer Dance Intensives Update

Students of Ellison Ballet

Ellison Ballet SI 2012

I know you’re all waiting with bated breath for the annual list of summer intensives. While unfortunately the vast majority of programs that I typically include have not yet updated their 2016 information, the major top programs in the US have. So I thought I’d get those up here for your reference now.

Once most of the other programs have their houses in order, I’ll post the usual mega-spreadsheet with details like ages and dates. For now, in no particular order (and please don’t try reading into who I’ve included and excluded, though I know you guys love to do that!), here are the top US programs who have posted their 2016 main summer program details:

School of American Ballet (NT)

American Ballet Theatre (NY+)

Bolshoi Ballet (NY/CT)

Pacific Northwest Ballet (WA)

San Francisco Ballet (CA)

Ellison Ballet (NY)

Boston Ballet (MA)

Houston Ballet (TX)

French Academie (NY)

Kirov Academy (DC)

The Rock School (PA)

Let me know if this is helpful either in direct message or down below in the comments. Remember there are plenty of resources here on BalletScoop (starting here) to help you decide where to spend your time auditioning and how to find the best training for your needs. Merde to all!

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Summer Intensive Handbook on Sale!

Julian Amir LaceyFrom My Son Can Dance, the Summer Intensive Handbook is one mom’s effort to help guide parents and students through the process of preparing for a choosing their SI. Nina Amir, mother of Julian Amir Lacey (pictured left) knows all to well how much information is out there for you to sift through. Take advantage of her experience through this publication, available through Kindle, as a PDF, or for any other ereader.

Offered for a limited time at a discount using the code at the bottom of the linked page, this very affordable handbook is a handy reference for summer intensive research and advice. Check it out!

Bolshoi Ballet Academy: An All-Encompassing Opportunity

Bolshoi SI studentsRina Kirshner is the Vice President of the Russian American Foundation and directs the Bolshoi Ballet Academy Summer Intensive. I was fortunate to speak with Ms. Kirshner recently about the program’s features and the many opportunities it provides, as well as what they are looking for in auditions.

JD: Was the BBASI your brainchild? What inspired you to pursue cultural development specifically through ballet?

RK: Actually, the program first came to the US many years ago through a partnership with the Ford Foundation. They would come to the US for 1-2 weeks in the summer as an elite full-scholarship program. Ten or fifteen years ago, the program ended, but someone who believed in the program later brought it to our attention because they believed the Russian American Foundation was an organization that could support the initiative successfully. This was almost seven years ago. We felt right away the value of the program not only as pre-professional training but from a more global perspective. To really understand Russian classical ballet you really also need to be aware of the culture, language and people. So we positioned the program early on to be an all-encompassing opportunity.

JD: The Bolshoi Academy is known for developing students with a highly intensive program from a fairly young age. How do you condense that syllabus down for US students who often experience a comparatively diluted regimen over their years of training?

RK: I believe that the program has served great value to all parties involved and not just the participants. Many stereotypes were adjusted and broken from both sides. When we first started, the thought was that only students with perfect form could be professional dancers. It was discovered that American students who may not be subject to a strict regimen or have that form are also very talented students that can benefit from the program. We now have 50 students, two that have joined the Bolshoi school, and one that joined the company. Our students are embraced by the teachers and other Bolshoi students as hard workers. It’s been transformational for both sides.

The Academy has grown to respect the dedication of American students. Maybe I would have answered this very differently seven years ago. But these American students are not at a disadvantage. There is a natural amount of talent that is required, but we’ve had students that are shorter or don’t have the typical body. Some work even harder because they are catching up in comparison with the students who have been available to the Bolshoi teachers from such a young age. The fact that the pace in the intensive is much faster and more rigorous than the academy is fact.  The fact that students not normally subject to the Russian regimen can maintain that pace with those who are speaks volumes.

