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Reflections on Summer Intensive

Female dancer in jete

By Mary Ashley Ray

Every summer, advanced and pre-professional ballet students flock to Summer Intensive programs across the country. These audition-only, multi-week programs provide students with concentrated and comprehensive training to help prepare them for the pursuit of a professional dance career.

Texas Ballet Theater (TBT) holds a Summer Intensive of its own, which occurs annually at the Fort Worth studio and nearby Texas Christian University (TCU). Many of TBT’s current company dancers attended the Summer Intensive when they were students. Attending this program allowed them to work directly with TBT Artistic Staff, giving them a glimpse of life in the professional company.

Principal Dancer Nicole Von Enck learned a lot during her experience at Summer Intensive in 2010, both inside and outside of the studio. Below are snippets of her recent Instagram Live on Pointe Magazine’s Instagram page where she discussed pre-professional training, transitioning to the life of a professional dancer, what she enjoys about North Texas, and more with Acting Artistic Director Tim O’Keefe.

TBT’s Studio Training Company has opportunities throughout the year to perform with the professional company. How do you think those opportunities impact a dancer’s training and trajectory toward becoming a professional dancer? (Note: Many Studio Training Company dancers join after attending the Summer Intensive.)

Nicole: “It is incredibly valuable. Before I came to Texas Ballet Theater I was an Apprentice at North Carolina Dance Theatre [now Charlotte Ballet] and I had been in a similar situation to the Studio Training Company where we got to dance alongside the company and got different opportunities and I learned so much. I learned so much about a rehearsal environment, I learned so much about what it’s like to be backstage, and all those experiences gave me not only knowledge, but also just confidence. So when I came into the company at TBT, I felt like I was confident in knowing how to do this job well, and all those experiences are just so valuable.”

What are some things you enjoy about living in North Texas?

Nicole: “There are so many things, but I think coming from Cleveland, where it is very cold right now… it’s really nice that the winters aren’t so severe. I love that, and I also love a Texas spring. Oh my gosh, the wildflowers are everywhere, it is gorgeous. Then when it comes to culture, Texas is so unique. There is really nothing like it … I love that it has such a strong culture, that you really get Texas everywhere you go. Even in different types of restaurants, different theaters, different outdoor parks and venues, it all has a very strong culture and I love that I know that I’m in Texas.”

What advice do you have for aspiring professionals as they make decisions about Summer Intensives, and training in general?

Nicole: “Some advice I would give is really taking the time to not only research companies based on like, who’s the artistic director, who’s on their artistic staff, but more so their rep. Understand what type of rep you like dancing and you mesh with, then when you’re at summer programs pay attention to artistic staff members that you get to interact and work with. Is it a good working relationship? Do you feel like they see the potential in you just as you see the potential in their company? I think that a lot of dancers… get so tunnel vision-ed. You don’t take the time to really know what type of company would really work best for you as well as the company seeing how you dance and work best to be in their company. Take that time to get to know your own dancing, ballet and rep that you enjoy; do you like more contemporary, more Balanchine, the classics? All those things play into gelling well with a company and vice versa.”

Some students are headed to a Summer Intensive for the first time this summer, and it may be the longest they’ve ever been away from home. What is your advice for being away from home?

Nicole: “When going to a summer program and everything’s so new, especially if it’s your first experience, I feel like my advice is to really take it all in. Summer programs offer lots of different things, like yes, they offer the dancing part of it, but they usually have activities, there’s dorm life, there are relationships built. There are dancers I’ve come across in my professional career many years after because I went to a summer program with them. So I feel like really going all in with an open mind not just with the dancing but also with the relationships you’re going to build and the people you’re going to meet, I feel like that’s my biggest encouragement for a summer program.”

To hear more of Nicole’s and Tim’s talk, click here.

Header photo: Nicole Von Enck in Serenade; choreography by George Balanchine © The George Balanchine Trust; photo by Amitava Sarkar.
Additional photos: L: Nicole Von Enck and Andre Silva in Violin Concerto in D; photo by Amitava Sarkar. R: Nicole Von Enck at The Crescent in Dallas; photo by Joamanuel Velazquez.