A summer intensive is like a ballet class on steroids. Students take a variety of classes ranging from technique, to pointe, to improv -- often dancing upwards of 7 hours each day, 5+ days a week for multiple weeks. It’s hard work but also incredibly rewarding!
This summer, 5 Valley Dance Theatre students attended summer intensives.
Madison Burgess, Anika Jensen, and Jessica Kennedy attended the Joffrey Contemporary Ballet intensive in San Francisco, commuting each day to attend classes.
Genie Rose headed to Interlochen, Michigan for the Interlochen Arts Camp where she spent 3 weeks with 2000 arts students and Rachel Becker attended the American Academy of Ballet in New York for 2 weeks, living in dorms with fellow dance students.
Madison, Anika, and Jessica auditioned for Joffrey during a Joffrey Master Class held at VDT. This was a great opportunity for the upper level and company students at VDT to take class from Joffrey summer program artistic director Josie Walsh.
Genie and Rachel auditioned at classes in Benicia and in San Francisco respectively.
Summer intensives are a great way for dancers to help advance their technique, learn new skills and take classes from a variety of instructors. Jessica talks about a typical day at the Joffrey intensive, “We started the day at 9AM with a technique class and then pointe. After lunch we came back for contemporary/modern. Our last class was blender, which is a class that blends together everything we worked on throughout the day.
Finally, we had a 2 hour rehearsal to work on our pieces for the show at the end of the intensive.”
For many of these young dancers, classes in modern and contemporary were a new experience, and something that the girls were trying to achieve by attending a summer intensive. For Anika, learning contemporary was fun and new, “I enjoyed the focus on Contemporary/Modern because I had never truly studied contemporary dance.”
The teachers at the summer intensives were a highlight for VDT dancers. Anika talks about a few of her Joffrey teachers, “I had Adam Sklute as a teacher, the artistic director of Ballet West which is the company that has the TV show, "Breaking Pointe." I also had Alison DeBona, a company dancer from Ballet West, which was awesome.”
And Rachel had the opportunity to dance with Olga Kostritzky, “One of my teachers was Olga Kostritzky who taught Natalie Portman how to dance in the movie Black Swan.”
For many of these dancers, participating in a summer intensive was their first insight into the daily life of a professional dancer. Taking class for 4 to 5 hours a day, followed by rehearsal can often take a toll! Rachel was pleased to find out she had been well-prepared, “I learned that I had the stamina to survive the long days.”
Another highlight for these girls was meeting dancers from around the world who shared a similar love for dance! Rachel’s experience was one of the more diverse, with students from all across the US, and from around the world, including Colombia, Brazil and even South Africa.
Many of the intensives end with performances of pieces the students worked on throughout the summer. Performing at the Collage Arts Festival in front of almost 4000 people was a highlight for Genie!
For almost all of the VDT dancers, this was their first summer intensive experience, but definitely not their last! They loved meeting new students and learning from different teachers, and improving their dance skills over the course of the program.
Jessica talks about the experience and her excitement for next summer’s intensives, “The best part was meeting new people and working with new teachers. Trying new things is always great because it helps you learn as much as possible. I would love to come back to Joffrey next year! At the same time, I also want to keep trying new things and putting myself out there. It would be cool to audition for other places as well as Joffrey for next year.”
And while this may have been the first summer intensive for many of these girls, Madison found that VDT had prepared her well, “I learned that the teachers at the VDT set their students up very nicely. I was afraid before the program that I would not be able to keep up but I was wrong. Technically I was one of the better dancers on pointe, which I thought was something when dancing with 40 other people.”
Want to see what these girls learned? They’ll be performing in the upcoming season at Livermore’s Bankhead Theater. And for more information about summer intensive opportunities for next year, please stop by the studio.