Grand Rapids Ballet School
Hometown: East Lansing, Michigan
Dance experience: 29 years. Received a BFA in dance from Oakland University and a master’s in Arts Development from University of Denver. Danced for various contemporary companies. Performed as a B-girl and a backup dancer.
Favorite movie: Some Like It Hot
Favorite food: Sushi
Best season: Fall
If you could go anywhere, where would you go: Maui
Often daunting, always exciting, summer intensives are of the utmost importance for the training of a pre-professional dancer. Most are between three and five weeks, jam-packed with learning, dancing, and making new memories. All professional dancers started as students much like you, attending summer intensives and feeling excited and nervous. As a student, I found that the summer intensives I attended ended up being some of the most transformative years of my training toward become a professional dancer. Whether it be the stellar training, diverse repertoire, adventurous weekend activities, or friendships I made, I never regretted attending a single one of them. Regardless if you’re attending a shorter three-week program or even a longer seven-week program, here are some tips to help you survive and thrive during your summer intensive.
Tip #1: BE NICE
• As in life, this applies to everyone at your intensive. These are your peers, contemporaries, and teachers. You will run into them again, so always have a smile and a kind word.
Tip #2: BE PREPARED TO GIVE 100%
• Make sure you’re in shape before you arrive; do not take time off leading up to an intensive. Up to two weeks before you arrive, you should be taking class every day to ensure your body is in good condition.
• Pack the right things in your suitcase. Of course, start with ballet clothes that follow your school’s dress code, but be prepared to spend time outside the studio exploring your host city. For example, Grand Rapids gets quite warm in the summer but it occasionally has a cooler rainy day (this is Michigan, after all—if you don’t like the weather, just wait an hour). So, you should pack summer clothes and a rain jacket. And don’t forget things like a sewing kit.
• Stay positive. Remember teachers only give corrections because they are trying to help you, so don’t allow yourself to get into the mindset one teacher doesn’t like you. And please don’t fret about your level placement; you are placed in the level in which the school faculty knows you will succeed.
• Work hard and your effort to improve will be noticed. Give everything your best effort; there’s no time like the present to work hard.
Photo: Jade Butler
Tip #3: BE CURIOUS
• The need for a dancer who is able to do both classical ballet and contemporary dance is growing. so it’s important to start as a student—be open to trying new styles.
• You may be scheduled to take classes you don’t normally take at your home studio like character, hip-hop, or Pilates. These classes are all great ways to grow and learn as a dancer and they were included in the curriculum to help you. And you might just end up loving it.
• Remember, your teachers might teach a step slightly differently than they do at your home studio. That’s OK. Different styles of ballet steps (Vaganova, Cecchetti, Balanchine) have differences and it does not mean they are teaching the step incorrectly. As a professional dancer, the choreographer wants you to do their step their way—not your way, mom’s way, or your home studio’s way. Again, you will learn something new, which is always a good thing. Trust them.
“One of the best things about a summer intensive is all of the new information you receive. Whether it’s learning from new students attending an intensive at your home studio, or attending a summer program at a different school, my advice is to be as open as possible. Hold on to everything you know about ballet lightly, and see what matches up based on what you see and what you are taught. If something doesn’t ring true, you can discard it when you go back to your normal training in September, but challenge yourself to try new things for the entire time you are in the new environment.” —Steven Houser, Grand Rapids Ballet Company Dancer and Ballet Master
Photo: Jade Butler
Tip #4: DRESS TO IMPRESS
• I think you know what I am going to say here: Follow the dress code that is a given to you to the letter. Remember, you’re asked to wear a black leotard or pink tights so your teacher can see your lines well. You’re only at this school for a short number of weeks, so you want to put your best foot forward figuratively and literally.
• Show up ready to shine with your hair done nicely and pulled away from your face with no holes or runs in your tights (remember that sewing kit I referenced earlier?)
• Dancing 4-6 hours a day means a lot of sweat, so wear deodorant and shower regularly. This is common sense.
Tip #5: FUEL YOURSELF
• Make sure you’re eating enough to sustain how much dancing you’re doing every day. When you’re craving a snack, have one, but make sure it’s nutritious, sustainable, and minimally processed. And it goes without saying: water, water, and more water.
• Sleep six to eight hours per night (maybe even more, if possible). There’s nothing like a full night’s sleep to prepare you for a full day of dancing and working hard.
Photo: Jade Butler
Tip #6: HAVE FUN
• Enjoy yourself! Go on those weekend activities; I promise you will make memories that will last a lifetime.
• Connect with your new friends…Instagram, email, Facebook, phone numbers, Snapchat. Keep in contact and continue to grow your dance network. You may find yourself next to many of them at the barre in the future and a friendly face is always a nice thing to see.
“During a summer intensive you spend the entire day dancing which can take a toll on your body. I try to spend time every morning before class rolling out and time after the day is over to stretch. I’ve found that this is the best way to prep my body for the long day ahead and also relax after a whole day of dancing.” —Sophia Brodin, Grand Rapids Ballet Summer Intensive student
Summer 2017 Ballet Intensive at Grand Rapids Ballet
When the average student thinks of summer vacation, words like “beach” (as in lazy days on), “sleeping” (as in late), and “binging” (as in Game of Thrones) are probably some of the first to come to mind.
But for others, the words might be “sweat” (as in breaking a), “work” (as in hard), and “intensive” (as in summer).
Grand Rapids Ballet’s annual Summer Intensive, scheduled for June 26-July 28 at the Meijer-Royce Center for Dance, gives you the rare opportunity to refine your ballet skills in technique and artistry. You’ll get face-to-face, hands-on training with some of the best stars and renowned master teachers from today’s ballet world including Patricia Barker (current Grand Rapids Ballet artistic director and former principal dancer with Pacific Northwest Ballet), Nicole Ciapponi (Joffrey Ballet), Elizabeth Murphy (Pacific Northwest Ballet), and Aaron Renteria (Joffrey Ballet).
You’ll also gain valuable insights through seminars and specialized classes in nutrition, injury prevention, cardio training, and more.
To be considered for our Summer Intensive, interested students must first audition in person (schedule below). Dancers attending these open auditions are asked to arrive at least 15 minutes early in order to complete their registration on-site. Bring a head shot and a photo in arabesque; ladies, be prepared to audition en pointe, as well. The audition fee is $20. Call 616.454.4771 or email for more information on how to attend.
Once you’ve auditioned, you may receive an invitation to attend our Summer Intensive at Grand Rapids Ballet. Senior students (age 12-19) will attend class Monday-Friday from 10am-5pm and junior students (age 9-15) will attend class Monday-Friday from 10am-2pm; it’s called an “intensive” for a reason.
Tuition for senior students is $450 per week or $1,875 for the entire five-week course (save $375) and $250 per week or $975 for entire five-week course (save $275) for junior students. A limited number of scholarships are available and are awarded based on need and talent.
So, while it’s no day at the beach, your hard work will produce amazing results and give you tools you’ll use throughout your dance career. That’s way better than tan. For more information on auditions, tuition, housing, faculty, and more, call 616.454.4771 or email us today.
Also, be on the lookout for more information coming soon about our Summer 2017 Contemporary Intensive!