Sweet, sweet summertime - lazy days and late nights, sleepovers and family vacations - we look forward to summer as a welcome reward for a productive dance year. While everyone, students and teachers alike, should absolutely enjoy the relaxed pace of the summer season, there is also a wealth of knowledge to be gained from continuing your dance training in between recital and company auditions. IDA judges and teachers Kelsey Nelson, Maddie Kurtz, and Jessica Olinik share with us some exciting ideas for training in the off-season.
“To me, summer is the absolute best time to reinvest in our training!” says Maddie Kurtz, recent MFA graduate of SUNY Brockport. “First, it’s a time when we can let go of stresses related to school and other outside pressures, which allows us to devote all of our time and energy to dancing. Plus, if you’re from an area with a colder climate, the warm weather is ideal for flexibility training, which is an awesome bonus! No matter how amazing our dance teachers are during the year and no matter how much we love our dance families, there’s something about new approaches to teaching, different usages of language, and new environments of students that often make a huge difference in our learning. All it takes is one teacher explaining a concept in a new way for an epiphany to happen—it’s like when you get an awesome critique from a competition wherein a judge happens to say something in a new way that clicks. Our brains and bodies are all different, so the ways in which we process information vary—which means that we need to vary how we attend to our training.” The options for summer training are endless. There are long term summer intensives, drop in classes, workshops, not to mention all the different online venues to explore.
Kelsey Nelson, IDA judge from Tampa, is developing some excellent online training tools for dancers. She explains, “I find that dancers sometimes don't think outside the studio when it comes to training and if they get just a little creative and think outside of only dance, dancers can push themselves and grow all on their own. Consider checking out Youtube to do yoga or even a HITT workout, find a combo you love on someone’s Instagram page and study it to learn it on your own, film yourself or take pictures of yourself in stretches or controlled movements like a passé in rélevé and push yourself to hold it longer, address your technical shortcomings, and work to fix them. The more that a dancer can learn to self evaluate, the stronger and quicker they are to address corrections in class.” Kelsey’s training videos stemmed from her research into cross-training for dancers. This video, filmed exclusively for Impact Dance Adjudicators, is just a sneak peak of the kind of videos Kelsey will be offering:
Kelsey, who teaches at Victoria's School of Dance in Riverview, FL, says, “The purpose of this video is to focus on strengthening while you are also stretching and targeting multiple muscle groups and functions at once. When we dance, we have to have an all-encompassing understanding of the body and how to properly use it in movement and technique.” Some other great resources include websites that provide dance instruction. For a reasonable fee, dancers in more remote areas of the country can access classes and combinations from excellent teachers and choreographers at www.danceplug.com. For the tappers, Kaelyn Gray created Tap Dance Tutorials at www.bringtaptothepeople.com, where tap dancers of all levels can learn basics, brush up on old favorites and find inspiration.
Another benefit to training in the summer is the opportunity to try something new. World dance styles, martial arts, partnered dance styles and folk styles are sometimes forgotten about in the dance competition world, but can be incredibly beneficial, not to mention exciting, to learn. Jessica Olinik, dance teacher and IDA judge from Parkesburg, PA, says, “Don’t be afraid to try new things and grow as a dancer. If you really wanted to try Ballroom, take a ballroom class locally. If you’re interested in dancing on a dance team in college, take pom classes and see if there are dance team clinics in your area. Every opportunity a dancer takes not only means growth and development, it also equals new dance friends. Never cut yourself short and grow…that goes for teachers, too!” A great way to keep dance involved in your life during the summer is to watch it! Even if you’re on a family vacation, you can easily find out if there is a local dance company putting on a show. Maddie says, “It’s so important to see as much dance as possible to figure out what excites you (and what doesn’t!) Some of my favorite places to see dance in the summer include the American Dance Festival in North Carolina, The Bates Dance Festival in Maine, Jacob’s Pillow in Massachusetts, and The Joyce Theater in New York City. I’ve seen some incredible—and highly varied—works at all of these venues over the years and look forward to seeing even more and continuing to feel inspired as both a dancer and choreographer!” Many cities have smaller venues that sell reasonably priced tickets, and there are often free festivals happening outside in the summer that offer all kinds of performances. The more varied your viewing experience, the more inspiration you will have to take with you to the studio!
No matter how hard you train in the summer, absolutely make time to relax, recharge, and set goals for the next dance year. Explore your other interests - well rounded people make the best dancers! Eat well, spend time with friends and family, and enjoy the time off, because quicker than you can mark a double pirouette, you’ll be back in class!
Photo & Video Provided By Kelsey Nelson Lack - Studio: Victoria’s School of Dance, Riverview, FL