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  • Jennifer Milner

Planning Your Season

It’s early August, which means likely one of two things is happening: either you’re bidding a sad farewell to all your new besties from summer intensive and heading despondently home to reluctantly turn your thoughts towards back-to-school and (sigh) Nutcracker; OR -

You’re saying a reluctant goodbye to your hiatus time and heading listlessly into your next contract as your thoughts turn towards getting your butt back into shape and (sigh) Nutcracker.

One of those two things is happening with you right now. I guarantee it.

Regardless of where you fall on the professional spectrum, as autumn approaches (despite what the thermometer says) it’s time for a new season in your dance life. Are you ready? If not, here are some tips on how to get on top of your game.

Take a realistic look at where you are in your growth.

If you don’t know what your assets and weaknesses are, it’s hard to set realistic goals. Find people in authority who know you and whose opinion you value AND trust, and get their input.

Oftentimes school directors will have sit-downs with their students at the end of the school year to discuss such things. Hopefully you had this conversation and took notes. If not, respectfully request a short meeting with them to talk through where they see you, and what they’d like to help improve in you. Be prepared for not ALL good stuff; the best teachers will be encouraging, but honest, and give you areas for improvement. Likewise, summer intensives will often mail out comments after you’ve gotten home; take these to your teachers and ask them to keep an eye out for any areas of concern that have been pointed out! This is also a great time to get those YAGP score sheets back out and re-read all critiques.

If you’re returning to a company, chances are you had this conversation when your new contract was offered. If you feel slightly adrift, seek out a rehearsal mistress or ballet master that you have a good relationship with and ask them what they think you should work on over the coming year. People ALWAYS want to work with dancers who are open to constructive criticism and wanting to improve.

Set career goals for this coming season.

What do you want to accomplish over the coming year? How can you best tackle those critiques and get them worked into your technique? Figure out where you want to be in June and set benchmarks to hit along the way. Goals might include things like getting cast in one lead role this season; conquering your en de dans turns; nabbing a scholarship to your favorite summer intensive;or placing in the top 12 of YAGP. Giving yourself clear, attainable goals will help you keep focused when the tulle starts flying.

Plan your season with your goals in mind.

Want to be in a nationally acclaimed year-round program next year? Concentrate on perfecting your technique to what you know are the school’s standards. Ready to launch towards your professional career? Consider hitting the competition circuit - YAGP, ADC/IBC - to get your name out. Dissatisfied with your current job? Prove to your artistic director that you should be promoted by being focused and attentive in all those rehearsals where you’re set dressing. Learn your understudy roles really well. Go out for private coaching to scrutinize your technique and see what needs to be cleaned up. Ready for a company change? Start strategizing audition season now, and renewing relationships that might help you with that. Your goal might simply be to make it through the season without any injuries - which may lead you to add in cross-training and seek out a nutritionist for help with more efficient fueling. Drawing a “map” of how to get from where you are now to where you want to be in June will give you, well, direction!

Refer back to your “map” throughout the year.

When the train gets running, it’s easy to get led off on a side track. Looking back at your map will help you stay on the path and remember where you’re going. Don’t let yourself get sucked into YAGP fever if you’ve already decided to sit out the year to focus on technique, and glancing regularly at your map will remind you why you’re busting your tushie in extra private lessons.

August will fly by in a state of transitions and returns, and before you know it you’ll be back in the Land of the Sweets, fighting to get through one day at a time. Investing a little time now to take stock of where you are and figure out where you want to be will help you get the most out of your season - and you’ll find yourself looking back next summer with a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment. Go get ‘em!

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