Intensive Life

So where have I been this week? (No I’m not apologizing for my lack of posting, though I have been busy and pretty exhausted, if you were wondering.) I just finished my first week working as a chaperone for Joffrey Ballet School’s San Francisco program, and I’m having a fabulous time with the people, the place, and of course, the dancing.


The most exciting perk of my job is getting to take class with the program. It’s a very diverse contemporary ballet-focused program which has involved doing everything from classical variations to contact improv, and the faculty is incredible.

Because of my chaperoning schedule, I sometimes have to take class with younger groups. While I totally appreciate the opportunity to take class with people my own age when I can, it has also been a really informative experience to take class with younger dancers. For one, it has made me more conscious of the way I take class (how I learn combinations, how I respond to group corrections, what I do when I’m on the sides, how I manage my space, etc.). I guess I feel some pressure to be a role model, not just as a dancer, but also as a student/class-taker.

It’s also interesting to watch dancers at various ages and stages of technical/artistic development take class, particularly since it’s been a while since I’ve been in a dance setting that included younger kids. It’s easy to look at adult/professional dancers and not think about how they got to that point, but looking at students, I can see how different elements of dance training “click” at different points for different individuals.

The irony in all of this this is that almost every kid who has ever been at a summer dance intensive (including myself in the past) gets really concerned about what class level they are placed in. And while everyone has heard the “it doesn’t matter, you can improve in any class, work on basics, push yourself, blah blah blah” spiel, we don’t immediately realize just how true it is. I’ve known this stuff for a long time, but now, at a point where I’m more or less responsible for my own training and just thrilled to be in class all day, when I’m standing in a class of fourteen-year-olds and all I can think is “I’m dancing and learning stuff! Awesome!” it has a different kind of resonance.

Another highlight of this week was a Q&A session with the faculty. This gave me a lot of thoughts and feels that I might just have to make a separate post about, but in short, it was both surprising and encouraging to see that they had varied and non-conventional paths to their careers. Their stories included late starts, non-dance college degrees, parental resistance, and paralyzing back injuries–not exactly typical steps in the “how to have a dance career” eHow–but it was clear that their intense commitment and tenacity, as well as talent, allowed them to carve out their own routes.

A few words that stuck from this week:

  • “Instead of banging your head against the door, you could use the doorknob.”

Josie Walsh on working hard versus working smart

  • “Sometimes fear is an indicator of where you should be going.”

–Josie again

  • “Be careful about trying to emulate people. What you see isn’t always what’s going on.”

Allison DeBona when asked about her role models

  • “Be aware of what other people are doing, and then do something else.”

Sara Silkin teaching improv

Now on to week 2!