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An Overview to Summer Study Programs

by Marian Horosko
January 16, 2009
No sooner are the holiday decorations put away, it's time to plan ahead for summer study programs, competitions and scholarships.

Programs for summer study are given in almost every sizable city throughout the States and provide activity and income during the months studios are usually closed for repairs. Summer intensive programs are offered to young teen-age dance students, many of whom will experience first-time away from home on their own with school supervision. Living facilities are frequently in near-by colleges where dorms are empty of full-time students. The summer group often experiences a new technique, taught in another methodology which is an enhancement and a challenge to their ability to adjust to new conditions. There is also an end-of-the season performance.

Frequently an audition is given to enter the summer program of 4 or 8 weeks by a visiting artistic director from another school. It is usually in the form of an audition class to recruit for serious summer intensive students, 12-18 years-old.

Despite economic conditions, omitting summer study, or even beginning classes for the new student runs into a fact that cannot be put aside: physical growth, mental and emotional development do not stop and lost time cannot be made up at another time. There is a sequence in the creation of an instrument, the dancer's body, which has its own natural tempo of eight years. Beginning too soon at an early age, like beginning too late, has consequences. Unlike a musical instrument, a dancer's body cannot be bought nor does age improve its possibilities.

Competitions have proliferated both here and abroad. From winning a trophy for the studio window, to signing a contract with a junior group of a major company, competitions offer scholarships, awards, medals, and a showcase opportunity. The student, who commits to learning a variation (a solo from a classical work and a modern work) by performing it, has already won and made a large step in progress. It takes hours of rehearsing, investment in a costume and frequently, travel expense, but what is learned by seeing others perform, making friendship with other contestants, is invaluable no matter what the outcome.

It should be noted that awards, medals and especially contracts are given by artistic directors at competitions who chose a dancer on the basis of their company needs, not necessarily the level of the winner. Unfair? Alas, it's all in the perception of the director.

The past years have seen the emergence of Asian dancers, Japanese, Chinese and especially Korean, who win in large numbers. They are motivated by an Eastern ethos that requires excellence and perfection, whether it's putting a single flower in a vase or assuming a Fifth Position. It is a matter of honor to the teacher, parent and the legacy of dance to do no less. There is pride and joy in this. They are fortunate to have government support with free tuition in many schools to remove some of the financial pressure on the family. Frequently, local sponsorship can be gained for travel, costume and coaching costs in our communities.

The role of the parent during a competition should be supportive of the young student, but non-judgmental. This is not an easy role. It is not possible to know what a judge's constraints or needs might be in choosing a candidate for a scholarship or award. If the outcome is disappointing, there will always be another competition coming up, where what has been learned can be put to good use.

Competitions, such as the New York International Competition, Youth America Grand Prix and others usually end with a series of final performances by the contestant winners. Don't miss these. They are exciting and are enthusiastically welcomed. This is followed by performances of well-known guest artists from abroad.

Good luck!
Contestant winners at a competition in Croatia

Contestant winners at a competition in Croatia

Photo © & courtesy of Unknown

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