The Ultimate Guide to Summer Dance Intensives
I’ll admit it – Internet Land is choc-full of different guides to summer dance intensives. Do we really need one more? Well sure, seeing as each guide seems to have their own tidbits of information, and this guide has all of those tidbits.
Yep, I’m claiming this is one of the best – perhaps THE best – guide on surviving summer dance intensives out there. Because I read all those other guides and took the best stuff from each. You’re welcome.
Let’s start with packing. Take all the dance clothes you think you need for the summer dance intensive. THEN DOUBLE THAT AMOUNT. Unless you want to do a lot of hand-washing, or have access to an on-site laundromat. Sweaty dancers are often only one clothing-change away from becoming smelly dancers.
Because summer dance intensives are – well, intense – the wise dancer starts gearing up for the extra work early. Some experts recommend a cross-training regime – running, jump rope, swimming, etc., but anything that brings up your stamina will do. And for Dog’s sake, do warm-ups before class.
Save those pea-sized serving portions for models too skinny to menstruate. How are you supposed to get-down-with-your-bad-self all day with zero energy? Eat meals with lots of meat or other proteins for your muscles. And fiber. Lots of fiber. Also, multivitamins! They can help cover any important nutrients you may have missed.
When it comes to snacking during the day, get to know two granola brands: Cliff and Kashi. They are your friends. Lower budget options include fruit and nuts, and I personally love me a good Bulk Barn trail mix. If you need a more immediate kick in your yoga pants, Gatorade can do the trick, but stay below the one bottle/day limit.
Speaking of drinking: WATER IS LIFE. Drink before class, after class, during class. Go pee, then drink some more. Know this: You need twice as much water as you get thirsty for. Twice people. I’ll drink to that (see what I did there?)
Is that regular soreness, or I’m-about-to-tear-a-tendon soreness? Do you really want to keep pushing yourself 200% until the difference is made clear? Speak up people! Mention it to your teachers, or consult a physical therapist, if available. Above all, don’t be afraid to just mark the moves until that “funny feeling” goes away.
Sleep may be the single most important thing you do at summer dance intensives (other than, well, dancing), so don’t be stingy. Many experts recommend sticking to a regular evening routine, so your body mentally prepares for sleep before it actually happens. The occasional wild night notwithstanding.
And don’t gamble on some cheap place because you only plan to use it for sleep. A cheap place means cheap beds, cheap walls against other noise, etc. If budget is a concern, embrace the miracle of AirBnb, and find a nearby place with good ratings.
As they say in The Sunscreen Song, “your body is the greatest instrument you’ll ever own”. So treat it once and awhile to a massage, a stretching party with friends, or a soak in epsom bath salts. It will thank you with restored energy and better performance.
First time learning from your favourite coach? Swallow your nerves and introduce yourself! That goes for your classmates too. And yes, there will always, always be some dancers who are better than you. You can either let that discourage you, or you can watch carefully to see what they’re doing right – and not so right.
Those new techniques you learned don’t feel right in your body? GOOD. Your body can’t tell what correct technique is until it’s trained to. So anything different from what you already do is going to feel a little weird. Take it as a good sign.
Want to maximize your progress at summer dance intensives? Follow these steps: 1. Set goals for what you want to accomplish, and 2. STAY. ON. THOSE. GOALS. Don’t get derailed by all the other awesome stuff going on. I’m not saying you can’t have fun and try some cool-looking class that catches your eye, but don’t do it all summer.
That said, summer dance intensives are a great time to stretch out of your comfort zone, so if something off the beaten path gets you fired up, go for it! Yes, it will be scary: All growth is, at first.
I don’t care how good your memory is, unless you are Sherlock Holmes born in a dancer’s body, you are going to forget a LOT of what you learn. Take a few minutes during lunchtime to jot down the important notes, and repeat at the end of the day.
Okay, I’ve a pet peeve about people telling me to “hit the mental reset button” on any frustrations I have from the day before. I don’t want to reset – I want to remember. So here’s some personal advice: Don’t forget the bad sh*t; LEARN from it. Replace it with a new plan so you can come back next time hitting harder.
It DOES help to ac-cent-uate the positive, so try practicing a little gratitude. Remember how lucky you are to be here, raising your game at a summer dance intensive with trained and talented experts. Focusing on that stuff will keep the bastards from grinding you down.
If your summer dance intensive lasts the whole summer, it can leave you feeling a little homesick. Distract yourself by exploring the surrounding area – go on a tour, a hike, something different. And I’ve yet to meet parents who wish their son or daughter called them less – just sayin’.
As dancers, we tend to be hard on ourselves, even going so far as using our victories on Thursday to beat us up for sucking on Saturday. Stop doing that guys! As one instructor points out, everyone is entitled to the occasional “blue funk day”. And if you did it once, you can do it again. Let that inspire you!
Finally, summer dance intensives can be a great place for networking and friend-making, so get as many numbers and Facebook friends as you can before you leave, and stay in touch! You never know where a new connection might lead…
A (not so small) Packing List
Finally, what guide on summer dance intensives would be complete without an exhaustingly-long list of what to bring? This is the longest list I could find (thanks Bunheadwithtutus!) with a few modifications from Yours Truly, but feel free to suggest other additions in the comments section. Cheers!
A dance bag
At LEAST three water bottles
Fruits and vegetables (or your favourite healthy snake)
Dance shoes – whatever your style of dance is (bring flats and pointe shoes for ballet)
Needle and thread (a MUST)
Practice or character shoes
Bobby pins, clips, hairnets, hair ties (you never know when you will need them)
Mints (especially for partnered dances)
Skirts or shorts
Leg Warmer’s and other warm ups
A small mirror
About the Author
Ian Crewe has been dancing ballroom for over 18 years, and has a Licentiate in American smooth and rhythm. His passion for dance eventually led him to blogging and the World Wide Web. Ian currently teaches at the Joy of Dance Centre, Toronto, ON, Canada.