For an aspiring dancer, attending a summer intensive can be an exhilarating and transformative experience. Some of my favorite dance memories come from the various intensives I was fortunate to attend. But there are certain things that, in hindsight, I wish I had known before embarking on this exciting journey.
I’ve previously discussed how dancers can take actionable steps to cultivate a healthy and nourished summer intensive. In this blog post, we’ll cover the top 10 insights and tips that I believe every dancer should know before heading to their intensive(s).
#1 The Importance of Preparation:
Before diving into a rigorous summer dance intensive, it’s essential to prioritize both mental and physical preparation. The most obvious: engage in sustainable conditioning, cross-training, and stretching routines to enhance your strength and flexibility. But contrary to what you might think, try not to focus heavily on the physical preparation as you’ve likely been taking part in these tests year-round. Less obvious but equally important: focus on your mindset. Building mental resilience by completing journaling practices and setting realistic expectations will help to lessen the all-or-nothing mindset that often trickles in. The Healthy Dancer® Survival Guide to Summer Intensives is a great resource for just this.
#2 Research the Program:
Each dance intensive has its own unique curriculum, teaching style, and focus. Researching the program thoroughly will allow you to align your goals and expectations with what the intensive offers. Read reviews, speak to former participants, and gain insights into the faculty to prepare for what’s ahead. But your research shouldn’t end here. Consider the food environment and how meals and snacks will be made accessible to you. Requesting a sample day’s schedule will help with snack preparation (you’re likely to need quick-and-easily digestible options like trail mix, pretzels, and shakes).
#3 Time Management is Key:
Summer intensives are often packed with back-to-back classes, rehearsals, and activities. Practicing effective time management skills will help you balance your schedule and avoid burnout. Plan snacks ahead, schedule breaks at the end of the day, and find time for non-dance experiences like ice cream dates with friends, reading, crafts, and performances.
#4 Embrace Diversity in Training:
Attending a summer intensive exposes you to a wide range of training styles, techniques, and genres. Use this as an opportunity to broaden your dance vocabulary. Be open-minded, explore new movement qualities, and learn from the diverse experiences of fellow participants.
#5 Network and Build Connections:
One of the most valuable aspects of a summer intensive is the opportunity to connect with dancers, teachers, and industry professionals. Network actively, participate in workshops and discussions, and build meaningful relationships. These connections can open doors to future opportunities and provide a supportive network within the dance community. Fun fact: I connected with the dietitian at my ABT summer intensive back in 2009. This was one of several instances that sparked my eventual journey into the world of clinical nutrition and dietetics.
#6 Don’t Be Afraid to Ask Questions:
Throughout the intensive, you’ll encounter new concepts, techniques, and choreography. Don’t hesitate to ask questions and seek clarification. The faculty and guest artists are there to guide and support you, and asking questions shows your commitment to learning and growing as a dancer.
#7 Embrace the Intensity:
Summer intensives are designed to challenge dancers physically, mentally, and emotionally. You may need to push yourself beyond your comfort zone. Growth happens when you step outside familiar territory, so be willing to take risks and fully commit to the process.
But this can also feel easier alongside support— speaking with a trusted educator and/or building a network of clinicians prior to the intensive (ie. a dietitian and/or mental health therapist) will help to identify challenges that aren’t extreme, but rather, supportive of your progress. While stepping outside your comfort zone is important, we also want to make sure you’re participating in sustainable habits (injury prevention methods) and not unsustainable behaviors like over-training.
#8 Take Care of Your Body:
With the demanding schedule of a summer intensive, it’s crucial to prioritize methods for injury prevention. Stay hydrated, fuel your body adequately, and get enough restorative sleep. Warm-up and cool down properly before and after classes, and listen to your body to avoid overexertion (use your breaks to rest… you can rehearse during times set aside for rehearsals!) Here are a handful of helpful resources to guide you:
Take it up a notch: The Healthy Dancer® Summer Intensive is an option designed to supplement your current summer dance schedule. Workshops are offered and hosted by dance medicine professionals in the fields of nutrition, injury prevention, injury recovery, conditioning, mental health, auditioning, and more. Click here to learn more about the program.
#9 Document and Reflect:
This suggestion comes from The Healthy Dancer® member Anna S. who shares, “…capture your summer intensive experience through photos, videos, and journaling. Documenting your progress and reflecting on your journey allows you to track your growth and serve as a source of inspiration in the future.” I loved this idea from Anna! Not only can you reflect upon these great memories, but also, it helps you identify areas for improvement and celebrate your achievements.
#10 Enjoy the Journey
Above all, remember to enjoy the journey and savor every moment of your summer dance intensive. It’s a unique opportunity to immerse yourself fully in your passion and connect with like-minded dancers. By arming yourself with this knowledge, you’ll be better prepared to make the most of your time and thrive during this unique opportunity for growth. Embrace the challenges, celebrate the victories, and have fun!