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  • Jennifer Milner

Planning Your Summer (Yes, Now!)


I know, I know - everyone’s still sipping their Pumpkin Spice Lattes and grumbling about Nutcracker rehearsals. Summer is soooooo far away! But summer intensive auditions? Are going to be here before you know it.

Here’s the breakdown: right now you’re starting to run Snow and thinking you’re never going to get through it without having a heart attack.You’re staring at the calendar and realizing you’re 4-6 weeks away from Nutcracker time and you are NEVER GOING TO BE READY! The weeks will fly by in a flurry of shoe-sewing and blister-popping; Nutcracker will be fabulous and you’ll weep when it closes (both happy and sad); you’ll surface for oxygen a few days later and stare in amazement at the fact that it’s really Christmas. Like, REALLY Christmas. You give yourself some down time (because you deserve it! No shop talk!) Then New Year’s Eve floats by and you drag yourself to the barre a few days later, only to realize with horror that the first summer intensive auditions are in, like, eight days. And you haven’t danced in a week. Ok, two weeks. Also? As you stare at the dates on the studio walls, you see that the two schools you’d vaguely decided to audition for are having auditions on the same day. In different places, natch.

Zoinks.

So let’s put a little time into strategizing for next summer NOW, and save ourselves some heart palpitations, m’kay? I’m not saying you need to commit to anything now. A lot can change between October and June: you may quit dance altogether; family finances may take a significant change and your options become very different; you might improve exponentially over the year and discover a whole new wealth of options available to you by June. But in general, we can think through some things and make an audition plan. Let’s get started.

Speak with your family about options. Find out what your parents are thinking so you can move forward together. Are finances an issue? Start planning now for ways to help raise funds. Are they concerned about letting you go away on your own? Ask - and work towards- how you can show them you’re ready to be more independent. Are they assuming you are going to college, and you want to try your luck with a company? Talk about compromises, like a PD program, a trainee position, or using a summer experience to audition for a company while still applying to schools. A respectful conversation with the family now will avoid tears and shock in February when you find out you’re not on the same page.

Get input from your mentors. Talk to the teachers who see you every day, as well as the studio owners and company directors. Speak to your private coaches and trainers and find out where they think you are right now. Do they see you staying home for a summer to work on specific things? Are they thinking you’d benefit from a summer at a small, specialized intensive like CPYB? Or do they think you’re ready to try for the big schools like ABT or PNB, to push yourself on a bigger stage? Getting input from people who know your strengths - and weaknesses - will help you see yourself as potential auditors might.

Take a moment to think about what you really want. Are you dying to go somewhere out of state just to try out more independence? Do you want to go to a specific intensive because your friend went last summer and came home aMAZing? Are you considering applying to, say, UNCSA, so you’d like to try a summer there and see what it’s like? Think through what you really want out of the summer - and why. Be honest with yourself! If you’re interested in contemporary dance, now’s the time to speak with your modern teacher and get names of some contemporary intensives. Thinking of choreographing? Some intensives are geared towards nurturing student choreographers! Dig in and find options.

Sit down with a calendar and figure it out. If you’re casting a wide net, this can be important! I live in the Dallas area and help my dancers figure out where and when to audition. That might mean auditioning one weekend in Dallas, driving to Austin the next weekend, and doing two auditions in Houston the weekend after that. Not everyone will come to your home town, and some might come on the same day as YAGP or another audition - you need to figure out options to make sure your top choices make the calendar cut.

Finally, plan out any video submissions. If you can’t make it to auditions - or if your place of choice doesn’t do live auditions - don’t leave your audition submission until the last minute. Gather the information and requirements, find a teacher to help you put it together, and make a plan for content, deadlines, etc. You do NOT want to be the dancer throwing together a video two hours before the submission deadline, after you haven’t danced for a week. Trust me - we can all spot that dancer. It’s not pretty.

Stressed out yet?

Listen, that’s why we’re doing this now, right? Truthfully, I’ve been discussing summer options with the dancers I coach privately since September. We start turning over options, doing research into schools, defining our goals and hopes, figuring out a few paths that might be the most helpful this coming summer. By chatting about it a bit each week, we manage to lay down a few pieces at a time of a very large puzzle, until spring comes - and acceptance letters -and the picture is beautifully clear. With a little planning on your part, summer intensive auditions will be stress-free.

Yeah, I’m lying, they’re still stressful. But, you know, less so.


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