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!!
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:
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.