With the August Ballet Intensive right around the corner, you might be wondering if you will be ready, especially after having time off with Summer break. Whether you're trying to feel prepared going into our intensive, or you want things to think about for future intensives here or out of town, workshops, and programs (ahem... classes starting again full speed in the fall...) these tips can help you feel more prepared physically and mentally for lots of dancing.
This article is written by Leigh Schanfein, and was originally published by So Danca.
Summer programs are incredible platforms for dancers to grow as artists, technicians, and people. Because these programs are usually very demanding physically, you often find you are being asked to do a lot more than you are used to both in terms of more hours per day or week and in terms of how hard you must work during those hours. All of that physical work along with being in a different place with new people, food, schedules, and living situations can also make it an emotionally taxing time. But that doesn’t mean you can’t keep yourself healthy and happy all summer long! Part of being ready for the demands of a summer program is what you do once you are there, and part of it is what you do before you even arrive. Here are a few tips and things to think about before you go to help you get the most out of your summer program!
Do Your Physical Preparation
These are probably going to be long days with lots of dancing - this is what you signed up for so make sure your body is ready!
Be prepared physically by gradually increasing your exercise load as you approach your first day. Just as an athlete prepares for her season, as your time in the studio approaches, set a plan for yourself to very gradually increase your activity a little bit each week so you are strong and prepared to dance. Your goal is to gradually increase load.
Focus on body regions on alternating days so your muscles have a day to rest in between workouts, eg have a “leg day” followed by an upper body day followed by core.
With a long-term plan, start by focusing on working out each body region once or twice per week and then increase to two or three times per week.
Cross-train by doing movement that is not dance-specific or dance-related.
Target strength, muscular endurance, and cardiovascular endurance.
Increase your repetitions or duration to target endurance.
Increase your weight or resistance to target strength.
Make sure you are getting plenty of rest and sleep, especially if you are feeling run down or getting sick.
Do Your Mental Preparation
In addition to physical preparation, be mentally prepared before you go.
When choosing your summer program, you probably paid attention to all the details. Now it’s time to put them into context. A little research will go a long way. For example, if you find out you will be doing modern rep and you are not used to working in parallel, start doing some exercises at home that strengthen your adductors and internal rotators. When you know the demands, you can make smart adjustments and prevent overuse and fatigue. Think about how all of these things will affect you practically, and prepare.
What is the schedule? See how long the classes are, how frequent the breaks, if you have regular meal times, if you will be waking up early or staying up late in the studio.
What classes are offered? Make sure you have the right attire including footwear for each style, and that you’re somewhat comfortable in them before you go. There will probably be a dress code and you may be required to bring certain items such as a practice tutu and character shoes. If you haven’t worn those character shoes since last recital, make sure they still fit!
Who is teaching? It can give you confidence to know when you walk into the room whether you’re working with a Vagonova vs RAD teacher, or a classic vs lyrical jazz teacher.
Where will you be staying? You’ll want to know if you’re sharing a room, if you have a kitchen or access to one, with how many people you’re sharing a bathroom, if there is housekeeping service, if you can walk or need to take transportation, etc.
What do I like to do on my downtime? If you normally read, write, draw, knit, or whatever you like to do at home don’t forget to bring those things with you, even if you never end up using them!
Whether you learn new dance skills or learn how to live with roommates, summer programs help shape who you are and give you amazing new experiences. Do what you can to maximize your experience - summer programs are rich with opportunity and you’re going to have an incredible time!