Living the Dream, Dance Camp for Adult Dancers

Ever thought about going to dance camp? It does sound like great fun for us grown ups to be able to take a week and live the dream. Although I haven’t had the ability to do so myself, I had the fantastic opportunity to talk with the folks from Sun King Dance Camp and ask them a few questions about the hows and whys of dance camp for grown ups. This is the first installation of that interview. I hope this provides you all with some wonderful information and maybe a little bit of inspiration.

I also have the great privilege to personally know a few dancers who have attended Sun King Dance Camp. Below the Sun King interview is a featurette on an adult dancer who has attended camp. This week I get to feature my good friend Lisa Gallo. I’ve been really fortunate to train along side Lisa in classes here in Los Angeles. She is happy to share some of her experiences of dance camp with you, my lovely readers, especially the joys of performing!

I hope you enjoy!!

Sun King Dance Camp: Photo belongs to Sun King Dance Camp

Sun King Dance Camp: Photo belongs to Sun King Dance Camp

Why dance camp, especially if I am completely out of shape?

Dance is a great form of exercise. It is a total body workout that focuses on balance, alignment and flexibility. It works your brain, and helps maintain muscle mass and bone density! These are all necessary for keeping you in good shape, for the rest of your life. Dance even has a significant social component. It has been scientifically proven that social connections help to improve your health.

An intensive is not for those who are new to dance training or to working out. It requires preparation and good health. Having said that, an intensive can be the goal you focus on to get yourself to go to class and the gym. After a year or two you might be ready come join us at camp!

And… what about those of us who are over 40?

You are never too old to learn new things or have a good time. Most of our campers are between the ages of 35 and 55 but we have people from 18 to 70 who attend regularly! Some people have been dancing forever but we always have people who just recently started. So if you are over 40, and you just started dancing, you’re in good company!

We recently shared a post on our Facebook page that told of a man who started ballet at 70 or 80 and was hired to be in a professional ballet production. So is it ever really too late to make dance a rewarding and interesting part of your life? We think not!

What if I am still struggling to learn the steps and progress to more advanced levels in my regular ballet classes?

The benefits of an intensive are many and far-reaching! Any time you are able to focus on one thing for a few days, the learning curve is greatly improved. This is because you are able to build muscle memory through repetition. Muscle memory helps you to do things without even thinking about it. With a foundation of correct technique in your muscle memory, you can advance to more difficult steps more easily.

All new steps are in your barre work – every action you need to know begins there. I cannot stress enough how important it is to keep going back to the barre and work on refinements. Paying attention to the details is key. If the correct muscle memory is built upon, you will naturally progress.

One of the important learning tools we use at Sun King Dance is workshops. We take time to slowly dissect things like turnout, tendus and port de bras outside of technique class. Everyone gets the personal attention they need to find the right feeling and action. We also have a daily class in Elemental Body Alignment System, which really helps you find your balance and alignment by reeducating the musculature.

Being in a new environment, with new teachers and few distractions really helps the learning process too. Sometimes the same concepts or corrections you are getting at home may be presented in a new way at camp and that helps you to gain new insight. If you’ve been struggling to progress to the next level, an intensive camp might be the push you need.

Featuring dance camp student, Lisa Gallo: 

Adult Student, Lisa Gallo

Adult Student, Lisa Gallo

I have been going to Sun King Dance camp for three years now, and I look forward to it every year. There are so many things about camp that keep me coming back: the chance for one week out of the year to live the dream of dancing all day long as would a professional ballerina; the lifelong friendships that we form; the superb training that we receive. But probably the biggest thing that keeps me coming back is the performance opportunity.

I am extremely lucky that I live in an area where there are many studios offering adult ballet classes of all levels, including pointe classes – and where adult students are taken seriously. So while I can train every day, I never get the chance to perform. There are not too many companies that take adult dancers on a part-time basis, and with good reason. Adults usually have spouses, children, full-time jobs and other obligations that prevent them from fully committing to a demanding rehearsal schedule necessarily required to achieve a successful and quality production on stage.

