The human body is amazing. It can thrive in countless climates and situations. It is a beautiful and powerful instrument for art, expression, and athleticism. However, there are limits to the human body and dance consistently pushes those limits. Many times, dancers push their instrument to the very brink and much of the time the amazing human body withstands and provides strength and endurance at the very end. But sometimes it simply does not hold up to those extreme demands.
Growth and Recovery. As dancers choose a summer intensive, finding the timing and balance of programs is critical for longevity in dance. As dance is a young sport and many important decisions are made at younger ages, balancing dance advancement and body recovery becomes increasingly difficult. If a dancer is still growing, the body needs even more recovery time. This recovery time is not only in a given day, but also over a season and a year. Making smart choices for a summer intensive can give the dancer an opportunity for growth, and also time for recovery. These choices not only include asking the right questions about a specific intensive, but also by defining what a dancer hopes to achieve by the end of the summer. Balancing time at a program and free time is critical.
Do your research. Some things to ask a potential intensive program include “a day in a life” of the dancers. Are there breaks in the day for recovery? Does the program provide education on wellness, body positivity, nutrition? A visit to a program or asking prior participants can give an idea if dancers have fun during the intensive. Many times, the questions asked are about success, accomplishments, and advancing dance training. These are the basic questions you must ask about the credibility and standards of the intensive. However, do not forget to ask if the participants enjoy their time during the program. Once you’ve established your list of intensives, make sure to also do your research regarding happiness and enjoyment of prior students.
Maximizing the gaps. During busy summer intensives, and other busy times of the year, there may be less time to keep up with cross training. There are a few exercises that can be done while you are standing on the side, in between barre and center, or as part of your warm up. Simple things like standing and walking with engaged core muscles can give you a work out. It is impressive how strong your core and hip rotation can become by simply keeping them activated and engaged during “normal” daily activities.
Practice active learning. Asking questions during class can be intimidating, and it is not always appropriate to interrupt class with a question. However, it is also important to understand how to do a new technique correctly. Often summer intensives provide opportunities to learn new techniques and styles. This can be a wonderful opportunity for growth, but can also put a dancer at risk for injury when trying something new. Making sure a new skill is done correctly is important for health, but learning to ask the right question at the right time also lets a teacher know how much attention is focused on being the best dancer possible. If there is not a good time during class, a time after or before classes or simply checking with the teacher’s policies can optimize summer learning.
Intensives should be a time of growth and progression in dance. They can also be a time of stress and pressure. Researching the best fit and a balanced program can help an intense summer program build more than dance technique. Developing wellness practices, self-care, independence, and enjoying dance during stressful times are important goals for summer as well. Finding balance and excitement during a new intensive can enhance students’ experience and retention. Dance Healthy, Dance Happy!
Writer: Kathleen Davenport , MD