It’s Intensive Time!

Advanced dancers after class with Mr. Jerry Kokich

Advanced dancers after class with Mr. Jerry Kokich

Every year we can hardly wait for the last week in July, as it means the start of our Pre-Professional and Intermediate Intensive programs!

We love welcoming new and current students and guest faculty to work intensively on ballet, pointe, jazz and modern techniques, as well as pilates and body maintenance classes!

This year we were excited to welcome Jerry Kokich (former Joffrey Ballet dancer) joining us for week 2, Gary Sevani (a skilled Vaganova technique teacher), joining us for week 2 and 3 and Deborah Kenner (a faculty member of Pacific Northwest Ballet) for week 3!PPI wk1_008

There’s nothing quite like the buzz in the air when the studios are filled to the brim with focused, attentive dancers.  This year, in addition to year round students, we were joined by an alumni student training at San Francisco Ballet, a student from Hawaii and several local dancers training at different schools!

Next year’s intensive will be held July 27-August 14, 2015 and stay tuned for information regarding our Winter Audition Prep Workshop/Intensive that will be held again over Winter Break this year.

Dancers in Character Class with Mr. Gary Sevani

Dancers in Character Class with Mr. Gary Sevani

We’re looking forward to a wonderful Summer Intensive performance tomorrow in the Vincent Paul Black Box! Hope to see some of you there!

And here’s a fun fact: Mr. Sevani’s son plays the role of Moose in the Step Up dance movie series!

New Year, New Classes, New Performances!

Battle 1Our All- Youth production of The Nutcracker, performed by Scripps Ballet Theatre and dancers from the Academy was a wonderful success and was enjoyed by over 2,000 audience members this past season!

In true Scripps Performing Arts Academy fashion, where we recognize the value and importance of performance in any young thespians life, we’re moving right from the Nutcracker into our Spring season.  This year that includes our 6th annual American Girl Fashion Show, the Scripps Ballet Theatre’s 3rd annual Ballet in the Box performances, School House Rock Live, Jr., Creativity en Tap, our 1st annual Tap AND Jazz show, and our original All-School performance of Thumbelina!

Nadia, 15, at the Scripps Performing Arts Academy Intermediate Intensive Program

Towards the end of the school year I saw an invitation to the Intermediate Intensive at Scripps Performing Arts Academy.  I became so happy and started counting down the days until it started. Until then, I took open classes in July to keep up my technique throughout the summer.  The last day of open classes, I was told that I would have the wonderful opportunity to attend the Pre- Professional Intensive for the first week. After I was told this news my excitement went out the window.

Nadia working on her own choreography in Contemporary class

Nadia working on her own choreography in Contemporary class

At the Pre- Professional Intensive I had the chance to work with Amanda Kofsky, Ryan Beck, and Miah Nwosu. Each teacher inspired me to do better, and to be better. I grew so much in just that one week. I don’t think I had ever been so sore before. Ms. Kofsky taught us ballet and contemporary, during ballet we incorporated floor barre which really helped me with my turnout and helped with placement. We also had the chance to do our own choreography, which was something that I never thought I could do. With Mr. Beck we focused on jumps and turns, he also helped me a lot with placing the head and arms in the proper place to make the movement gorgeous. We did pre- pointe with Ms. Miah and by the end of the week I could feel a difference. Being in the Pre- Professional Intensive for only one week helped me to improve so much.

Thankfully I had the weekend to let my body rest after the first week and then I was off to the ISI Week 1 Day2_002Intermediate Intensive. Our instructors were Robyn Shifren, Teresa Wells, Caryn Glass, Miah Nwosu, Lori Katz, and Audrey Bondoc. In these two weeks we had Ballet, Yoga, Pilates, Modern, Pre- Pointe, Jazz, and Choreography. I was glad to be doing this intensive because I got to work on the little things and trying to perfect movements. Yoga was a fun class for me because all though a lot of the movements were familiar to me it was nice to be able to relax and focus on how I was moving and my breath. I would have to say that my favorite class overall would have to have been jazz because it something so familiar and comes the movements come very naturally to me. Unfortunately, I was unable to do the performance at the end of the intensive, but I did learn all of the dances and they were amazing and I was very happy to have learned them. I will always remember those three weeks of my summer, and they were by far the best weeks and I was happy to spend them with all of my closest friends, the best teachers and at the perfect studio.

