With summer course auditions just around the corner, we asked three students from 2017’s summer course to give advice on how to prepare yourself for the intensive training and how to get the most out of your summer course experience.
Below are excerpts from a conversation with Charlotte Sanford (age 13) Maeva Laube (age 17), and Mateo Dominguez (age 17).
Why did you choose to attend PNB’s Summer Course?
Mateo: One major thing was Peter [Boal]’s reputation. I heard from my teachers how precise he was as a dancer and how crazy good he was, and I really wanted to learn the way he danced, with all that musicality and all that artistry.
What was your favorite class and why?
Mateo: I would say variations class, it’s a lot of fun to learn repertory and we got to do a lot of [George] Balanchine and [Jerome] Robbins which we don’t usually get to do.
Maeva: Pointe class is a lot of fun, and you can learn so much from the teachers here. We were also able to do ballroom this year, and it was so much fun!
Charlotte: I love their classes because I feel like you have a chance to let loose, and you’re not at the barre for the whole class just working on technique, you get to do steps in the center where you can really use your musicality.
What was the most challenging part of the PNB summer course?
Charlotte: I think the hardest part for me is living on my own, because I’m only 13 and this is my second time being away from home for this long, but it really taught me to be more mature. For example I’ve been doing my laundry, breaking in my pointe shoes before I go to my class, making sure I’m eating well, and getting to bed on time.
Maeva: We have quite long days, but you get through it. You do it as a whole class and it always ends up being a fun day, and of course you’ll get tired and you’ll get sore, but that’s a part of it.
Mateo: Apart from having a long day, sometimes you’ll have a break in between classes and the teachers really expect you to take initiative and warm yourself up for the next one, like if you go straight into variations classes, you’re not going to get a barre, so it’s up to you to warm up your legs and get all the muscles ready.
Do you have a favorite company dancer, did you get to see them this summer?
Maeva: I really love [PNB Principal dancer] Lindsi Dec, and when we were getting ready for class, she was getting ready next to us. It was such a great experience, because you only look at their pictures or see their videos, but all of sudden they do the same combination next to you! A lot of company dancers took our classes which was a great experience and they’re just walking in the hallways and smiling at you, it’s so casual.
What was your most valuable or cherished experience you had this summer?
Charlotte: I found the seminars really useful, because they give you information that you could take home with you. I have a bunch of packets from nutrition class, and they emailed me a list of different shoes that would be best for walking to prevent injuries, and that’s information you could hold in your hands and take with you.
Mateo: It was a correction on musicality: where to put your weight when you’re dancing. They really insisted on keeping your weight on your toes, I had never really understood why and they gave me such an in-depth explanation on it, and now it makes so much sense.
What did you do when you weren’t in class?
Maeva: The studios are located in such a great place, the Seattle Center has the Metropolitan Market, there’s the Armory, there’s the Space Needle. It’s really hard to get bored, you can go get bubble tea, you can get coffee, you can just go sit near the fountain and enjoy the good weather, it’s really not hard to find something to do.
Charlotte: There’s so many great restaurants too and you can always go there with friends. Since PNB gives you a bus pass, you can go everywhere that you want to in the city, which is so nice.
Is there anything you wish someone had told you to pack before coming to a ballet summer course?
Charlote: I wish I packed a better pillow! I only packed one pillow, so the counselors gave me an extra one, so now I’m fine, but next time I will definitely pack more pillows and probably a second towel too. Also so many of my friends have elastic or ribbons fall off their pointe shoes, but I was one of the only people that brought my stitch kit and it saved a lot of people.
Maeva: It was very important for me this year to bring pictures and lights to make my room homey because you go back to the same room every day and it’s important to feel comfortable, because it is your home for five weeks. It’s a small thing, but it makes a difference.
Mateo: I brought too many clothes. I was thinking “alright, my outfits need to look great” but I have more clothes right now than I knew what to do with, and it just wasn’t necessary.
What advice would you give to the future dancers who are going to enroll PNB’s Summer Course?
Maeva: Well first of all, definitely do it. It’s a great experience. A lot of people that come here haven’t been trained in Balanchine, so it’s very important to keep an open mind and try new things and to not be embarrassed when you can’t do things. We had hip hop yesterday and none of us have ever done it before but it was fun because we all tried it, so keeping an open mind is very important.
Charlotte: I would say take advantage of all the resources you have here, because all the teachers are here to help you and give you corrections to help you grow as a dancer and a person. Obviously, ask your teachers if need any help regarding dance related stuff, but also talk to the counselors if you’re having any kind of issues. There are so many people you can reach out to, so you should take advantage of that while you’re here.
Mateo: Don’t be afraid of any of the teachers. I walked into Peter Boal’s class, and I was like “oh my gosh, I’m going to have a class with the director from a major ballet company!” And his class required so much bending and precision, and the combinations really let you cut loose. If I had known that it was going to be so much fun, I wouldn’t have spent so much time at the barre freaking out.
The dancers’ responses have been excerpted for brevity.
Interview conducted by Joseph Nguyen.
Featured photo: Pacific Northwest Ballet Summer Course 2016.
Photos: Peter Boal teaching Men’s class. Pacific Northwest Ballet Summer Course student in Character class. Summer Course students in Men’s class. Lindsi Dec rehearsing in PNB’s largest studio, Studio C. (gif) Maeva in Pas de Deux class (left); Mateo in Men’s class (right). PNB’s former Principal dancer, Kaori Nakamura teaching Summer Course 2016.