Wednesday, July 20, 2011

NGB Guest blog: advice from the pros

I really can’t believe that there are only two weeks left in the summer program.  At the beginning, five weeks sounded like a lifetime, but now two weeks sounds like it will go by so fast. So for this week’s blog, instead of writing about my life, I’ve asked advice from Next Generation Ballet’s artistic director, Peter Stark and Patel Conservatory Youth Ballet’s principal Melissa Stafford about how to get the most out of your last two weeks of the summer program.
Q: What advice would you give students for these last few weeks?
PS: Focus more on yourself and don’t compare yourself with other students. This is important because there will always be someone ahead and behind in every profession, not just dance.  It’s important for your own happiness if you learn to compete against yourself and not against your friends or classmates.
Also, write down corrections in a correction journal since you have limited classes with guest teachers and there is a lot of information being thrown at you in a small amount of time.
Make sure to get plenty of rest and drink lots of water, be careful to “baby” your body and try to take a hot bath after class to relax.
MS: Keep a correction journal and start focusing on stage presence, musicality and artistry to prepare for the end of the summer performance. Make sure that in order to avoid injuries you get plenty of sleep, drink lots of water and eat healthy food. If you are injured, tell your teachers about it so they can take care of it.
Q: What are your pet peeves during class?
MS: When students talk in class. Not only is it not productive for them, it is also very distracting to other students who are trying to learn.
And, when students don't try new corrections or new things that the teachers ask them to do.
Q: What things do you look for in students?
PS: The ability to change based on what teacher is asking you to do. A good student should be able to assess what to prioritize in their technical training based on what the teacher is looking for. Also, when a student’s face shows the effort that they are putting into the class. A teacher likes to see when a student is emotionally engaged in class and actively trying to improve. Just like students feel rewarded when given corrections, teachers feel rewarded when they can see a student listening to them and applying their corrections.
MS: I look for students who are mentally present and willing to adjust their training to match the style of the teacher. I also look for an ability to pick up combinations, because that shows that they have some coordination. Lastly, I look for musicality, self-expression and epaulment.  
Q: What advice would you give a student who would like to be a professional dancer?
PS: Audition for every company that you can, even if you feel like it may not be the right company for you. Remember that the dance world is very competitive, so you should view every company as an option and “cast your net as far as possible.”  Also you should make a short, 10-minute You Tube video of yourself dancing to send to companies. You should include an abbreviated center (if you are a woman it should be en pointe) with a tendu, a pirouette, an adagio, a petite allegro and a grande allegro. You should also include a short classical variation, and don’t wear junk during the video, just a black leotard and pink tights.
MS: Take advantage of all opportunities. The sacrifice pays off even if you do not end up dancing in a professional ballet company. Remember how lucky you are to be exposed to the arts and how the arts can be such an enriching part of your life.
Take as many classes as you can because the best time to build a strong technical foundation is when you are young.
Audition for summer programs in the companies which you feel like you may want to join one day, so that they can see if it is a good fit.
Q: What sets your program apart from other summer programs?
PS: We have more classes, and a wider variety of teachers. We teach a neutral style, and focus more on core technique in order to produce a more versatile dancer. Also, we view ourselves as a stepping-stone and not the final stop like other summer programs that are affiliated with a company.
Q: What things can parents to help their children succeed in the ballet field?
MS: Take your children to see live performances, so they can see the level of technique that they are striving for.
Encourage stretch and complementary physical activity such as swimming and weight training.
Help them take master classes with other teachers that come through the area.
Encourage them to pursue alternate interests and build a transition plan for when their performing career ends.
Q: What are some common mistakes that parents can avoid?
MS: Make sure to always come to watch all of the “milestones” in your child’s training such as performances or in-class demonstrations. Be careful not to put too much pressure on your child and be sure to understand that progress takes time, but it will happen.
Take your child to get professionally fitted for pointe shoes.

Best wishes to all intensive students heading into their final week of rehearsals!

What is your favorite moment of your experience at the Patel Conservatory this summer? Leave us a comment below.

And join us next week for Summer Fantasy!

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