Four Reasons to Get Excited (Yes, Excited!) About Your Virtual Dance Intensive

June 14, 2020

After a spring filled with sad announcements about COVID-canceled recitals and competition events, you knew the IRL summer intensive cancellations were coming. But the disappointment still stung.

That said, for those willing to continue training online, there are silver linings to all-digital summer programs (in addition to staying healthy and helping to stop the spread of COVID-19). From scheduling advantages to serious financial savings, here are four reasons to actually get excited about virtual dance intensives.

You May Get to Dance MORE

You won’t be jetting off to a new city, but you might have the opportunity to train with teachers in many places around the world this summer—and often in the same day. The NYC-based Peridance Center, for example, is hosting three summer program tracks including classes not only with its regular faculty members, but also with teachers currently in Belgium, France, and Germany.

Not traveling also affords you extra time to schedule more classes—throughout the summer, as well as in the course of one day. And if your home studio is open, or possibly opening soon, you might be able take class in person at your studio and online. “If your studio offers a lot of ballet and contemporary, consider signing up for more hip-hop or improv classes,” says Holck. “Supplement your curriculum.”

Peridance faculty member Caterina Rago teaching Graham technique (courtesy Peridance)

Some virtual programs are also archiving their live classes, so you can view them when it’s convenient for you. Included in registration in CLI’s 2020 Dance Experience is year-long access to the entire archive of its program, totaling about 300 classes. “The live classes are every day from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm PT, but if you miss something live, you can always go back and watch it,” says CEO and founder Jon Arpino.

In fact, once summer intensives have ended, you might be able to re-take your favorite classes before fall semester, to prevent that end-of-summer slump. Or you could use an archived online class to brush up on a choreographer’s movement style before a big audition or in-person master class.

It’s a More Affordable, and Sustainable, Model

The high cost of summer study is a hurdle for many dancers—especially now, as families cope with COVID-19’s economic impact. Between tuition fees, travel expenses, and room and board costs, a traditional summer intensive can be extremely pricey. And the plane flights and/or daily commutes required to attend an in-person program also contribute to a dancer’s overall carbon footprint.

Virtual intensives are both more affordable and sustainable than their IRL counterparts. “We want to be mindful of the economic effect that COVID-19 has had on families, and make this experience more accessible and affordable,” Arpino says. “It can be cost-prohibitive to fly to L.A., stay in a hotel, and train for a week. We want to help democratize access to amazing instruction and creativity.”

It Will Broaden Your Dance Horizons

A virtual intensive’s weekend activities may not include exploring a new city’s market or going to a baseball game. But online programs are supplementing their class offerings in more targeted—and, often, more meaningful—ways, with innovative opportunities to learn valuable skills and make professional connections.

Peridance’s three summer programs include workshops in such topics as dancing for the camera and lighting design, and a repertoire class will lead to a virtual performance. CLI Studio’s 2020 Dance Experience includes streams of performances, Q&A sessions with concert dance company members, access to podcasts hosted by faculty including tWtich and Dana Wilson, and opportunities to take part in cyphers. “There will even be opportunities to watch the making of a dance film, or be a fly on the wall while choreographers set work,” says Arpino.

You’ll Still Be Able to Make Summer-Intensive Friends

Traditional summer programs have always been fantastic places to make lasting friendships. While this aspect of summer study can’t be completely replicated, virtual-program directors are trying to facilitate a feeling of community. Recognizing that taking class at home can be isolating, they’re exploring creative uses of digital spaces to offset that feeling.

CLI Studios is experimenting with tailored virtual social networking, including a function that lets dancers take class with their friends. Peridance classes are being taught over Zoom, where students can use the chat function to talk with teachers and get to know each other. “We’re trying to find new ways that students can communicate with each other and with faculty,” Holk says, “while absolutely being mindful of safety and online privacy.”