Darrell Grand Moultrie teaches at a past Jacob's Pillow summer intensive. Photo Christopher Duggan, courtesy Jacob's Pillow
In the past 10 months, we've grown accustomed to helping our dancers navigate virtual school, classes and performances. And while brighter, more in-person days may be around the corner—or at least on the horizon—parents may be facing yet another hurdle to help our dancers through: virtual summer-intensive auditions.
In 2020, we learned that there are some unique advantages of virtual summer programs: the lack of travel (and therefore the reduced cost) and the increased access to classes led by top artists and teachers among them. And while summer 2021 may end up looking more familiar with in-person intensives, audition season will likely remain remote and over Zoom.
Of course, summer 2021 may not be back to in-person, and that uncertainty can be a hard pill to swallow. Here, Kate Linsley, a mom and academy principal of Nashville Ballet, as well as "J.R." Glover, The Dan & Carole Burack Director of The School at Jacob's Pillow, share their advice for this complicated process.
Pre-audition planning<p>In normal seasons, dancers are often limited to auditioning for programs that are nearby or those that tour to nearby cities. With virtual auditions, however, your dancer may be faced with an abundance of options, which could prove overwhelming.</p><p>To help ground your teen, set some boundaries. For instance, if it's an in-person faraway summer intensive, will you be comfortable with your dancer traveling that distance? When deciding how many programs to allow your dancer to audition for, remember that even virtual and video auditions usually charge fees, ranging from around $25 to $55.</p><p>To create the list of programs for which to audition, "dancers should think about what they want to get out of the program, just like in years past," says School of Nashville Ballet's Linsley. Do research about the program's mission and faculty—don't only look at the biggest-name intensives or those that friends are interested in. Instead, consider your teen's career aspirations and make sure the intensives she's choosing to audition for align. Linsley also advises parents to look at a program's faculty and the exposure to company directors or artistic staff it may offer.</p><p>If your dancer is at home this summer, it could be tempting to overload a daily or weekly schedule. But summer intensives are, well, intense. Long hours during the day should be paired with constructive rest in the evening, not more training. "At Jacob's Pillow, in addition to the studio classes, rehearsals and discussion sessions, we expect dancers at home to put in an additional two hours of their own time," says Glover. "That's at least six hours a day. How much more can a dancer feasibly do, especially if she's taking up the living room?" Augmenting a virtual intensive with a completely different style or focus can be beneficial—but make sure to strategize with your dancer and home studio teachers to create a schedule that is age and level appropriate.</p><p>Similarly, Linsley recommends students (who have this option) attend one program for more weeks instead of signing up for two-week sessions here and there. "The goal is to develop relationships with the teachers, so they know you and know how you move," she says. "It takes time to get the nuances of what the teachers are saying, and even six weeks is a short time. The longer you're able to spend at a program, the more you'll get out of it."</p>
Michelle Dorrance teaching at a past Jacob's Pillow intensive. Photo Grace Kathryn Landefeld, courtesy Jacob's Pillow