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Tag Archives: Summer Intensives

By Nichelle Suzanne
February 4, 2016


When you don’t have much experience outside your home studio, figuring out which of many summer dance programs best suits you is difficult. As a young dancer, your worst fear may be to arrive at a dance intensive only to discover that you don’t enjoy the atmosphere of the program and are going to be stuck there for several weeks of your summer.

Sixteen-year-old, Divya Rea from Wheaton, Illinois and Noah Miller, 17 years old, from Lake Forest, California faced the same fears and decisions in their hunt for the right summer dance program. They found the Houston Ballet Academy summer intensive and now attend the school’s year-round program in Texas’s largest city.

Noah began looking out of state for a summer dance program when he was fifteen after receiving a very direct signal that it was time. “I was approached at YAGP (Youth America Grand Prix) and given the offer and knew that people were beginning to look at me and I needed to be seen by more people,” he says.

It was important to Noah that a program’s teachers look at each individual student and care for them. He also took into account his future, considering the types of dancers the companies usually hired.
Noah attended two, much shorter summer intensives before eventually settling on Houston Ballet’s program.

Shelly Power, Houston Ballet Academy Director (who will begin her new role as Artistic Director and CEO of Prix de Lausanne this summer), thinks students should experience a variety of summer programs. “However,” she adds, “when they are getting close to realizing where they wish to concentrate their future training or time, they should be consistent with one program. This is usually for the older student.”

Divya has been auditioning for summer dance programs since she was 12 but didn’t feel ready to leave home for the summer until she was 13 years old. “Not only did I feel ready to take care of myself,” she remembers, “the director of my home studio told me he thought I was ready to go.”

Divya reminds younger students that it’s okay to be nervous. “Going anywhere new can be scary, especially far away from home. It is normal to worry about where you fit in and what might happen, but don’t let those worries override your excitement. Going to a summer dance intensive is an unforgettable experience. You will meet so many people from different places who all have the same passion for dance that you do. I remember before my first summer program, I would stay awake at night thinking about all the uncertainty in the coming weeks. But, by the end of the six weeks I had made so many new friends and I was reluctant to leave them and go back home.”


Read more:


So what are the important questions students should ask?

Don’t Make the Decision Alone

Narrowing It Down

The Choice Is Made


Copyright 2016 Dance Advantage



Zachary Alsop, Ryan DeAlexandro, and Dillon Perry in Men'sClass at Ballet San Jose School (photo by Scott Belding)

By Crystal Chow
San Jose Mercury News
February 12, 2014

[San Jose, California, USA] – When José Manuel Carreño arrived at Ballet San Jose last summer as its new artistic director, he made no secret of his desire to elevate the company’s profile. That mission began with a splashy gala in November featuring high-powered guest artists from American Ballet Theater–where Carreño spent years as a principal dancer–plus San Francisco Ballet, New York City Ballet and Boston Ballet.

Now Ballet San Jose wants to become a magnet for aspiring male dancers, who are a critical component of any ballet organization. Females always greatly outnumber their gender opposites in this rarified world. As Dalia Rawson, principal of Ballet San Jose School and director of its trainee program, reasons, “How can we do Swan Lake if we don’t have a prince?”

While females concentrate on pointe work, “males do more tricks, bigger jumps and flashier turns in classical ballet repertoire. There’s a certain vocabulary that’s required,” Rawson says. “When you have a class of all girls and one boy, there’s no time to drill that stuff.”

Although Rawson claims San Jose actually has an “extremely strong” male program, BSJ has just announced the Carreño male dancer training initiative. For the all-important summer intensive, a highly competitive program that provides pre-professional training for experienced young dancers, scholarships–for guys only–will be offered. Moreover, Carreño himself, with faculty members such as Mads Eriksen, a one-time Royal Danish Ballet soloist, and former BSJ principal Le Mai Linh, will give special attention to the male participants.

Another selling point for the intensive: BSJ will follow ABT’s national training curriculum. In 2011, San Jose formed a partnership with American Ballet Theatre, becoming the only institution on the West Coast with such certification.

BSJ plans to offer a minimum of three tuition scholarships in this inaugural year of the male-focused initiative, with Rawson hoping for as many as five. The intensive will run July 7 through Aug. 1, with room for 120 students. For all participants there will also be chaperoned housing available at San Jose State University dorms, another first.

Before he attended BSJ’s summer intensive last year, Zachary Alsop, 20, a company trainee, was fairly new to dancing. A former pole vaulter at Santa Teresa High School, he was persuaded by a friend to check out a local dance studio with her two years ago. He fell hard for ballet and quickly considered it for a career.