Vivian at The Scripps Performing Arts Academy Pre-Professional Program

Of all the ways to fill a summer day, dancing until every inch of my body aches is among my all-time favorites. Thanks to our SPAA intensives right here in San Diego, I’ve had the opportunity to do that for three, going on four, summers. It’s always been a fantastic experience for technical and artistic improvement, as well as just having fun! This year is no exception.

Vivian in a Technique class during the week

Vivian in a Technique class during the week

The intensive started two weeks ago, with a technique class taught by Michael Fothergill, whom we had never met. At first, his combinations seemed really tricky and I could never seem to remember them or get them quite right. But right from plies, his combinations proved to be a lot of fun. By the time technique and pointe class were over, I was pretty close to exhausted. (Though I can probably attribute that to taking only a handful of classes in July and letting myself get a little out of shape!)

The exceptionally long adagios– which include a fair amount of turns and quick movements as well as the usual, indulgently slow developpes and promenades– are the highlight of Michael’s classes. I also love that we nearly always finish off class with a zig-zag grande allegro! It’s such an invigorating way to end. My absolute favorite thing about having Michael as a guest teacher is that he comes from a Balanchine background. This makes class fairly different, but it also means that we get the opportunity to learn some Balanchine choreography (a snippet from Symphony in Three Movements) as well as Michael’s own Balanchine-influenced choreography. Both are an incredible amount of fun to perform, because the movements can be so exaggerated and dynamic!

In addition to Michael, we also have Brik Middlekauf as a guest teacher. So far, I’ve only gotten to take two of her technique classes, but both of them have been good opportunities to improve and gain new insight. Robyn Shifren also taught one of the classes in the first week– it was a pretty challenging class, and Robyn gave a lot of helpful corrections (both individual and general). Jenny Gilmore taught class last Saturday and this morning. The first week, Saturday was a conditioning class with ballet barre immediately following. That really made my muscles sore! Our class with Jenny the second week was one of my favorites of the intensive thus far. We did an allegro combination that included what I think to be the most fun and exciting step in the ballet vocabulary (a sissone croise), and even revived a great piece of choreography that Jenny made earlier in the year during a Friday evening class.

Outside of ballet, I’ve also enjoyed taking Horton modern classes with Khamla Somphanh and jazz with Audrey Bondoc. We met Khamla at last year’s intensive and really liked her style of modern technique, so all of us were looking forward to taking more classes with her this summer! Though modern class is tough, includes some awkward movements, and uses muscles that I’m really not used to working, it’s a fun experience to try out new ways of moving. Jazz class with Audrey has also been a good opportunity to move differently than I do in ballet technique class, the way body is accustomed to move. I’m learning about letting go and putting more passion into my dancing, while also working on my technique with things like triple turns, fouettes, and barrels.

And of course it hasn’t all been just learning and hard work– though there’s definitely been a significant amount of both! This year’s intensive has also been full of memories and shared experiances with the amazing girls at the studio. We play children’s board games, walk to Trader Joe’s, reminisce about Nutcracker, and just have a great time together laughing and hanging out before and in between our classes.

I’m thoroughly enjoying this year’s summer intensive at SPAA, and looking forward to the third and final week. Hopefully the years to come will be equally, exhaustively fun!

Alexandra at The San Francisco Ballet School

This summer, I had the amazing opportunity to attend San Francisco Ballet School to train in their Summer Intensive.  It was such an incredible, life-changing experience and I made friends and memories that will last a lifetime.

ARRIVAL IN SAN FRANCISCO

Although I was super excited to be able to attend such a world-renowned program, I was also a little nervous.  I knew that everybody was going to be amazing because it is a hard program to get into and along with such talent can come big personalities and sometimes even bigger egos.  But as soon as I reached the dorms, I was welcomed by cheerful chaperones and kind-hearted dancers.

