Disclaimer: I always get asked what the “official” term for a male dancer is. As one myself, I honestly have never been told. So, I just say “ballerino” because it sounds nice and vaguely correct. That said, I’m in no way proclaiming that this is the fancy, correct term.
Now that we have that out of our way, let’s get to the main program! This summer, I spent 5 weeks at a ballet summer program in Boston. The whole process for this summer started during audition season. This is ballet lingo for January and February, when noted ballet school from all across the country do their own national audition tour. During this tour, they stop in major cities and hold an audition for their summer program. Once this season is over and you’ve done more auditions than you ever thought you could handle, you see where you got in and say yes to your favorite.
In the ballet world, they are known as intensives, and with good reason. While our friends back home are sleeping in, we wake up around 7 in order to get to our 9 am classes. We always start with an hour and a half ballet technique class, but as the day goes on, we have a host of other classes that we take. The girls have pointe (the magical act of dancing on your toes, assisted by your pointe shoes) and the boys have men’s class, which focuses on manly things like jumps and turns. (Another FAQ: Do boys dance on pointe? The answer is NO.)
Depending on which intensive you go to, you can also have:
• Partnering, where the girl and boy dance together. Very scary at first for both parties, but you once you find the right flow, it’s very impressive.
• Pilates, where you’re on a mat on the floor and endure strenuous ab exercises that happen to be very beneficial for ballet.
• Modern, which can vary hugely based on which style the teacher does. Can be very roughly defined as dancing barefoot using movements that are similar to ballet.
And many others! Basically, if you can think of a dance style, there’s a ballet intensive that has a class for it. (Yes, I’ve taken a hip hop class. It was a very interesting experience.) And to make sure that you remember that you’re at a ballet intensive, you often have a second ballet technique class.
However! These programs are certainly not all work and no play. You stay in a dorm, usually a local university, with all of the other people in the intensive. If you’re not completely exhausted and are back by curfew, you have long breaks between classes and the weekends to go out and explore the city with all of your new friends.
More information about pre-professional ballet students! Courtesy of the lovely library, I love the documentary First Position. It follows six insanely talented teenage dancers as they prepare to train in the Youth America Grand Prix, the biggest ballet competition in the US. This competition gives out not only medals but scholarships to train at major ballet schools and even positions in a professional ballet company. In general, it does a fantastic job of showing how much young dancers go through at such a young age to chase their dream of being a professional dancer.
If you want to hear more about summer intensives, I found a New York Times article that profiles dancers at different summer intensives in New York City. I like it because it talks about intensives other than ballet, and also gives an accurate picture of how important these programs can be for the dancers who want to stay at that school year-round. Since the NY Times has a limit of 10 articles a month unless you’re a subscriber, I love using the National Newspapers Core on ProQuest. It has all the articles I want, and all you need to use them is your library card! Once you’ve logged into the database, search for “They’re Called Intensives for a Reason by Rebecca Milzoff.”