Monday, June 28, 2010

I have a feeling we're not in Summer Dance camp anymore...

So what happens when a dancer turns 13 and just a little too old for the fun days of BalletMet's summer dance camp? It's time for the big leagues. As a former dance student myself, I have come to realize just how dedicated dance students are. We're not like a one-season sport that only peaks for a few months; we work year round with few breaks, and even then are usually concerned with losing technique so we pick up a class here and there. When it comes to summer dance students use the break from school to focus fully on their craft.

Around the time a serious dancer turns 12 or 13 they'll begin attending Summer programs, usually called intensives, programs, or studies. And they're not just using the name to sell spots: It is intense. Students will begin their day around 9 a.m., taking various classes with small breaks, not ending the day until 5 p.m. The programs are designed to push a dancer's limits, build endurance, and give students an idea of what a real professional dancing career is like.

These programs are available at dance schools across the country, and BalletMet is fortunate to host a Summer Intensive and a Pre-Professional Intensive. The Summer Intensive is four weeks long, but can be reduced to three weeks for younger students who may be participating for the first time. The Pre-Professional Intensive is tailored towards students on the cusp of a professional career. The great thing about this five-week program, is that students have the chance to be invited to become a part of BalletMet's year-long Pre-Professional program or even receive a trainee position with the company. Every level, from age 12-20, takes classes from a renowned faculty with years of professional dance and teaching experience.

As an intensive student for three years myself, I can honestly say that BalletMet has a fantastic program and truly pushes dancers to their physical and emotional limits. The technique classes are difficult, and I can vividly remember plopping down on the couch when I would get home at the end of the day and feeling like every muscle in my body was sore. But it's about more than just physical improvement. BalletMet focuses on developing you as a dancer in a very holistic manner, mandating classes in yoga, acting, dance history, and even personal safety. Enough about my experience -- hear from Molly Ahler, a student who attended BalletMet's intensive for several summers and has been accepted to the University of Arizona's school of dance.

"I have attended BalletMet’s Pre-Professional Summer Intensive for three summers in a row. BalletMet is such a warm and kind environment. The staff, faculty, and students are all so happy and you feel welcome as soon as you walk through the door. They really have your best interest at heart. The best part about the intensive would be the feedback you get from teachers. They want you to learn and grow as a dancer and individual, which is not something you find everywhere. Every night after I got back to the dorms, I would write down corrections to help me become a better dancer. I had a new notebook every summer to take notes. Everything you learn follows you after you leave the program.
BalletMet helped me grow as a dancer because they know how far they can push your limits. I really liked the fact that the teachers wouldn’t just give you the answer to a problem or correction. You as a student, needed to figure it out on your own. They would help guide you, but they wouldn’t spoon feed you the answer.
The intensive as a whole was incredible. The teachers were hard in class, but positive and had a good sense of humor. You get to take so many different classes and are made to think outside of the box at times.They offer a diverse selection of classes during the intensive as well as night classes. I have recommended it to many friends and some have attended or will be attending the program. I had a blast the summers I attended their intensive and it was a positive learning atmosphere. "

As Molly's testimony proves, BalletMet's Summer Intensive shows results as well. Dancers who have participated in our program are now dancing in schools and companies such as Pacific Northwest Ballet, Boston Conservatory, Richmond Ballet, Nashville Ballet, Ballet Austin, Ballet West, Butler Ballet, our own Professional company, and more.

To find out more about our programs see the Summer Intensive web site and Facebook page.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Turning, Tapping, and Twisting Across America

Last week the usual quiet mornings at BalletMet Columbus were instead filled with laughs echoing through the halls and music pounding from the studios. BalletMet's week-long Summer Dance Camp had finally arrived! This year's theme was "Moving Across America," and children looked forward to a week full of learning about and experiencing the culture of different types of dance.

Some of the children had never taken any kind of dance before while others were camp veterans, yet everyone learned something new through the entertaining classes. Participants took classes in ballet, jazz, tap, hip-hop, and modern. In addition, the students got creative in acting classes and art sessions. The goal of the classes was to take what the kids learned throughout the week and then put together a performance showcase for their families and loved ones at the end of the week.