The flip side, unfortunately, is that what we as dancers tirelessly do inside and outside the studio to improve our technique does not, without performing, get translated into art. Thus, most adult dancers dance only for themselves and for the love of dance and movement. And that would be enough, truly.

But the fact that Sun King Dance, as I would image most dance camps would, offer adult dancers the opportunity to perform is a gift. It allows us to bring to life what we work hard to achieve. It also allows us to celebrate ourselves and each other. At SKD, fellow dancers support and nurture each other. There is no judgment, no criticism; beyond, that is, that which we, naturally inclined as dancers are, may inflict upon ourselves. The chance to perform gives adult dancers a confidence of self that they may not have known existed, and that could not be attained without the support of our fellow dancers.

Performances give the adult dancer the chance to begin to develop within the art of ballet. The rehearsal process is really where the magic happens, for me anyway. Antecedent to the performances and easily my most favorite part of the week, rehearsals allow us to dive in to the narrative of the ballet, develop the character we embody and coax the nuances of emotion and storytelling. Where in a performance a dancer may just enjoy the moment of being on stage, in the rehearsal studio a dancer feels, breathes, and is the art form.

Dance is about much more than the stringing together of a bunch of steps. It is self-expression; it is raw emotion. To loosely paraphrase a quote that I have seen a million times on the Internet: it takes an athlete to be a technician; it takes an artist to be a dancer. SKD allows dancers the opportunity to develop as artists. It is genuinely a special and memorable experience that keeps me coming back year after year.

Lisa Gallo is an adult ballet student living in Los Angeles. She is a lover of adagio, La Bayadere, and all things Wendy Whelan.

Taking Class While Traveling – 10 Quick Hacks

Ballet travel is one of my favorite types of holiday. I love to venture out to discover new venues, new companies, new dancers, and new productions or revisit well-loved places, people, and dance. I think it is fun that dance is the impetus to much of my travel. And each trip, I learn more about how to make my travel enjoyable, less stressful, and just make more sense of the whole experience of being a traveler in this amazing world of ours and taking full advantage of each moment. I didn’t grow up traveling so I never had anyone to show me how it was done. When travel is a very foreign concept, it can be a very frightening concept. It takes some work to figure it out. Honestly, my first experiences with travel were so stressful, it almost wasn’t worth it. Fortunately for me I’m very persistent and with some practice travel has become one of my favorite things… kind of like ballet. Just keep trying, eventually things start to make some sense. So here are just a few thoughts on ballet travel, specifically some thoughts on how to work taking class into your travel plans.

If you are traveling to see a performance, I highly recommend seeing if the venue offers a tour, they often include lots of great historical and practical information. I also recommend a google search to see if any of the local museums have exhibits of interest. I’ve been happy to run across wonderful exhibitions of costumes, photography, and tributes to a particular dancer, often someone like Nureyev, or particular companies. Local dance stores sometimes carry regional dance magazines and other bits that are unique and just fun to browse. I also enjoy taking class when I’m out and about. But it can be a challenge, especially if I’m traveling light and fast and with the added cost and enforcement of size and weight limitations to luggage these days, that is the best way to go. I’ve been super fortunate even as an adult dancer with limited experience to have attended classes in Japan, France, England, China, and Italy. Some were fantastic, some were a bit of a mess, but just like ballet, trial and error is one way to learn.Certainly this is not an all-inclusive list and I’ve got notes written everywhere but these are ten ideas to start with and maybe you’ve got some great tips to share!

