How College-Hosted Summer Intensives Can Bolster the College-Bound

Cornish College in Seattle is one of many colleges that offer summer intensives. (Photo by Mike Urban, courtesy of Cornish College of the Arts)

High school students looking to dance in college often can't turn to the usual sources for savvy college admissions advice. Their guidance counselor is unlikely to have specialized exposure to dance programs, and things have changed since the college days of their studio instructors. That's what makes college-hosted summer intensives such a great resource when you want to set your graduating dancers on the proper path.

Summer intensives hosted by colleges offer dancers a chance to taste the college experience by studying and living on campus for two to three weeks. They get a feel for day-to-day life by taking daily technique classes in ballet, pointe, modern, jazz, composition and other styles, dining on campus, meeting regular summer students and living in residence halls. And for many, these programs may introduce them to certain creative disciplines for the first time. Take the experience of Alicia Cross, who attended the 2013 New England Dance Intensive at Dean College in Franklin, Massachusetts, and is now a freshman there. “It was a pretty different learning experience," she says. “In one class, the teacher started us on choreographing—I'd never done that before—and we also had a resumé workshop." Cross had never really been away from her family for that long, she says, “but by the middle of the first week, I was thinking, 'Alright. I'm comfortable here. I'm excited.'"

College-hosted summer intensives can benefit a student in many more ways than honing their technique. Students can:

Get a leg up in researching and preparing for college admissions. Sessions might include essay writing and the different types of college dance programs. “Many students don't know how to begin thinking about college," says Kitty Daniels, chair of the dance department at Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle. “They may not even know they could dance in college. We try not to talk about specific programs; instead we take the approach: 'If you want to keep dancing in college, here are some different ways this could play out for you.'" Cornish's summer intensive offers a career and college counseling session that walks students through questions like, “OK, what is a dance career path that does not take you directly to college? What are the dance career paths that may move through college?" In the class, Daniels explains how college programs break out into BA, BFA, BS, double or single major and minors, and she shows students how to research programs based on their interests.

Discover new interests. Some intensives are designed specifically to expand a student's interests. At UCLA, the nine-day Dance Theater Intensive “mixes the disciplines of dance, theater, music, identity exploration, human relations activities and social activism," according to the program website. In addition to technique classes in diverse genres, Angelia Leung, chair of the Department of World Arts and Cultures/Dance, says, “We also have class meetings that talk about art as an activist kind of engagement. So, we have the art as social action, art as moral action." Programs may introduce students to new disciplines they are unlikely to have encountered in high school, such as postmodern dance, composition and improvisation.

Prepare for an audition. Beyond making students more savvy about their choices, summer intensives can have very concrete takeaways for college admissions. A polished resumé is one. Daniels notes that Cornish includes a daily choreography class that helps students create their audition solo.

Get to know the faculty. UCLA's intensive is taught mainly by adjunct faculty who are nonetheless knowledgeable about the university program. But many intensives include classes taught by the college faculty, which gives students an even deeper insight into a college's curriculum and philosophy and whether it's a fit for them. Alicia Cross says she enjoyed getting to know professors at Dean College during her summer intensive there. “It definitely helped me adjust to how various instructors teach," she says.

Get a chance to show their stuff—outside the application process. Summer intensives effectively let a student audition a college, but the college is also getting a closer look—outside of the official application and audition. Daniels confirms that those who have attended Cornish's intensive can benefit in its admissions process. “I think it's probably most important for the more marginal students who are able to show to us, 'Look, I may have a little less training, but look what happens to me over time when I work,'" she says.

Get over pre-college jitters. Cross attended the intensive at Dean College after she'd been accepted to the BA program, giving herself a head start on college. Heading off to the two-week intensive, she had the jitters. But by the end, she says, “I didn't even want to come home; I just wanted to leave all my stuff here and stay until school started. I was prepared, I was comfortable with the campus and I knew it so well. I was really ready for school."

Lea Marshall is a writer and interim chair of Virginia Commonwealth University's Department of Dance & Choreography.

Dance Teachers Trending
Barbara Bashaw in Thompson Hall of Columbia Teachers College. Photo by Kyle Froman

Barbara Bashaw has always been a pioneer. Since kicking off her career in education by building a dance program from the ground up at an elementary school in Brooklyn, she's gone on to become an inspiring force in teacher training. Now, as director of the new doctoral program in dance education at Columbia University's renowned Teachers College and as executive director of the even newer Arnhold Institute for Dance Education Research, Policy & Leadership, she's in a position to effect change nationwide.

"The study of dance education is a young field," Bashaw says. "Music and visual arts are far ahead of us, in terms of the research that has been done, as well as the foothold they have in education. Anywhere education is being discussed, we want to put dance on the table—and that means developing researchers and championing research that will push public policy." In a climate where arts education feels both more endangered and more necessary than ever, Bashaw is ready to blaze a trail.

