To Dance or Not to Dance.... During the Summer
by Robyn Hartley
Summer. Carefree days at the pool, endless slushy drinks, sunshine streaming down, and no school for a good long while. Time to exhale . . .Unless you’re a dancer.
For a dancer, summer means worrying you chose the wrong summer intensive to attend.
Maybe the teachers at the intensive won’t notice you or care to give you corrections. Maybe the classes will be crowded and you won’t get enough opportunity to shine. Maybe the focus will be on a genre you have no desire to specialize in. Maybe there won’t be enough class hours.
All the maybe’s. All the worry! It can be paralyzing.
But I am here to tell you that no matter what choice you make, summer can be whatever you wish it to be. You have the power to make it so. All you need is a little guidance and then off you will go. Leaving all that weighty worry in the dust.
Before you go hunting down opportunities you should first take a long honest look at who you are both as a person and a dancer. Here are some questions you should ask yourself before launching into summer:
- Do I like being away from home or do I prefer staying where it is familiar?
- Am I good with a roommate or do I need my space?
- Do I like large cities or small cities?
- Do I like flying or not?
- How much time am I willing to give to dance this summer? 1 week? 2? 3, 4, 5, 6?
- What type of dance do I love most?
- Do I want variety in my intensive or do I really want to focus in on a specific style?
- Is performing important to me this summer or would I be just as content with only attending class?
- How do I feel about taking classes from teachers I don’t quite “get”?
- Have I reached a place in my technical training where I can adapt quickly to new styles of teaching or am I still new at this?
This list could go on and on. There are no wrong answers to these questions and the answers don’t determine what intensive you attend. You can be an extreme introvert who loathes flying and still fly away to a 6-week dance intensive filled with complete strangers and have a fabulously productive time. I did. The point is to know who you are and what your preferences are. By doing so you can make informed decisions and better prepare yourself.
CHOOSE YOUR WIN
What do you want to “win” this summer? A better understanding of technique? Deeper artistry? A well-rounded dance education? A new experience that challenges your comfort zone? Training under a prestigious teacher? Building your resumé? Traveling to a cool place?
You can choose whatever you want to win and then you can go out and win it. But in order to get to that win (or multiple wins) you must be focused. There is no room for worrying over which intensive is the “best” or where other dancers are going. Simply grab a handful that meets your requirements, choose one, and then go.
I know the choices can feel enormous. But it really isn’t. You can make almost any intensive what you want it to be so long as it has met your basic standards.
Example: If I wanted to deepen my understanding of the various modern techniques I probably shouldn’t choose an intensive that offers one modern class every other day. Rather I would choose to attend somewhere that offers modern class daily and details out which techniques are being implemented.
You get the point. Once you have several programs that meet the basic needs of your goals there is no way to make a wrong choice because they are all the right choice.
MAKE YOUR EXPERIENCE
You’ve chosen the intensive and now it is up to you to make it what you want it to be. The intensive is not going to change, but how you experience it can change dramatically based on your attitude and your intention.
The magic of summer dance intensives is they exist for you to selfishly consume. Aside from some possible group projects within a class, there is not a lot of teamwork that happens at these programs. You are not performing for a company or representing any organization. You are a dancer on a mission to become a better dancer. End of story.
Looking at it from this angle, can you see all the potential? Can you see how pliable it all is? Yes, if you have pas de deux at 1:15 you have to go to pas de deux at 1:15 even if you would rather go to pilates at 1:15. But remaining focused on your specific goals will help you find the opportunity for growth in pas de deux as opposed to seeing only that you are missing out on pilates.
EMBRACE IT ALL
There is no perfect summer dance intensive, so don’t even bother trying to find one or pretending you have found one. Instead, embrace everything about the one you have chosen and refrain from speaking poorly about the choices others make.
You will grow so much more as an artist and human when you release the burden of always hunting down perfection. The worry that goes into trying to find “the best” leaves little time for self-reflection or consideration of the things that do make a difference. You never know what lessons are on the horizon for you. The last thing you want is to miss those lessons due to your worry about perfection.
Whether you dance at home for a week this summer or fly across the world for 2 months - the experience you will have is all yours. Yours to make or yours to break.