JD: I notice that for your advanced NYC students, only males are scheduled to have variations class, while only females have rep class. Presuming that the former is solo-based and the latter a concert repertoire, what is the philosophy behind this curricular structure?

RK: This just evolved as a natural evolution of what the male dancer needs. There’s still about 5-6 variations taught throughout the program to everyone. Usually this is what the male dancers perform or what they will perform in competition. Some perform in small groups in the performance and some as solos. It’s a wonderful opportunity for the students to have a top coach and we’ve heard feedback on how valuable that has been for them. To answer your question though, both classes are basically the same. They learn variations as a group and then may perform them as a solo or group.

JD: What is the immersion scholarship program in Russia?

Bolshoi SI studentsRK: Three years ago, because of how the cultural aspects had affected students and inspired them to learn Russian, we petitioned the state department to take a select group of dancers for six weeks to continue this education at the academy but also have the cultural and language immersion. The state department funded the program as part of NSLI (National Security Language for Youth). The last few years it’s been 15 students each year from the group. Those are selected primarily on academic achievement. So in addition to being great dancers, they have to be good students. In addition to maintaining an intensive dancing regime, they have to spend four hours a day learning Russian.

JD: How about the 2 week scholarship gala program?

RK: We select one leading female dancer and one leading male for that. They train for 2 weeks and that is purely based on recognition for their dancing ability, so there is no academic component like there is for the group program.

JD: This is a competitive summer intensive, no question. What is the atmosphere like for students? How do you ensure it remains healthy?

RK: We actually discuss that up front because we think it’s important for the dancers and parents to understand this up front. For us, once they are accepted, it’s very important that they know we like good people here. We have certain behavioral rules that must be adhered to. Once in the program, we do not tolerate any competitive negative behavior. In the New York location we are state certified on the level of a regular camp, so we have a complete staff that oversees that aspect. I personally pay a lot of attention because the students are expected to work so hard.

In Connecticut especially we try to make sure it’s just a fun summer for the students, and they have activities that promote a positive atmosphere. We want them to know that you will need to work very hard, but being unconstructively competitive is a different thing. One of the things families should know is that we’ve instituted a change this year. We’ve noticed that in the past the level structure 1, 2, 3, 4 was so emotionally unhealthy. So this year each group is assigned a lead teacher because any time spent on emotional competitiveness is wasted time. We don’t believe that unnecessary, “Why is he or she in this level?” is useful. So we make a speech up front where we present our view on this.

JD: The marketing for the BBASI emphasizes dancers who graduated from the Moscow year-round program. Do you have any statistics yet on the number of US summer intensive students who have achieved professional careers?

RK: Two to top Russian companies were accepted this year. Many students don’t follow up to let us know where they are. We have students accepted to Penn Ballet and ABT, but those are only the ones that report back to us.

JD: What can students expect to get out of the program that sets it apart from many quality programs now available in the US?

Bolshoi SI studentsRK: I believe two things set us specifically apart. We recognize that there are many top programs here and we believe we are a very good supplement to those programs during the year. First, we have a whole system here. Every one of the teachers is trained and works year round as a team. Most were students of the Bolshoi Academy, danced as the company, and trained to teach there. They have dedicated their whole lives to that technique, so every step and class is part of a holistic program of master teachers in one purified approach. That works amazingly to achieve individual progress, and I think that’s what we’re known for.

For the younger group, we have the same dedication to making it an enjoyable summer experience, and we have a professional, fun staff which we hire to run other activities. That makes it a great summer experience compared to other programs that don’t have the same structure, facilities or supplementing to remember the kids are having a summer. Obviously, our dedication to introducing students to the culture is paramount and that is the second point. It’s the holistic system of training as well as expanding their personal horizons in Russian culture and language.

JD: What qualities are most important to your adjudicators?