Keep reading...
Karen Hildebrand (center) with 2019 DT Awardee Marisa Hamamoto and members of Infinite Flow. Photo by Joe Toreno

Every year in our summer issue, we honor four dance educators for their outstanding contributions to the field. Recipients have included studio owners, professors, program directors, K–12 teachers and more, whose specialties run the gamut of dance genres.

We need your help to identify this year's best in the profession. Do you have a colleague or mentor who deserves to be recognized as a leader and role model?

Send your nomination by March 1, 2020. You can e-mail us at with the following details:

Keep reading...
Sponsored by Akada Software
Photo by Jenny Studios, courtesy of Utah Dance Artists

Running a dance school used to involve a seemingly endless stream of paperwork. But thanks to the advent of software tailored specifically for dance studios' needs, those hours formerly spent pushing papers can now be put to better use.

"Nobody opens a dance studio because they want to do administrative work," says Brett Stuckey, who leads Akada Software's support team. "It's our job to get you out of the office and back into your classroom."

We talked to Stuckey about how a studio software program can streamline operations, so you can put your energy toward your students.

Keep reading...

To celebrate Valentine's Day in the most dance-centric way possible, we sat down with five powerhouse dance-teaching couples to talk about their love stories. What do they admire about each other? What are their couple goals and their teaching philosophies, and how do they make their relationships work, especially when they work together? Get ready to swoon!

Keep reading...
For Parents
Photo by Paul B. Goode, courtesy of BAE

Watching through the studio windows—or even from the sidelines in a Mommy and Me class—can surely make parents wonder what exactly our little tykes are getting out of weekly ballet lessons. After all, they're repeating the same things class after class. Are they bored? Are they progressing? Why are they doing that again?

Keep reading...
Site Network
Photo by Nina Lokmadzhieva, courtesy of Varna IBC

The oldest ballet competition in the world doesn't have the funds for the show to go on: The 29th edition of the Varna International Ballet Competition, scheduled for July 12–30, 2020, has been postponed indefinitely.

Keep reading...
Dance Teacher Tips
Getty Images

Q: I have a 15-year-old student who has problems keeping her heel fully on the ground during a demi-plié. How can I help her?

Keep reading...
Site Network
The eight 2020 Prix de Lausanne prize winners. Photo by Rodrigo Buas, courtesy of PdL

The 2020 Prix de Lausanne has officially come to a close after a thrilling week of classes, coaching sessions, competition performances and networking forums. The annual competition, which was live streamed around the world and watched over 1.1 million times, gave 77 dancers an opportunity to perform and take class in front of an international panel of judges. In addition to a classical variation, candidates had to master a contemporary solo by Mauro Bigonzetti, Jean-Christophe Maillot, Cathy Marston, Wayne McGregor, Heinz Spoerli or Richard Wherlock.

Keep reading...
Dance News
Photo by Wendy Turner, courtesy of Boulder Jazz Dance Workshop

This summer, as for the past 42 years, students will flock to Colorado to immerse themselves in jazz dance training and performance. High school and college students, professional artists and teaching artists alike will find opportunities for growth and connection.

The Boulder Jazz Dance Workshop honors tradition while also embracing innovation and change within the jazz dance genre and dance field in general. Before executive/artistic director Lara Branen began the Workshop, she and her co-founder Michael Geiger had studied at separate times with San Francisco jazz teachers Ann Garvin, Linda Heine and Ed Mock. Later Lynn Simonson became their primary inspiration. Each year Branen invites new guest artists to join long-term faculty who devotedly return year after year, including: Wade Madsen (modern dance), Nancy Cranbourne (jazz), Christy McNeil Chand (jazz) and Meghan Lawitz (contemporary). This summer will include lyrical, musical theater rep and a heels class, in addition to the program's regular offerings.

Keep reading...
Site Network
Getty Images

Nope, there's still no Oscar for Best Choreography—but we now get to reveal the winner of our own Dance Spirit award for Best Movie Choreography of 2019! Though we're big fans of all seven of the nominated choreographers, and think each one deserves to be acknowledged for their contributions to some of our favorite films this year, there can only be one winner. And based on your votes, that is...

Keep reading...
Site Network
Photo courtesy of Meier

Pointe shoes are high-maintenance. New pairs are not only expensive, but time consuming. So it's no surprise that many dancers try to extend the lifespan of each shoe. But did you know that dancing on dead shoes can increase your risk for a variety of injuries?

Keep reading...
Dance Teacher Tips
Jill Wolins (center, in pink). Photo courtesy of Wolins

"The best judges come from the competition circuit," says Jill Wolins, who trains adjudicators for the Star Dance Alliance and Starpower National Talent Competition. "If you competed as a kid, you have proper respect for how hard these dancers work. It's not easy to do what they're doing."

Wolins began judging competition events in 2001 in between dancing as a Rockette and performing on Broadway/national tours of The Producers, The Will Rogers Follies, Sweet Charity and Grease. And, yes, she came up on the circuit herself, before earning a BFA from the State University of New York at Buffalo.

Keep reading...


Get DanceTeacher in your inbox