“I grew more in the four weeks [at the intensive] than I had in the year and a half at the dance studio,” he says. Alsop’s talent and, equally important, his dedication were recognized at the summer event. He’s now a member of BSJ’s trainee program, a one- to two-year course intended as a steppingstone to a professional job. An apprenticeship would be the next level and then, if he’s very lucky, an offer from a ballet company would result.

In fact, in 10 years Alsop sees himself as a principal, the highest spot one can attain in his profession. “I just want to dance forever,” he says. “I just love it.”

Rawson and Eriksen are quick to emphasize that Alsop’s rapid progression–starting ballet at 18, for starters–is far from typical. Many years of training is the more conventional route; BSJ offers classes for children as young as 3 and 4. (Rawson is often out at Mommy & Me and Daddies, Too get-togethers at Santana Row, talking up the joys of introducing one’s tyke to ballet.)

However, as Eriksen cautions, “When you’re training at an early age, it’s to enhance the rest of your life. When they’re 6 or 7, they shouldn’t just be dancing. We encourage everybody to do other activities. Go play soccer, learn an instrument, because when you hit 13 or 14 for boys, you really have to make a choice that ballet is what you want to do.”

As far as the summer intensives, Eriksen likens them to colleges recruiting prime talent for their football squads. “We’re trying to create a team, too, ” he says.

These few weeks act as a showcase for girls and boys–at BSJ it’s restricted to ages 11 to 20–who are serious about making a living in ballet. “Our main goal is to get our kids into the company we’re affiliated with, but there are always too many kids for company spots,” Eriksen continues. “So our real goal is to get our kids into any company. In order to do that, they have to be seen.”

“Everyone has a summer intensive; it’s very competitive,” Rawson adds. “There are a handful in the United States that everyone wants to go to–Boston Ballet, New York City Ballet, ABT, Pacific Northwest in Seattle, San Francisco and Houston.” BSJ’s seven-city audition process is already under way. The next one will be held Feb. 16 at the company’s headquarters in downtown San Jose.

“That’s where having someone like José spearheading the male dancer training initiative is really great,” Rawson says, citing his star power and reputation as a teacher. Carreño is also on the board of the Youth America Grand Prix, billed as the world’s largest student ballet scholarship competition. The finals will be held in New York City in April, where he’ll be scouting for talent.

According to Rawson, BSJ’s school has grown 30 percent in the two years since the implementation of the ABT curriculum, and is doing well at both attracting and retaining students. Despite the company’s recent budget-tightening changes, which include dropping Saturday matinees, she is cheerfully confident.

“The training initiative started a couple of years ago, but now we want to become a world-class institution,” she declares. “We have a student body whose talent deserves that.”

For more information about Ballet San Jose’s Summer Intensive, visit or call 408.288.2820, extension 223.

Copyright © 2014 San Jose Mercury News

By Nina Amir
January 29, 2014

I’ve gotten several questions in the past two years about the School of American Ballet’s summer program as well as about the year-round residential program. Parents and boys are wondering if the program is rigorous enough compared to others, like American Ballet Theater (ABT). They also want to know if the residential program is a good choice. Hopefully my response comes early enough for those of you still making summer intensive decision for 2014. If not, it will help many of you in forthcoming years.

Read about Julian’s experience at SAB:

© Copyright 2013 Nina Amir

By Juliette Dupré
Classical Ballet Teacher
February 2, 2013

Rina Kirshner is the Vice President of the Russian American Foundation and directs the Bolshoi Ballet Academy Summer Intensive. I was fortunate to speak with Ms. Kirshner recently about the program’s features and the many opportunities it provides, as well as what they are looking for in auditions.

JD: Was the BBASI your brainchild? What inspired you to pursue cultural development specifically through ballet?

RK: Actually, the program first came to the US many years ago through a partnership with the Ford Foundation. They would come to the US for 1-2 weeks in the summer as an elite full-scholarship program. Ten or fifteen years ago, the program ended, but someone who believed in the program later brought it to our attention because they believed the Russian American Foundation was an organization that could support the initiative successfully. This was almost seven years ago. We felt right away the value of the program not only as pre-professional training but from a more global perspective. To really understand Russian classical ballet you really also need to be aware of the culture, language and people. So we positioned the program early on to be an all-encompassing opportunity.

JD: The Bolshoi Academy is known for developing students with a highly intensive program from a fairly young age. How do you condense that syllabus down for US students who often experience a comparatively diluted regimen over their years of training?

RK: I believe that the program has served great value to all parties involved and not just the participants. Many stereotypes were adjusted and broken from both sides. When we first started, the thought was that only students with perfect form could be professional dancers. It was discovered that American students who may not be subject to a strict regimen or have that form are also very talented students that can benefit from the program. We now have 50 students, two that have joined the Bolshoi school, and one that joined the company. Our students are embraced by the teachers and other Bolshoi students as hard workers. It’s been transformational for both sides.

