Friday, June 18, 2010

Dancer Advice: Summer Intensive Preparations

Emily Christopher attended Joffrey Ballet and Ballet Magnificat! summer intensives

So, you've been accepted to a stellar dance summer intensive and you couldn't be more pumped! You think you've got everything packed, but aren't sure if there's something you might be missing and you'd love to know more about the daily life at an intensive. Well, Dance Nerds Unite interviewed Kennesaw State University dance graduate, Emily Christopher, to get some of this inside information. Emily attended Ballet Magnificat! and Joffrey Ballet summer intensives while in high school, and trained at Impact Dance of Atlanta. It seems her training paid off because she just signed her first contract to dance and cheer for the Atlanta Thrashers (hockey) team as a Blue Crew member! Here's Emily's advice.

What are some essentials dancers going to an intensive should make sure they pack in their dance bag?
- Toe tape (for lots of intense Pointe work)
- Bobby pins, brush, hairspray
- Snacks
- Advil
- New Skin to put on blisters
- At least two pairs of Pointe shoes
- An extra pair of tights, ballets shoes, jazz shoes, ballet skirt and warm-ups
- WATER and a little package of Emergence C (You can find this at any store. You put it in your water and to help balance your sugar levels whenever you get overheated. Great to have in your bag!)

What are some non-dance essentials you should pack?
- A note book and pen to record the corrections from teachers or difficult combinations
- A granola bar or banana (bananas are great for cramps!)
- Theraband and a tennis ball to relieve cramps and sore muscles
- Jet glue for Pointe shoes
- Band-aids are a MUST have for awful blisters

Were you homesick? If so, how did you handle it? (Think about the first time you went)
Yes, I got homesick the first time I went away, but I always miss my family because we are so close. However, I made sure to get the addresses of my friends and family and we wrote letters to each other during the time I was away. It was a lot of fun receiving letters and communicating with my friends. Also, I had my cell phone and called my family once every few days to tell them about my progress. I missed everyone but I was so focused on my dancing and the intensive that I didn’t become too homesick. I also met so many new friends and experienced so many new things that the fun overcompensated all of my other feelings.

Was it difficult to dance such long hours on a daily basis? How did you push through and keep going?
Yes, it was difficult for the first week or so but after that your body gets used to the long hours. I made sure that I got plenty of sleep at night, I took tons of Advil, and I stretched every night before going to bed. Stretching at night really helps your muscles and you can tell a difference the next morning.

Did you do any training before you went to prepare? For instance, jogging, swimming, private lessons, etc. If not, would you recommend it?
I personally didn’t do any extra training before to prepare. However, I do recommend going to the gym and working on cardio as well as abdominal work. Endurance and a strong core will help tremendously during long dance days.

Meeting other dancers and making new friends is one of the best parts of dance intensives. Do you have any advice on how to make friends, especially since it is a somewhat competitive environment?
When meeting new friends, just be yourself. Never try to be any different than who you are. It is kind of scary in such a competitive environment to talk to someone new, but if you're stretching next to someone or warming up just bring up a little small talk and see where that leads. Most of the time other dancers will keep the small talk going, and that can lead into a friendship. Be careful not to talk during class or approach someone when they are working on their technique or combinations.

Last, how long were the intensives and when did you go?
Along with the summer intensives I attended at my own studio, I also attended ones that were away. The first time I went away to a summer intensive I was was 14, and I went to Ballet Magnificat! in Mississippi for two weeks. When I was 14, and then I went to The Joffrey Ballet School in NYC for four weeks. Being in the city was difficult because not only was I away from my family at a very competitive summer dance intensive. I was also introduced to a totally different cultural environment. I had to become open minded and embrace the culture I was in while staying true to myself and convictions in order to grow as an artist. If I had closed up to change, then I would of never of been able to grow. It was scary but in the end I learned more than I ever thought I would have and had a fabulous time!

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