During my conversation with Rasta Thomas about how boys can prepare for a summer dance ballet intensive, which I wrote about in my last post, he also offered some pretty savvy advice for how our young men should conduct themselves once they actually find themselves on site and ready to begin the intensive itself. Here are a few questions I asked him on this topic and his candid replies:
Once these boys arrive at the summer intensive, what advice would you offer to them?
At that point, it comes down to ability. A lot of times schools use these intensives to cast their auditions for their year-round programs. So, you need to go there with something to prove not to anyone else but to yourself. You want to prove that you gave it your best shot, and you are going to allow for the opportunity to sign you if that is meant to be.
What do you mean by that? How does a young man “allow for the opportunity to be signed” for a year-round program like, for example, American Ballet Theatre’s school?
You need to put your best foot forward every day. Every day is an audition not for someone else but for you. Every day, every class, requires an intensive burst of energy. You have to push like a horse running out of the starting gate from the minute you wake up.
I remember I used to eat my eat my cereal in a split, do my homework in a split. I used to have sandbags at the bar to hold down my feet, I used to have friends push down my knees. Some of the best exercises are partnering exercises, so it’s great to find a good partner.
It can be tough for the boys to make friends, especially in a really competitive ballet intensive program. Do you have advice for the kids when it comes to who they befriend during a summer program?
Finding a group of kids that are there with the same principles—to work hard—is better than finding the kids that are just there to have fun.
What are your final thoughts on how young male dancers can get the most out of a summer ballet intensive?
Depending upon how serious you are, it comes down to preparation, what you want to get out of the program, and allowing yourself to be in the best shape to simply benefit the most while you are at the intensive.
Training and pushups and sit ups and cardio and lines and pirouettes and jumps and turns…These are things you work on for rest of life as a dancer. But a summer intensive allows you a focus point in a fixed amount of time to push. It’s almost like a competition or like working for a recital or like pushing your hardest to get a role or to dance with the best girl in class or just to dance with any girl in the class to get partnering experience.
Live in the studio even if class is over and nothing is going on in the studio. Bring your iPod. Bring other dancers. Make this a nonstop, 24-hour, until-you-pass-out working environment for yourself. If you can do that, you’ll benefit greatly.