The Academy has grown to respect the dedication of American students. Maybe I would have answered this very differently seven years ago. But these American students are not at a disadvantage. There is a natural amount of talent that is required, but we’ve had students that are shorter or don’t have the typical body. Some work even harder because they are catching up in comparison with the students who have been available to the Bolshoi teachers from such a young age. The fact that the pace in the intensive is much faster and more rigorous than the academy is fact. The fact that students not normally subject to the Russian regimen can maintain that pace with those who are speaks volumes.

Read the entire interview:

By Nina Amir
My Son Can Dance
Febuary 4, 2013

Patel Conservatory Summer Intensive

With summer ballet intensives the topic of conversation at this time of the year, I’d like to take the time to address a question I often get from dance moms and dads: When is the right time to send my dancin’ boy off to an expensive summer intensive?

Let me preface my answer by saying that every boy is different. And his teacher will know best when the time is right for him to branch out and go somewhere else to be seen and to experience other teachers. I am by no means an expert at evaluating if a dancin’ boy is at the perfect level or emotional state to leave the womb of his current studio and venture out into what might be a very different and much more competitive environment from what he is used to.

However, I want to caution you that your son’s dance teachers may not always be the right ones to ask for advice either. Some schools and teachers encourage participation in summer intensives outside the school. Others frown on it or even disallow it. Keep in mind that if you ask your son’s teacher or school director for advice, he or she may have his or her own interests at heart as well as your dancin’ boy’s interests. By this I mean that dance studio owners and dance teachers have fears—and with good reason—that if they send their students off to other schools for the summer, the boys won’t come back. And with boys so hard to come by, they may be inclined to advise your son to stick around for their in-house intensive rather than risk losing him to some other school (and possibly a school with more boys and a bigger or better program).

This is where being the best dance mom or dad means becoming your son’s manager. Literally. If you don’t have someone you can trust to ask for advice—someone with no financial interest in your son’s career—then you must start managing his career for him. You must learn to do what you feel is best for him.

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How to Prepare for a Summer Ballet Intensive

Bolshoi Ballet gives students a six-week lesson in dance

By Brynn Mandel
July 22, 2012

Middlebury, Conn. — The ballerinas wear name tags scrawled in Cyrillic. On the dance floor in a studio at the private Westover School in Middlebury, the action is intense, precise and unrelenting. A pianist pounds out chords in a corner, accompanying wave after wave of twirling and leaping dancers. One crop of lanky, graceful girls swiftly replaces the next.

The clop, clop, clop of 26 pointe shoes moving in unison competes with the music. Front and center, a short, stout middle-aged woman mimics a modified version of the dance, prompting the girls under her tutelage to push higher, or tilt heads at different angles.

“Da, da, dap, da, da, dap,” cries the dancer-turned-Bolshoi Ballet Academy instructor Natalya Revich, clapping in staccato as the music and movements pick up pace.

Sometimes, this onomatopoeia works better than words, especially here at the summer intensive program of the Bolshoi Ballet Academy.

For the past five summers, the renowned, more than-two-century-old Russian ballet company has brought its program for several weeks to Middlebury. The program expanded a year after starting in Middlebury to serve older, more advanced students in New York City. Master dancers and teachers train a rising generation in the exacting methods of the Bolshoi, which has launched many world-class dancers’ careers.

Increasingly, the stateside summer program has produced not only more highly trained dancers, but also a burgeoning cultural exchange. In addition to daily classes in classical technique and character dance — a theatrical take on folk dance — students receive Russian language instruction.

The program is backed by the nonprofit Russian American Foundation. In addition to the mingling of cultures, the academy and foundation offer scholarships for stateside students to travel on scholarship to train in Russia in a program supported by the U.S. Department of State. This year, the cross-cultural efforts yielded the first American graduate from the Bolshoi Ballet Academy, a Texas teen who has been among the trickle of American students traipsing across the ocean to study at the company.

About 70 percent of the institute students come from the U.S., while 30 percent hail from as far as Russia, Latin America and Switzerland. Auditions were held last winter in major cities and by video for international students.

Patti Buchanan, who heads Westover’s dance department, quipped that she always got a kick out of the audition announcements. “They put out these big posters for auditions. Los Angeles. Miami. New York,” she said, sweeping her hands for dramatic effect from side to side with each city’s name. She paused, smiled, then fisted and flared her fingers as she added emphatically: “And Middlebury, Connecticut.” It demonstrates how “huge” it is to have such a high-caliber program here, she said, adding it’s a boon to local dancers who win scholarships — one full and one partial — through competition in the annual Connecticut Classic.