  1. Dance class wear that doubles as pool or beach side wear. Choose a leotard that works as a bathing suit. So many cuts and fabrics work just as well poolside as they do in the studio (not cotton!!). A cute ballet skirt works just as well as a cover up on the beach as it does at the barre. For you guys, not as cute perhaps, but many of my male classmates do opt for shorts and a tank top in ballet class. This will also double as pool or beach wear and it’s one less thing that you need to pack.
  2. Or buy dance wear as your souvenir. I’m not a person who runs about buying snow globes and lots of crazy souvenirs. I like souvenirs that I will actually use and enjoy. I love finding new dance wear when I travel that is unique and will carry special memories each and every time I wear it for years to come. Just google dance stores in your holiday location or go to Twitter or Facebook for suggestions. Just make sure you have a bit of room in your suitcase to bring it home.
  3. Leave the pink tights at home and let black convertible tights do double duty as regular rights and class tights.  An option for guys is to use running tights for class as well as your workout wear. You do still work out on the road, no? Well, I like to and being able to get double duty out of my clothing is a huge plus.
  4. Take your foot roller, tennis ball, and small peppermint lotion product. Foot rollers are really very small to pack and can fit in a side pocket or a shoe, same with a tennis ball and that has a plus of being really lightweight. I use both on the plane, before and after class, and after a long day of sight-seeing. I also like to carry a small bottle of peppermint foot rub and give my feet an extra treat when traveling to keep them happy and ready for the next adventure. The tennis ball is also great for rolling out other muscles, really it is an amazing tool, take it with you. P.S. Don’t forget blister plasters, a traveler and a dancers very good friend.
  5. Take your warmies and use them as pajamas. Warmies like my Wear Moi onesie along with a pair of warm woolie socks are perfect sleep wear on a long flight and also serve as pjs along with being warmies for class.


    Photo owned by Wear Moi

  6. Leave your hand towel at home. Grab a hand towel from your hotel, just remember to give it back!
  7. Check online but most studios have water fountains where you can fill a water bottle. Remember that airlines will fill your water bottle as well, no need to shell out a mortgage payment for a bottle of water at the airport. My favorite type of travel water bottle are the flat plastic kind that can roll up like a tube of toothpaste when empty. I almost always purchase a Starbucks travel mug specific to my destination, as long as you get something that will seal, it can double as a water bottle in class. Reflex-Group-300dpi-1
  8. Dance wear can be easily washed in your hotel sink with a bit of hotel shampoo. Wring gently in a towel to draw out the extra moisture and then hang to dry on your towel rack and in a pinch use the hotel hair dryer. I’ve even been known to take my dance wear into the shower with me at the end of the day to save time and water.
  9. Buy a bag as a souvenir to use as your dance bag. Another souvenir I like are canvas grocery bags. They are inexpensive and I will use them with regularity at home. On the road they are great to have to carry some take away lunch for a picnic in the park or other purchases. They can also serve as a dance bag while on holiday.

    My new bag from the ROH shop.

    My new bag from the ROH shop.

  10. Or use a dance bag as one of your carry on items. Pack it up with your stuff, carry on to the flight, and then unpack it at the hotel and use the bag as God and nature intended for class. Lots of us have dance bags that can carry quite a bit and have lots of convenient pockets and hooks. These bags make excellent carry on bags; this and your roller bag and you are all set to go!

How to find a class while traveling? The best thing is to ask!!! Go to Twitter and Facebook and ask about. Google options and don’t be afraid to email, tweet, and message studios that you come across. Most are very  nice and helpful and those that aren’t provide you with enough to know that you don’t want to go there anyway! Ask about levels since classes can have names that don’t translate into exactly what you may know as beginner, intermediate, and advanced. I mean, that happens just changing studios.  Personally, I always opt to error on the side of an easier class. I love a challenge but I keep in mind that I’m probably more jet lagged and a bit out of sorts than I’d care to admit. It’s sometimes enough to try to figure out a style or school that is different from what you are used to anyway, possible language barriers, brain fog from traveling, and new combinations! It’s a lot. If you do opt to go up a notch, just please remember that one of the most important things for you to know is how and when to get out of the way! Seriously, as always, if you get lost or mess up, keep going. Never place yourself at the head of a barre or front and center in  class and when traveling across the floor, do not under any circumstances just stop. But do wear a smile, be friendly, and have fun! I’ve made some lovely friends at studios abroad.

Have you taken class while traveling? What did you learn – do’s and don’ts? Let’s talk.