CLI Conservatory students at ballet barre with leg extended in second position and arm extended out to the side.

How to Choose the Right Summer Dance Intensive For Your Child

Like any decision that affects your child, it’s natural to want to choose the perfect summer dance intensive for your dancer. However, as you might know by now, there is no “right” decision. It’s all about weighing the pros and cons and making a decision that fits your child’s goals.

Let’s walk through some of the most important things to consider when choosing what summer dance intensive you want to send your young dancer to!

The Difference Between Intensives and Dance Camps

The term dance ‘intensive’ is now synonymous with almost any summer dance program geared towards dancers from around middle school (10-12) and up. There are variations in the level of intensity of the program, of course, but a summer dance intensive is typically more focused on training and the specific accumulation of strength, technique, and new experiences over a shorter, more concentrated, amount of time than a dancer might get throughout the school year.

A summer dance camp most likely references programs for younger children, or programs that are more geared towards the experience of dancing rather than on improving and expanding dance technique and vocabulary. Camps might also have options for very novice dancers, whereas an intensive typically assumes some prior foundation of dance technique. Summer dance camps can also last for a month or longer and will function more like a sleep-away summer camp. 

FAQ: What Does a Typical Summer Intensive Day Look Like?

Each program will have its own variation of what is “intense” about the schedule or the dancing. Some intensives will have long days full of dance classes, rehearsals, and other informative classes like nutrition or injury prevention. Others will focus on consecutive hours of dancing and go for a shorter amount of time, leaving you with a little more free time at the end of the day. Depending on the type of program, some focus on one style the whole time, whereas others offer a variety of styles throughout the program.

Overnight or sleep-away programs will often offer weekend or evening activities for dancers and families to connect, like going on hikes and exploring nearby cities. Even if the program is not a sleep-away, expect your young dancer to want to make plans with his or her new friends in their free time, if they have much!

Girls from the CLI Conservatory smiling and hugging on top of a mountain with trees in the background

Dancing can go from 8 in the morning to well past 5, depending on the program. Dancers will always get lunch, but breaks throughout classes may be brief. It’s a great idea to prepare for that, have snacks handy, and prioritize resting when home or in the dorms.

For more information on the typical summer intensive experience, you can read our blog “What to Expect at a Summer Dance Intensive.”

Establish Your Goals

What does your dancer want to gain from a summer intensive, and what are your own goals? Your child might have an accurate, well-informed view of how they want to train over the summer, or, they might need a good bit of guidance from you. No matter what, when it comes to establishing your goals for a summer intensive, it’s important to involve your child‘s input. More on that later!

For now, let’s focus on the basics:

  • How long of a program works with your schedule and your child’s age or temperament? 
  • How far from home are you willing to travel? 
  • Are you looking for a sleep-away intensive?
  • What is your budget? 
  • What kind of training does your dancer want to focus on? Do they want to try something new, or continue to work on a specific style, or even with a specific teacher? 
  • Does your dancer want to just dance or do they also want professional coaching and industry guidance?

You might find the perfect intensive on the first google search, but odds are more likely that it will take a bit of perusing and some compromise. Some intensives will have auditions, so that will factor into travel and budget as well. These little details are some of the most important to note when you are doing your initial research!*

CLI Conservatory dancer talking to Teddy Forance and smiling

Many summer dance intensives are geared towards the “pre-professional” dancer since that is the point at which it becomes most important and exciting for a dancer to venture outside her home studio. Dancers at this age tend to be more independent and can not only learn more in classes but also make strong connections in and outside of the dance studio with other dancers and teachers.

*That being said, don’t let one conflict in your schedule keep you from auditioning or attending a certain program. Always reach out to program liaisons to ask questions about alternatives! You never know what you can make work until you ask.

Research, Research, Research

It can be helpful to start your research with other dance parents, talking to your dancer about the programs he or she knows about. If your dancer knows of any companies they admire, cities they dream of dancing in, or choreographers they dream of working with, you can move your search to Instagram as well. If you don’t feel social media savvy, ask your dancer to help you! Your local studio will also have great insight about summer programs that might be perfect for your dancer’s skill level and goals. 

FAQ: How to Find the Right Group For My Child?

So, most intensives will actually place a dancer in a group based on an audition or application materials. If there is no audition, the best option is to communicate directly with the program. This is a question they probably get a lot, and each program will have specific qualifications or expectations for different groups. Don’t spend time stressing ask the program, and if your child is upset or nervous about their level, explain that there are many factors that go into it, including age, years of dancing, the type of dancing required (partner-work, for example, might be e reserved for older and more advanced dancers).

CLI Conservatory Students standing with Marty Kudelka pointing and posing for picture

Take All Costs Into Consideration

Once you’ve started to narrow in on a few options, it’s time to plan out all associated costs. This can include traveling to things like auditions months in advance, application fees for online auditions—though not all require a fee and travel. It’s not likely that you’ll need to buy any new dance gear or attire, but it’s something to factor in. If your dancer is away from home, they may need extra pairs of shoes or more durable items. For example, for ballet dancers, you might have to prep pointe shoes in advance, or refresh your dancer’s drawer of tights or bobby pins.

There’s a wide variety of price ranges that factor in things like travel & accommodations, food, and excursions. For example, a higher-priced intensive might include a dorm experience, an RA, and food. A lower-priced sleep-away intensive might not be “all-inclusive”, but can give you more flexibility if you want to join your child and make a family trip out of it!

If you’re looking to cut costs, check with your local studio to see if they have a summer intensive. This might not be the best option for a dancer who wants more industry connections and training but is great for technique training on a budget. Some summer intensives will have financial aid opportunities as well, so it never hurts to ask! 

At the end of the day, each program is unique and you will get most of the information you need from talking to people who have attended (dancers or parents), or from the program directors themselves. They want you to have the best experience possible, so never be afraid to reach out with questions. They’ve probably heard most of them already!

Get Your Child Involved!

Having an open and honest conversation with your child about their questions, ideas, and expectations for a summer dance intensive is a great way to make a decision you’ll both be happy with. 

CLI Conservatory dancers sitting in front of the mirror in a dance studio smiling watching dance

It’s important that your child genuinely wants to go to the intensive and understands the level of commitment this would ask of them. Dancing long hours with new dancers can be super challenging, even if it’s worth it in the end.

FAQ: Should my child go with their friends?

Intensives are a great way to make connections with other dancers around your age/skill level, so you don’t HAVE to go with a friend. Many times dancers find extended-family members from attending these events. However, you know your child best and if you think that your child would perform better and feel more comfortable having a friend tag along, then that is absolutely an option!

FAQ: Can I Go With My Child?

It depends on the program, which is why it’s important to do research! If you want to stay close to your child, this may change where and how long you’re willing to travel.  For younger children, tagging along may not be bad— having a parent for emotional support can help to elevate a dancer’s experience. Most intensives will not allow parents to view every class their child is in but that’s a great opportunity for you to get in some time in a new city and have your own fun! Most programs will provide information about things to do in the area for the family. 

CTA Learn more about CLI’s Summer Intensives to see if they’re a good fit for your dancer.

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