You’ve begun packing your bags for a successful summer, equipped with tips and tricks to stay energy-filled and injury-free. As the days leading up to the start of a summer intensive bring about a flurry of excitement and anticipation, we’re here to remind you of what you might be forgetting as you run out the door. Part I of this Summer Intensive SUCCESS Guide covers physical preparation and maintenance. Part II tackles mental preparation, focus, and tips for navigating corrections and first-time experiences. It’s the work that goes on “behind-the-scenes” to keep your mind prepared and motivated.
Before the Intensive
Do Your Research
In today’s dance world, summer intensives are comprised of a variety of classes taught by faculty members specializing in countless movement styles. This is a wonderful thing for dancers growing up in an ever-evolving artistic environment. Being multifaceted is the answer to such a demand, and summer programs provide you with that edge! But, exposing yourself to foreign concepts can also be a daunting task. To combat the worry that comes with being unfamiliar, look to your trusty friend “the Internet” as your guide. Carve out some time before your program begins to research the teachers you’ll be working with and their backgrounds. Find videos of their work, or perhaps an interview in which they discuss their inspiration. Having an idea of what a teacher’s or choreographer’s movement is like can be immensely helpful, and it can be done before you even step foot in the studio.
Take time to press the “refresh” button on both your body and mind before you head off to your training. Not only is a summer intensive an opportunity for immense growth, it is also a place in which fresh starts are encouraged – think of yourself as a blank slate, ready to take in any and all new information that comes your way. Place yourself on even playing field and consider your weaker points as elements of your dancing that are ready for improvement. Another long year of hard work is under your belt, and while the skills you learned in that time should be at the top of your packing list, everything else that might distract you should sit this one out.
At the Intensive
Take It One Class at a Time
The rigor of back-to-back classes and constant shifting of focus from one style to another can be overwhelming. Combat the mental overload of notes and personal goals by dividing your day into blocks of time in which you focus on the single task at hand. In ballet class first thing in the morning? Concentrate on the corrections you have received and your goals for that class, rather than worry about that new piece of choreography you have to rehearse later in the day. You’ll get to it when the time comes. Not only will this train your ability to be more attentive and focused, but it will also calm your body and mind, allowing you to stay in the moment and truly absorb the most out of each class.
Be Present, Be Receptive
It may seem like there is a fine line between being concentrated and being so focused that you get lost in your thoughts. The studio is most definitely a place of hard work, so centering yourself and setting intentions for what you want to develop is important. Don’t forget, however, that the studio is equally a place of self-expression, exploration, and community building. Bringing a sense of humor and joy with you is just as important. NJDTE alumnus & Juilliard School BFA student Conner Bormann looks to his sense of humor to keep his head and heart feeling light and receptive. With that kind of mindset, corrections seem far less daunting, and the work ahead becomes exciting.
If you still aren’t feeling very receptive or open to the notes you are being given, NJDTE & Juilliard School alumna Magdalyn Segale advises to just “put the correction in your back pocket for another day.” That way, the helpful information isn’t entirely lost, and you can call on it in whenever you need.
Take A Mental Inventory
In Part I, we mentioned using the time before and after class to check in with your body. Consider doing the same with your mind! Was today’s class a fulfilling class? Did your warm-up make you feel ready, or does something need to be altered? What are two new things you learned from listening to the corrections being given to others? Did you accomplish anything exciting in this class?
Taking a moment to ask yourself questions like these will help you to assess your progress and provide you with information to move forward. Your short time at a summer intensive is meant to provide you with loads of invaluable information about your art form and yourself—give it a chance to sink in.
At a summer intensive, you are bound to work with faculty who have never seen you move before. As a result, the first days of class are when they point out corrections and give you notes that your year-round teacher may not have focused on. This new perspective is a wonderful thing – but absorbing it can be frustrating at times. When it comes to tackling this aspect of the learning process, NJDTE alumni recommend becoming aware of how emotionally involved you are when receiving corrections and applying them outside of class. Keep in mind that corrections should not be taken as personal inadequacies. Rather, consider approaching them with a sense of transparency and a sponge-like mentality (this is where the “blank slate” idea comes in handy!).
Focus on Yourself
In a challenging environment, it can be tempting to rank yourself among the pack. Such assessment, however, ignores the fact that every single dancer in the studio with you has something different to offer and share. Especially at a summer intensive, everyone walks in with a different level of experience. “Don’t get down on yourself if you see you are behind,” says NJDTE ballet faculty member Lenore Pavlakos-Morales. “Know that you will have to put in the extra time to keep up. Practice, practice, practice until you feel comfortable in the movement; this means after a long day in the studio, go home and review again.”
Seek Out New Information
While most of your learning will take place in the studio, part of it can also take place outside the normal routine of class and rehearsal. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. If you’re having trouble understanding the choreography, ask your teacher if there is a video you can watch to help it sink in. If you are interested in the kind of movement you are learning in one class, ask that faculty member where you might be able to experience more of it. Look to your peers to help you grow as well! Knowledge is abundant and waiting to be utilized. With an excited and ready outlook, it can be yours.
Still Nervous? Consider these words of wisdom:
“Think of Day 1 of your summer program like the first day of school. You have no idea what to expect, but the opportunity to learn in a new way is there. Both the student and teacher are embarking on a wonderful new relationship, and with a positive attitude you will continue to allow possibility into your arena."
– Lenore Pavlakos-Morales, NJDTE Ballet Faculty