Audition for as many summer intensive that you can. This doesn't mean you have to attend all of them, it just allows you more opportunities. Not only is it great taking class from a new teacher, and seeing where you fit in with other dancers, but you put your name out into the dance world, as well. Even if you don't make it, you gained audition experience that will be valuable in your future. I see it as taking master classes from different teachers from all over the country... of course, with a little pressure on your shoulders.
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As you may or may not have noticed, intensives generally run in the pricey range. Especially if you are traveling away from home and staying in the dorms provided. You shouldn't let this stop from chasing your dreams and wanting to improve! I suggest applying for financial aid or scholarships, if that is an option. I also suggest trying fundraising! You can sell unused items, work (even babysitting will help), do food stands, and I highly suggest using fundraising websites. With all the technology today, there are many websites that help share why you are raising money and what your goal is. Then, after creating one, you can share on social media or send it to others. Of course, you don't want to post and say "Give me your money!" (not that anyone would necessarily do that), but I'm sure if family and friends saw that you are taking the matter into your own hands, they will want to support you in doing something beneficial. It's the type of thing grandparents are all about.
What It's Like:
I have attended one summer intensive so far, and loved every second! I attended Ballet West's summer intensive (and will be again this year), which is close to home. Since it wasn't that far of a drive, I didn't stay in the dorms, so unfortunately, I don't have any advice on that area of subject. I think that the most beneficial part was taking multiple classes from a variety of teachers. It was so interesting to see the different techniques and style of ballet. This will make you a more well-rounded dancer and will allow you to adapt more easily to teachers. You usually go from the morning to mid-day with a variety of 4-5 classes and breaks. It is quite intense, as the name suggests.
Bonus: No need to worry about getting / keeping that "rockin' summer body"!
The Best Time:
If you are financial, emotionally, and physically stable to do a summer intensive, maybe even travel away from home, at a young age.... go for it! But if you aren't all of the above, I believe you should start with attending your studio's / academy's program. I think the sooner the better, but isn't what I necessarily want to emphasize. I think that as you are coming closer to the age where you have to decide what you want to do in your future, that is when a summer intensive might come most valuable. You want to attempt to go to the company that you are interested in working for, which will allow you to get familiar with how they function, the faculty, and may gain you recognition in later auditions.
In conclusion, summer intensives build experience from the first audition of audition season, to applying your knowledge when you return to regular class in the fall. I feel that you find a lot of improvement when doing this, especially because you are putting yourself out of your comfort zone found at your local studio and working hard for a many weeks straight. I can almost promise that you will grow as a dancer, and hope this gives some useful insight!