RK: Desire and ability for the student to work hard. That can be seen in the hour and a half that we are there auditioning. Students that think they can succeed anywhere are not necessarily going to succeed in our program. We want students that understand that our program is about working hard. We say one of the issues all teachers try to address is that the dancers need to show the audience how much they love to dance. As much as we say it to them there aren’t many who are able to achieve it. If they are not as strong technically but they are glowing and you can see their desire to dance… We just need to see their heart and dedication to hard work.

JD: Have behaviors ever been exhibited that have disqualified students?

RK: We don’t tell anyone to leave right away, but if someone is not paying attention, that’s a sign of someone that’s going to be like that, and we will get frustrated, so those are red flags that we watch for. Sometimes students can’t survive the whole audition and they leave. Those are rare cases, but they happen. Most of the dancers that come to audition now know what they are getting into.

Bolshoi SI studentsJD: Have exceptions ever been made for the age minimums or for the age maximums?

RK: No on the minimums. For the age maximums, sometimes for Connecticut, but it’s determined individually. If we believe they won’t be sufficiently challenged, that’s what we’ll say. We have some professional students in their 20s that come to New York.

JD: Would you consider New Orleans for future auditions? We have an underserved demographic of talent in the area.

RK: We’ve never been to New Orleans but would consider it in the future.

JD: Finally, what has been the high-point for you, being a part of this incredible initiative from the start?

RK: Luckily, there have been many high-points because the program has had so many challenges! Being responsible for other people’s children is huge. The thank you letters that we get have cited not only transforming people on the dancer level but also the new opportunities, the global awareness. That has really moved me, as a mother. I love that this program keeps me going. When we first started, the New York Times dedicated a reporter to covering it for five weeks. There were so many stereotypes in there that were painful. When they published the new Joy Womack article, it was very classy and sophisticated.

It has changed not only us but the Academy. How excited the teachers are to see returning and new students! Even the Russian Ambassador to the United States said we are one of the great success stories of the Russian American dialogue.

Thank you again to Ms. Kirshner and the Russian American Foundation for bringing this wonderful program to the states! For more information and audition tour dates, please visit http://www.bolshoiballetacademy.com/.

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.

2013 SI Auditions Photo Shoot at FAB!

The esteemed French Academie of Ballet has arranged for Joseph Henry Ritter to photograph students on Wednesday, December 19, 2012, in preparation for the upcoming audition season! This event is open to students who are not enrolled a FAB. Francois Perron and Nadege Hottier will be on hand to personally guide participants on placement and photo selection. (Participants are responsible for knowing exactly what poses and types of photos are required by all schools they will be auditioning for.) Sign-up for this event by emailing Leslie Schiller at ‘lschiller [at] frenchacademieofballet [dot] org’ by THIS FRIDAY, December 7, 2012!

Space is limited! Thanks to FAB for providing a much-needed service during their sold out European Masters Workshop.

Summer Programs Database

A BalletScoop reader has supplied the link to his family’s invaluable summer planning resource: summer programs in a database format at www.summerintensives.com.

Complete with a Regional Audition Locator and various handy search tools, this site is the brainchild of dance parents who were themselves looking for a better way to reflect on the abundant info collected for their own daughter. Thanks again to those readers for creating and sharing this resource!

2012 Summer Intensive Auditions!

Boston Ballet School studentsThe 2013 Summer Intensives list is posted!

REMINDER: Please share your SI stories/reviews at Ballet Talk for Dancers, which archives this info for research by future students. If you are looking for info on an SI, make a free account there and you’ll have more info than you’ll know what to do with!

The 2012 summer audition dates are in! I can’t believe it’s been a year already! Time to start planning your winter audition schedule, and I’m here to help with tips and links for some of the best programs on the continent. Don’t forget to check out every program’s website for supplemental and alternative summer training programs, such as:

  • choreography intensives
  • mentoring programs for one-on-one coaching
  • jazz/contemporary programs
  • collegieate programs
  • recreational programs
  • add-on weeks to boost program length
  • satellite locations

Be mindful of any pre-registration requirements for each audition. And be sure to have your calendar handy! Continue reading