DORMS AND CAFETERIA:

We resided at the San Francisco State University campus during our stay in the city. I was both surprised and overjoyed to see that the bedrooms, lounge areas and bathrooms were all nicer than standard dorms.  Students of the SFB Summer Intensive stayed on the 2nd and 3rd floors of Mary Park Hall, just one of the many dorm buildings at SFSU. Mary Park Hall was walking distance to a shopping mall, bus stops and college common areas that include restaurants, a book store and also the school’s cafeteria.

BRIGHT LIGHTS, BIG CITY (commute and freedom in the city):

The commute from the dorms to the San Francisco Ballet studios was long. However, this was one of my favorite parts of my experience because I could really get a feel for traveling around the beautiful city of San Francisco.  Every day we walked through campus to the MUNI bus-stop to catch our ride. After boarding the MUNI, a public transportation system (half subway, half bus), we would travel about 40 minutes to our destination where we walked 6 blocks through

Alexandra and Friends in Front of the SFB Building

Alexandra and Friends in Front of the SFB Building

the city until we reached the gorgeous company studios. Overall, the commute took about an hour.

Students were definitely not held back from exploring San Francisco.  We were given the freedom to go anywhere as long as we did not miss class or curfew.  Besides the studios where there was lots to see, we were able to take trips to see the Golden Gate Bridge, Fisherman’s Wharf, Union Square and experience the beauty, art and unique personality of San Francisco.

SAN FRANCISCO BALLET’S STUDIOS:

The San Francisco Ballet School facilities are gorgeous. All studios have wood flooring, multi-level bars, and a ton of natural light. There was even one particular studio that had floor to ceiling windows that gave you a view of the city. It was really nice to be able to dance and still see the day go by outside.

Alexandra in the SFB Studios

Alexandra in the SFB Studios

What was amazing was that I was able to dance in the same building as the professional company, San Francisco Ballet. The first floor of the building was the lobby, second floor was the ballet school, third floor was offices, and the fourth floor was the company’s rehearsal and class studios. A few times, I was lucky enough to take class in one of the studios on the fourth floor. What was crazy was that we were able to watch company classes and rehearsals whenever we wanted. One of my favorite ballet dancers, Maria Kochetkova, is a principal with the company. The highlight of my summer was being able to actually watch a dancer, who is my biggest inspiration dance and rehearse!  I also saw other remarkable dancers including Yuan Yuan Tan, Vanessa Zahorian, Sofiane Sylve, Frances Chung, Sarah Van Patten, Luke Willis, Pierre-François Vilanoba, and Davit Karapetyan.  It really helped me realize how badly I want to become a professional ballet dancer, possibly even with San Francisco Ballet. Also, after watching them in rehearsal and class showed me the hard work it takes to make everything look so effortless on stage.  It is just like how hard we as students work to get to the next level.  I was humbled to be able to dance in the same place as such amazing artists.

TRAINING

Along with challenging Ballet and Pointe classes daily we were also able to take Pas de Deux, Pilates, Contemporary, Character and Repetoire classes. We were even able to learn some company repertoire, such as William Forsythe’s “In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated” and “Artifacts Suite”. We also learned more classical works like Paquita Pas de Trois and others.

The teachers were top-notch and were not only focused on technique but also on dancer’s artistry and use of upper body.  Some of my favorite teachers were Tina LeBlanc and Sherri LeBlanc, Shannon Bresnahan, Pascale Leroy, Jeffrey Lyons and Wendy Van Dyck.

allie and kanielFRIENDS

The dancers I met were some of the most amazingly nice and interesting people I have ever met.  They came from all over the world and all had all had a very strong work ethic, but knew how to have fun.  I was impressed by the diversity of the students and although all were extremely talented, there were many different body types and strengths represented in the dancers at this Summer Intensive.  Even more surprising to me was the fact that these dancers were all friendly and modest about their extraordinary talent in dance.

LAST THOUGHTS

I am deeply grateful to have had the experiences I did this summer at San Francisco Ballet Summer Intensive.  It is a wonderful company and school. It gave me a much better idea of what I am working towards and why it is so important to keep my focus and attention on ballet and my future.  I would return to San Francisco Ballet in a heartbeat!