Tips for Summer Intensive Success

By on June 17, 2016


Summer Intensives are just around the corner! IntensiveI have such good memories of going to various summer programs throughout my training. It is such a great experience. You get to travel, meet new people, and explore a new city, all while receiving excellent training. Summer intensives are such a great opportunity to meet like-minded people and make lifelong friends, especially because ballet dancers don’t get ample opportunity to socialize due to our busy schedules.  I actually met my best friend at a summer intensive many years ago, and we are still best friends to this day! It’s an unparalleled experience where you will receive world-class training and learn things from a different perspective. Here are my tips for success this summer:

Don’t get caught up in what level you are placed in.

Level placement is one of the biggest sources of drama at summer programs. Being in a higher level is definitely a status symbol, but the truth is that it is determined mostly by age. Of course there are always outliers that make you feel bad about yourself, but the level you’re in means absolutely nothing. It’s the same teachers and the same classes; it’s just a way for them to organize such a large volume of students. If you feel that you are placed in a level that doesn’t reflect where you are in your training, give it a try and after a couple of weeks you truly feel that you aren’t being challenged, it’s worth bringing to the attention of the director.

Remember why you’re there.

Focus. It’s easy to get distracted by a new city, new friends, and all of the new things to do and see. Keep in mind, however, the purpose for you being there. Your parents are most likely spending a lot of money for you to be able to learn as much as you possibly can. You are there to learn and to improve your technique. Follow the rules, take care of your body, and make sure you get enough sleep.

Be open to different approaches and techniques.

These days, dancers need to be chameleons. You need to be able to adapt to any style or choreographer. I remember when I went to a summer course at the School of American Ballet; I was really resistant to adapting to the Balanchine Technique at first. It felt really foreign to my body, and it went against a lot of pillars of the Russian Technique that I was accustomed to. When I finally came around and opened my mind to a new way of looking at things, it completely changed my experience. The teachers respected me more, and I enjoyed the classes way more. Remember that you are a guest at their school, so you need to follow their rules.

Sew a bunch of pointe shoes before you leave for the summer program.

The last thing you want to be doing when all of your friends are going on adventures is stay home and sew shoes; or even worse, be forced to wear dead shoes! I also remember being so exhausted at the end of a long day that sewing shoes was the last thing I wanted to do. Pack at least 2 pairs of sewn and broken in pointe shoes per each week of the summer intensive, you’ll thank yourself later!

About Alexandra Pullen

Alexandra Pullen was born in Nashville, Tennessee, and was raised in Chicago, Illinois, where she began her initial ballet training at a local community center. Pullen studied at Dance Center Evanston, Evanston School of Ballet, and Chicago Ballet Arts, and the Ruth Page School of Dance, where she joined their company, the Civic Ballet of Chicago. She trained on scholarship at the Joffrey Academy of Ballet in Chicago under Anna Reznik and Alexei Kremnev. She toured with the Joffrey Trainees to perform as Clara in The Nutcracker Suite. She studied on scholarship at summer programs of the San Francisco Ballet School, School of American Ballet, Pacific Northwest Ballet, and American Ballet Theatre. In 2012, Pullen competed in the Youth America Grand Prix Chicago Semi-Finals and received a gold medal in the classical category and a silver medal in the contemporary category. She was a Finalist in New York City. In September 2012, Pullen was awarded the Shoot for Change Scholarship to attend the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School at American Ballet Theatre, and joined ABT Studio Company two weeks later. Pullen joined ABT as an apprentice 2013 and was promoted to the corps de ballet in 2014. With ABT, Pullen's rep included Don Quixote, The Nutcracker, Giselle, Swan Lake, Coppelia, Ashton's The Dream, Manon, Cinderella, Gaite Parisienne, Les Sylphide, La Bayadere, and Twyla Tharp's Bach Partita. She toured ABT to destinations such as Abu Dhabi, Australia, Washington, D.C., and Minneapolis. This is her second season with Colorado Ballet.

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