Organizers estimated that about five dancers auditioned for every slot in the academy’s summer program. In Middlebury, 120 dancers between ages 9 an 14 spend about five hours daily refining everything from their pointe to partnering skills. The New York program, held at Lincoln Center, enrolls about 150 dancers.

Though the participants speak different languages, they are all fluent in dance. Rina Kirshner, vice president of the Russian American Foundation, said although 90 percent of the teachers do not speak English, 80 percent of the language used in lessons consists of ballet terminology.

“Hopefully by the time they’re done, they’ll know some Russian language, too,” said Kirshner, explaining in addition to dance instruction, the program aims to foster cultural exchange. In fact, between time designated for swimming and stretching, students also receive Russian language lessons. “They are really immersed.”

In rare cases during ballet class when something gets lost, translators perch a few steps from the Bolshoi instructors. Amid thundering heel and toe digs of boys and girls rehearsing character dance, translator Anya Tchoupakov speaks seconds behind instructor Evgenia Myachkova.

Typically, summer intensive participants have been dancing for years, and therefore have had exposure to Russian ballet methods. Such was the case for Jolie Moray, a 14-year-old dancer from Los Angeles who trains at home with renowned former Bolshoi Ballet dancer Yuri Grigoriev. “My teacher at home only speaks Russian to us,” said Moray, who was spending her third summer at Westover. She said the teachers, the training and the friends lure her back. “We dance all day long. It’s fun, because you’re with friends and people who love to dance. It’s tiring, but you think about the end result.”

Damiano Scarfi, of Middletown, won one of this year’s Connecticut Classic scholarships. The 14-year-old trains at Woodbury Ballet, where he explained he’s “used to” Russian instruction as he trains under a teacher from the country known for ballet.

Tuition costs about $3,300 for the three-week session, and more than $6,400 for six weeks, including room and board, though organizers note close to 30 percent of students receive scholarships.

At the end of the program, the ballet company’s academy extends invitations to select students to train at the Moscow school.

“It’s an extremely rigorous and life changing thing,” said Kirshner.

Last year, about 25 American students traveled to Russia. And at the end of the summer, one male and one female dancer will win full scholarships to train for two weeks at the Moscow academy and to perform in its gala.

The Bolshoi program has grown from about 60 dancers the first year to more than quadruple that between New York and Middlebury. One past participant, David Hallberg, advanced from the summer intensive to earn a spot as the first American dancer to become permanent member of the Bolshoi Ballet Company. Hallberg, a native of South Dakota, also is a principal dancer with American Ballet Theatre.

“We keep growing it,” Kirshner said of the program which concludes later this month. “We’re very committed to it because we see how it transforms dancers.”

Copyright ©2012 The Republic

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David Hallberg leaps from ABT to the Bolshoi

Hallberg becomes the first American to join the Bolshoi

Nina Amir author of  Mysoncandance recently asked Rasta Thomas for advice on how boys can best prepare for summer intensives.
How to Prepare for a Summer Ballet Intensive: Rasta Thomas Offers Advice (Part 1)

How to Get the Most Out of a Summer Ballet Intensive: Rasta Thomas Offers Advice (Part 2)


…Rasta spent his early years in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Trained at the Kirov Academy in Washington DC, under Oleg Vinogradov, Rasta made dance history as the youngest recipient of the Jury Prize at the Paris International Ballet Competition in Washington DC, the Junior Gold Medal at Varna at fifteen and the coveted Senior Gold Medal at the Jackson International Ballet Competition when he was only sixteen.

Appearing as a guest artist with the most prestigious ballet companies throughout the world, Rasta has appeared with the Kirov Ballet in Russia, The Joffrey Ballet in Chicago, the K–Ballet in Japan, Lar Lubovitch, Complexions and American Ballet Theater in New York, Universal Ballet of Korea, Alonzo King’s Lines Contemporary Ballet in San Francisco, and the Beijing Central Ballet in China to name a few.

In 2007 Rasta debuted his own company, Bad Boys of Dance, at Jacob’s Pillow. This dazzling, high energy, all male company combines the best of ballet, Broadway, Tango, and Hip Hop to showcase male virtuosity at its best. You can read  more about Rasta here.

If anyone knows what boys go through as they make there way in the world as dancers, Rasta does. And if anyone can given them advice about a ballet intensive, Rasta can

– Nina Amir, Mysoncandance, How to Prepare for a Summer Ballet Intensive: Rasta Thomas Offers Advice (Part 1)
Related article: ‘Bad boy’ becomes global sensation


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