May's experiences of ballet summer intensives

Last time I talked about how I started taking regular classes. In 2006 I had been doing ballet for 2 years. I had been a member of a USA based ballet message board and kept reading about Summer Intensives which are very popular in USA. And that there's one specifically geared towards adults.

At the time there was no such thing in the UK.

I was very intrigued in the idea. Take a whole week off work? Fly all the way to the USA? Dance all day every day for a whole week? I took the plunge, signed up and it has been a trip well worth going.

  • It was a holiday
    When I attend a regular class, the moment I step into a dance studio, real life gets paused for an hour and a half. This was an extension, real life got suspended. I could get into total bunhead mode and geek out with a group of like minded adults for a whole week. People who understood the excitement of managing a clean double pirouette, or sharing what stretches or remedies that you could do for a particular niggle, or famous ballet dancers they have met.

  • Dance all day every day
    I get pumped when I wake up at home if it's ballet class day. Now I have the opportunity to do it every day, all day, for a whole week. The idea sounded like heaven. And not only ballet class, but variations and repertoire also. Ballet classes for me were enjoyable but I would sometimes get discouraged and bogged down by a difficult step. Bringing variations and repertoire into ones training puts things into perspective, that ballet is a performing art. Steps and technique are only a way to convey meaning. Bringing the performance aspect into ballet class for me gave it purpose.

  • Cultural exchange with amazing teachers
    I'm not strictly referring to experiencing American ballet culture (every studio puts on Nutcracker for Christmas?), but simply the fact that I'm experiencing ballet technique from a different teacher. I started hearing the same corrections from teachers at home, and think that I am applying them but simply they're not "sticking". Hearing the same correction from a different teacher could suddenly give me light bulb moments. Or indeed it was a different correction but it achieved the same result. Or that I experienced a different way that steps were put together. The teachers themselves were experts and had a wealth of knowledge, it was inspiring just to spend a week with them all.
  • Performance
    I loved the element of performance at the end of the course. It felt like I had something to show for it. It was applying all the reasons why we do so many tendus and pliés in class - it had a goal. I could go home, watch a DVD or go to a performance and be proud that, hey, I've actually done that dance. It gave me a sense of accomplishment. It was also in a way an escape, I could channel my favourite dancer while I was dancing it.
  • Watching myself back on video
    This was not something I relished but I would make myself do. It was hard to learn to look at myself on video objectively. Almost every dancer I know are critical about their own dancing and would either not want to watch themselves or would watch, and feel deflated that they can find faults. Of course we can find faults and nitpick, nobody is perfect. But being able to watch back on video means I could really see what the teachers were talking about. Why does she keep saying my elbows are unsupported? Why do I constantly get corrected about my turnout? What did she mean about stretch the whole leg? Ah... that's why...! Which brings me to...
  • Improvement
    I attended the intensives, coming home having felt like I've improved. I was very lucky that the group was also supportive, there was no competitiveness, and everyone wanted everyone to do well. It was a nurturing environment, and there were tools and tips that I felt I could bring home to my classes, not just for the week but for the rest of the whole year.

In the first few intensives I would also come home achy and sore, and a few times it did amplify some niggles. At the time I wasn't totally smart about listening to my body, I didn't fly all the way out there to sit out of class. But as the years go on it has been proven to me more and more - listen to the body, it's not worth the injury.

Although I have always enjoyed going to the USA, I was also hoping that one day something similar would be available in the UK so it could be cheaper for those of us in the UK / Europe. At that stage it was hoping someone would do it, never in a million years when I thought I could give it a go too.

Next time: My first exposure to EBAS