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!

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