By Lorna Jarvis, Assistant Artistic Director, Michigan Ballet Academy.
When choosing which summer program your dancer should attend I encourage to consider the following points:
- Summer programs are a time to work intensively on technique and artistry. Students don’t have other school responsibilities and can give all their effort to their training. Attending a summer program is important because students can make significant progress.
- Define clearly what your goals are for your dancer for the summer (e.g., experience a different environment? Improve their technique?, improve their acting and artistry? Develop independence skills?). Make sure to match your goals with what the programs you are considering offer.
- It is important for young students to receive consistent training. For dancers under the ager of 15 or who have been exposed to a particular technique for only a few years it is best to continue training in that technique.
- The technique that is used develops the body in particular ways, and when you change the technique this can lead to slower technique development and under or overdeveloped muscles. Once technique is solidly in place, introduction to different techniques and styles can be beneficial to a dancer as they develop versatility.
- If you are sending your dancer to a summer program and they are young dancers please consider sending them to a program which matches their school's style and technique rather than a program with a different style since it can negatively impact them in their progress. That is, young dancers who have been trained in Vaganova technique will benefit more from a Vaganova technique summer program.
- Find out as much as you can about the programs you are considering. Consider the size of the program. How many students will there be in each class? Are the instructors experienced instructors? Do the instructors have dance experience from well-known companies? What is the curriculum like? What type of classes will they take?
- Consider in which program will your child receive strong technique instruction and personal attention? In many programs the classes are run as master classes (this means, they are good classes, but little instruction is given) and there are many different teachers with different styles. This may not always be a good strategy for young dancers. Consistency in training is extremely important.
- Be aware of satellite programs that share the name of famous schools but don’t necessarily share the same faculty or quality of instruction. Some of these programs can have large class sizes and limited personal attention and instruction.
- Learn about the curriculum of the program and the amount of dancing your dancer will do every day. Make sure it is appropriate for their age and level. Summer programs are expensive, make sure your child will be challenged and can truly make significant progress in their training.
- Be aware of the housing circumstances, supervision and meal plans services. This is important since many places contract colleges that don’t necessarily follow the diets that dancers need to stay in shape. Some programs have very strict supervision others don’t. Make sure you are comfortable with the level of supervision and the amount of freedom your dancer will have.