The participants were split into three groups, each lead by older students of BalletMet Dance Academy. While all of the groups experienced many types of dance, they could only share a few pieces with their families in the closing performance. The great thing about taking many different kinds of classes during the week was that the students were able to use the skills and concepts from each art form in every class they took!

For example, one of the groups performed a hip-hop dance, where they were allowed to create their own short solo. They were able to take the moves they learned in their modern and jazz classes to use in their piece as well. Another group performed a California-themed tap number to Surfin' USA and California Girls by the Beach Boys, and were able to use surfboards they decorated in art class as a prop for their dance. That dance also featured a guest artist: One of the older Academy counselors flexed his West-Coast muscles with one of the campers!

The oldest of the three groups performed a jazz-modern fusion piece and were also given a section of dance where they could improvise their own movement. Allowing the participants to create their own movement and learn how to express themselves through art was an important aspect of the camp, and the kids practiced more improvisation in the acting classes. They played a game called "location freeze," where the instructor would say the name of a famous American landmark and the students would have to act out that place using only their bodies, no talking allowed. They were allowed to be anything; a tree, a dog, a subway car. The other game they played was called "family portraits," and they would have to pose to portray a certain family, for example, "The Rockstar Family," or "The Spongebob Family." They had a lot of fun with this!

The students learned some classical ballet and were able to show the audience a traditional "square dance." Not the kind you do in a barn, but the type of simple dance that is typically performed in big party or ball scenes of classical ballets. They also learned some historical dances and a song to go along with them!

Another cool opportunity for the students was watching some of the professsional dancers perform a demonstration. Company dancer Jackson Sarver came in and showed the campers different movements and talked about the hard work and dedication that comes with dancing. The kids also had a chance to see real costumes the dancers have worn on stage during the season shows.

The kids loved performing for their friends and family and it was great to see familiar faces from years past back for this summer's camp. The parents loved it too. "It was a great performance! It was lots of fun and amazing what they learned in 1 week!," Allison Savage, one of the dancer's parents, said. We hope to see all of the dancers back next year, and some new participants too!

See more photos from Summer Dance Camp at the Academy Facebook Page
BalletMet also offers a variety of other dance camps throughout the summer. Some even combine dancing with cooking, acting, singing, and more!! Find out more about these at our dance camp page.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Bright Nights, Foreign City

Company dancers in front of St. Basil's Cathedral in Moscow

They’re back! The fourteen dancers who travelled to Russia for the
Moscow International Contemporary Dance Festival have returned to the states bringing good reviews and Russian culture back from the East. Both the dancers and Artistic Director Gerard Charles agree the trip was a memorable, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and for some was even their first experience out of the country.

is the first American company to be invited to this festival, and this trip marks their fifth international performance. What was an even greater treat was that the company was able to visit one of the birthplaces of Ballet. Dancer Jackson Sarver thought it incredible to “be able to perform in the country that has born so many dancers before us.”

Take a look at some highlights of the trip from the dancers' perspectives!

Jackson Sarver

Jackson enjoyed the trip immensely and said he would have probably never done something like this until later in his life, if at all. However, the dancers faced several challenges while on the trip. “The floor of the stage was the biggest challenge,” Jackson said. Many older stages are “raked,” which means the back of the stage is actually set higher than the front of the stage. This is so the audience could better see the feet of the performers. However, the problem was not with the actual stage, but with the marley, the smooth gray surface the covers the floor. “It was not raked, but they laid the marley directly on the wood floor, unlike us who put down a 'sprung floor' first, then marley. It wasn’t a problem not having the sprung floor, except that the floor was ridged and uneven where it met the next piece of wood. It was like a picnic table that’s been warped a bit by sitting in the sun and heat for a few years.” Jackson also said the language barrier was thick, and they often had to “play charades” with the Russians in order to communicate. The dancers found it was easier to communicate with the people in St. Petersburg because the culture and diversity made them more willing to help out some confused Americans! Jackson also noted the White Nights as being one of the highlights of the trip. “I have a picture from the window of our hotel room at 12:30 a.m., and it looks like it’s only 8 p.m.” Jackson satisfied his so-called "historical-nerdy" side by watching the changing of the guard.

