June 2009
by Nicole Rhoden

It’s summertime at last! School is out, but it doesn’t have to be the end of your dance season. Take some time to relax, but there’s no reason for summertime to leave you out of shape for fall. In fact, summer is a great time to branch out and experiment with different techniques and instructors that ultimately will make you a more versatile dancer. Without the distraction of learning choreography for a show every day, you may focus on yourself and what you’d like to improve about your technique.

Dina Ballard, dancer with AMEBA Acrobatic and Aerial Dance, studied at Cecchetti Council of America International Summer School for 6 years before returning as a counselor. She explains, “Having many different inputs and styles of teaching helped prepare me for auditions and workshops later in my dance training. It keeps you fresh and quick in taking corrections and picking up combinations. If you always study with the same teacher, you get comfortable with that style and can start to predict things. Also, you can never have too many teachers or opinions because what one may say about alignment could be the phrase that makes it all click and be the magic change that you were waiting for.”

Chicago has a vast variety of summer dance programs to offer, whether you’re a kid (or beginner adult!) looking for some summer fun, or a professional looking to expand your repertoire.

What should one look for in a summer dance program? The first step is examining your or your child’s interests and what you hope to gain from the experience. Research thoroughly what the dance program emphasizes. Cross-training in different dance genres is often beneficial, but if your eight-year-old is a hip hop fanatic, she may not be so thrilled with a week of Cechetti camp. Also try to research the faculty of the camp. Read their bios, watch their videos, and learn more about their style of choreography to decide if their methods are for you.

Secondly, familiarize yourself with the level and caliber of dancer that attends the camp. Some camps, especially at the preteen age group and older, may be more pre-professional focused and aren’t an ideal option for non-serious dancers. “Choose a camp that will push you to work beyond your comfort zone but still allow you to train properly and attain something in the end,” suggests Ballard. “If it’s too difficult or stressful, not only will it not be fun, but there won’t be any reward in your technique.”

Dancers should also consider the schedule and time frame of the camp. “Two weeks is a great length for a first time away for teens,” says Ballard. It is just long enough to become familiar with the students and faculty. However, a week or two away from for a young child may be too much to handle. It may be best to start with a day camp program (as are the young children’s camps listed below) before working up to an overnight camp. If you or your child is attending an overnight dance intensive, Ballard also suggests researching how well prepared the camp is to handle emergencies and injuries. “Is there a trainer on site? When researching an overnight camp, I would think of worst case scenarios and find the answers.”

So change out of that swimsuit and back into your leotard, at least for a part of the summer! You’ll be glad you did.