Summer intensives offer incredible experiences for dancers looking to expand their training. New teachers, new friends and new lessons support a dancer’s versatility and growth. But challenges exist for both the dancers and the educators during the summer season.
For dancers, summer intensives can exacerbate the potential for food struggles and negative body image. A highly competitive environment is common as many dancers hope to land a spot in year-round training programs, and many educators may feel limited in their abilities to intervene. As dance educator Austin Crumley says, “The time we spend with our cohort is so limited over the summer. While an intensive offers an amazing mix of master instructors, it lacks consistency and limits an educator’s ability to fine-tune a dancer’s technique.” These time constraints can further leave dancers who might be struggling with food and body unnoticed. With so much to navigate in so little time, it’s imperative that dance educators plan efficiently and accordingly.
Consider these three tips to cultivate a supportive environment for your dancers this summer.
Summer intensives are nonstop. Most dancers will be dancing for more hours than they’re accustomed to as technique classes, workshops and rehearsals fill daytime schedules. Crumley says that “it’s during these intensives that time is of the essence, and, therefore, support should be offered both proactively and in abundance.”
Scheduling downtime is a first-line defense for educators and directors. In addition to classes and rehearsals, incorporate meal and snack breaks into your dancers’ schedules. These should be integrated at several points throughout the day. An example is a mid-morning snack (30 minutes), lunch (60 minutes) and an afternoon snack break (30 minutes). Not only will this allow dancers to rest and recoup, but it will also encourage refueling.
Model Sustainable Habits
Actions are our loudest tool for inspiring young dancers to build habits that support their long-term health and performance. To model hydration, which is extra-important during the hot summer months, invest in a reusable water bottle and refill it throughout the day. If funds allow, consider supplying your dancers with reusable bottles as well. (Cool swag never hurts your marketing efforts!) Making sure your students see you hydrate and have between-class snacks are your strongest tools for promoting sustainable habits among your dancers.
Offer Health and Wellness Education
For many dancers, summer intensives are an opportunity to broaden a dancer’s training in aspects other than just technique. As Crumley says, “Summer intensives are a great opportunity to focus on other elements of training, which also gives dancers increased awareness of how much goes into the artform.” Nutrition education, mental health support, physical therapy education, and even pointe shoe fittings are just a few examples of how you can support the health and well-being of your dancers.
Outsource such responsibilities to clinicians who are specifically trained in supporting the unique needs of dancers. When it comes to nutrition, turn to a licensed registered dietitian nutritionist. For mental health support, turn to a licensed mental health therapist or psychologist. If financial constraints exist, free resources are available for your dancers.
The bottom line: You can plan to help combat common struggles dancers experience during summer intensives. In doing so, you’ll optimize your time while still supporting your dancers’ needs.