Andrew Notarile

For Andrew, this was his first experience leaving the United States! He describes the trip to Russia as “awesome, inspiring, and educational,” despite missed flights and a night spent sleeping on the floor of the Detroit airport. Like Jackson, Andrew found the stage and language barrier to be a difficulty, but enjoyed the beauty of the theatres and lively audiences. “The audiences for all the shows received us well,” Andrew said. “One thing I was not expecting was when they applaud, they clap in unison, unlike us where we clap at different times.” Andrew had the chance to go inside the Hermitage, the biggest museum in the world, with fellow dancers David Tlaiye, Annie Mallonee, and Dustin James. Though the dancers had much free time to explore the city, Andrew wished he had more time to spend in the museum. “I was telling my parents that I could spend a week or more just on the ceilings, floors, and moldings of the Hermitage alone, there is so much art to look at that it can’t be done all in one day,” Andrew said. He also found the White Nights to be especially beautiful, even though it confused his body and made it hard to fall asleep!

Adrienne Benz

“Russia was one of the most fun experiences I have ever had, with a great group of friends,” Adrienne said. She was lucky to be able to room with one of her good friends, dancer Adam Hundt. Adrienne is a big shopper, so she loved the souvenir tent shops and couldn’t get enough of the Russian nesting dolls, or as she likes to call them, “mushmoishas”. Adrienne also loved the historical sites. “The first day we got there we walked to the Red Square to see the Kremlin and St. Basil, which looked like it was from a fairy tale!” she exclaimed. The dancers also took a boat and bus tour of St. Petersburg and visited the Spilled Blood Cathedral.
Like the other dancers, Adrienne mostly stuck with familiar foods, but did try some traditional Russian cuisine. “I did try Borscht (a Russian soup), and they had great salads and even pizza,” Adrienne said. She even tried salmon caviar and didn’t think it was too bad.

Gerard Charles

Gerard and the dancers were impressed by the enthusiasm the audiences had for their performances and for dance in general. “It took us a little while to adjust our style of bowing at the end of a piece to fulfill their sustained hand clapping,” Gerard said. For their performance of Testify in Moscow, the company received a whopping 24 curtain calls. They even overheard a ballet master from the renowned Bolshoi Ballet saying it was worth waiting to see BalletMet perform Topsy. Despite slippery stages, feet caught in costumes, and music malfunctions, BalletMet gave performances to be remembered by the audiences. “At the last performance of the last piece just as the curtain was to open on Topsy, the person who ran the music told me she had the wrong music for the piece,” Gerard said. He had to run up and down three flights of stairs to fix the problem and said he “was still breathing heavily as the curtain closed.”
Gerard said that taking the overnight train ride from Moscow to St. Petersburg was a fun experience, though fitting all the people and luggage onto the train was like playing a game of Tetris.

To see more photos of the trip to Russia check out our Facebook photo album

Thursday, June 3, 2010

School's Out for Summer

BalletMet's professional dancers typically end their season after the final performance in the spring. However, this year, 14 dancers were selected to tour Russia. Some of the selected dancers are Adrienne Benz, Emily Gotschall, Dustin James, Bethany Lee, Andrew Notarile, Jimmy Orrante, and Emily Ramirez. These dancers performed in Moscow and in St.Petersburg in the Moscow International Contemporary Dance Festival. We'll have an overview of the trip for you soon.

So what else will our dancers be doing this summer?

Jimmy Orrante will be teaching dance at Blue Lake, a summer fine arts camp in Michigan. The Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp is a summer camp that offers fine arts education to more than 5,300 gifted elementary, junior high, and high school students. Jimmy and his wife have been teaching dance classes at Blue Lake for several years and really enjoy it!

After returning from Russia, Adrienne Benz and Emily Ramirez will be dancing for the National Choreographers Initiative in California. The National Choreographers Initiative was developed to promote the creation and production of professional dance. It is a workshop setting where choreographers can initiate new work as well as experiment and develop their craft. This is an opportunity to develop and produce dance in support of the national dance community by inviting choreographers of note to participate in this project. Adrienne has been dancing for the National Choreographers Initiative for several years, but this will be Emily’s first year.

David Tlaiye is traveling this summer to visit friends and family. Many of the dancers like to take their summers to travel and relax until next season!

BalletMet hopes all the dancers have a great summer and we'll see them when they return in August for the 2010-2011 season!