Opportunity and community take center stage at Orlando Ballet’s Summer Intensive
As summer approaches, where you’ll be training is likely on the foreground of your mind. Large schools are making huge changes to create COVID-safe dance spaces, including limiting their intensive summer enrollment, and travel logistics are more complex due to limited accommodation options. While many ballet schools are partnering with local colleges to provide dormitories for summer students, this year is not a possibility for most. âIf you don’t have a relative in the area, that’s a huge problem,â says Lisa Collins Vidnovic, Artistic Director and Executive of Metropolitan Ballet Academy & Company in Jenkintown, Pennsylvania.
If you can’t attend a big intensive this year, take heart. Big schools attached to reputable companies have their strengths, but more often than you might think you don’t have to go far for top-notch training. A rigorous schedule in your area, whether in your own studio or one within driving distance, may be just the ticket. âIt doesn’t have to be a big school attached to a big company,â says Nancy Davis, artistic director of Portland ballet in Oregon, which is offering a four-week crash course this year. “Good training is good training.”
Nancy Davis teaches Level 3 dancers at Portland Ballet.
Blaine Truitt Covert, courtesy of the Portland Ballet
Alexandra Koltun, co-founder and director of Boston Koltun Ballet, points out another benefit: staying local will keep you close to family and friends, and also save on accommodation, transportation and food. You can then redirect that money to other training expenses, such as private lessons or costumes for competitions.
Read on to find out why attending a summer internship at an independent regional studio is not only a good option this year, but a great option in general.
Varied and quality training
Many small studios are staffed and run by teachers with impressive qualifications. (Koltun, for example, trained at the Vaganova Ballet Academy in Russia and danced with the Mariinsky Ballet and the Boston Ballet.) And they often organize their summer teacher roster with as much intention and standards as those of the larger programs. AT Denver National Ballet Academy, a private studio in Colorado (with a new satellite branch in New York), artistic director Cornell Callender is trying to broaden the horizons of his dancers by hiring guest teachers from various backgrounds, such as Houston Ballet director Karina GonzÃ¡lez and former English National Ballet coach Yuri Uchiumi. âThere is a pool of knowledge and experiences gained through successful careers that every teacher brings into the classroom,â Callender says.
Denver National Ballet Academy students
Courtesy of the Denver National Ballet Academy
Many private studios are also trying to expand their typical offerings during the summer, adding classes such as variations, men’s class, partnership, and repertoire. Collins Vidnovic, for example, has a Contemporary Week, Pilates and Conditioning program in addition to his school’s ballet program. Lorna FeijÃ³o, artistic director and founder of FeijÃ³o ballet school in Dickinson, Texas, says that in addition to ballet and contemporary classes, their five-week crash course will offer Afro-Cuban dance, music education, and seminars on health, costume history and history of dance. And at the Portland Ballet, Davis added a mental health seminar for dancers.
If there are limited options in your home studio this summer, research what else is in your area. Look for crash courses, workshops, master classes or even open classes nearby with which you can complete your training. If you’re not sure what to look for, ask your teacher for a recommendation.
Alexandra Koltun with a student at the Koltun Ballet Boston
Courtesy of Koltun Ballet Boston
A personal experience
One of the biggest benefits of training in a small studio is getting more individual attention. âWhen you participate in large intensive sessions, there are usually so many people in a class,â says FeijÃ³o, former director of the National Ballet of Cuba and the Boston Ballet. “There is more attention here. The important thing is the quality of the time you spend in this intensive, not the quantity. [of dancers]. “
Smaller numbers mean more suitable classes and markings, and stronger connections with faculty. âSmall schools have the ability to tailor the program to the individual,â says Callender. âThey can set higher expectations that students can then meet more quickly. Instructors have more time to assess each dancer and offer more personalized advice.
Also consider what to expect from performance opportunities. Not all summer shows include them, but in a smaller studio you might have a better chance to shine. âThere aren’t that many people competing for these roles,â Davis says.
Dancers from the FeijÃ³o ballet school
Rhonda Floyd Photography, courtesy of FeijÃ³o Ballet School
Health and safety measures
Even with recent COVID-19 vaccine deployments, studio health and safety is still of great concern. Like many large institutions, small studios got creative and designed safe classroom experiences remarkably well. âAs a private boutique school, we took all measures,â Koltun says, adding that they reopened safely (removing Zoom classes entirely) by spacing out the dancers, cleaning frequently and limiting the amount of time. number of people in the building requiring parents to stay outside. And Collins Vidnovic notes that the Metropolitan Ballet will be holding its classes partially outside this summer.
Think about the space you will be dancing in and know how comfortable you are with being around other dancers. If you stay in your home studio, you’ll know what to expect, but if you’re interested in attending another school nearby, see if you can visit before you apply. (That said, summer programs are expected to fill up this year due to limited enrollment, so be sure to be proactive in reaching out.)
An outdoor class at the Metropolitan Ballet Academy
Courtesy of the Metropolitan Ballet Academy
While you might not be able to attend a large conservatory or an intensive business affiliate program this year, don’t ignore the small schools that enrich your community. If you are staying put and training exclusively in your home studio, remember that your teachers know and care about you and will be able to provide you with the advice you need. âTrust between teacher and student,â says Koltun, âbuilds up over the course of the year and grows even more during the summerâ.