My Time at the National Ballet of Canada’s Adult Summer Intensive

After all the fun I had at the National Ballet of Canada’s Adult Winter Intensive, I’m pretty sure I was the first person to register for their intensive this August. Here’s how my 2 weeks of ballet went!
Go Straight to Overall Thoughts

Thursday – Week 1

I was expecting to see a ton of familiar faces when I walked in but surprisingly I didn’t see too many people I recognized. I wondered if it was just the timing, the cost, or if the Winter intensive came at a better time for people, who were usually away on vacation during the summer.

The first day of classes started off with 2 hours and 45 minutes of ballet, beginning with Floor Barre with Wendy (a nice introduction to returning students), Ballet Technique, then Classical Repertoire.

I was a bit confused really at the Ballet Technique class since it seemed like we were intermingled with the rest of the normal students instead of just having a class to ourselves, like in the Winter intensive. This was a bit annoying because the class went from what was supposed to be only about 12 elementary/intermediate level intensive students to over 25 intermediate level students. While I was fine in the class technically, I know that it was much harder than the other students were probably used to and being in a class with students who were already used to the teacher’s style and overall flow of exercises probably didn’t help their confidence levels.

The Classical Repertoire class was fun, and Kahlil blazed through a Paquita variation quite quickly with a mission to review it next class. I liked the pace that this first class went at, and that the variation was challenging enough but still easy and fun to do.

Friday – Week 1

A bit more of a chill day, we started with 45 minutes of Floor Work with a dancer/choreographer/physiotherapist. It was actually really fun to do the exercises and how they related to dancing, especially since I haven’t been the best with my own physical therapy (as in I’ve never gone even though I probably should).

After Floor Work we had a Contemporary class which was fun. I remember how much I liked the Contemporary day last week but felt that it was better right in the middle of intensive instead of just day 2. It was a rest day where you weren’t too tired yet so it didn’t really do much.

Saturday – Week 1

This was probably the day that I enjoyed the least out of this week. We started off with the same teacher’s class as we had had on Thursday. This class wasn’t too bad, and I was feeling pretty warm going into the second technique class of the day. Since this was apparently an easier level, I took the class on pointe but found it annoyingly challenging. You know how when you learn a set of movements they’re pretty much muscle memory, and it’s weird to slow them down, add pauses, or simplify them? (Hello glissade assemblé and chassé pas de bourree) That was pretty much the whole class. It was tripping me up doing two slow glissades and not having anything after it! After this we had pas de deux class even though there weren’t any guys in our level. To be fair, there were like 3 guys in the whole thing so I’m not quite sure why they would promise a pas de deux class if there weren’t even numbers but I guess it is quite good marketing. Anyway, this was pretty fun since I got to be the guinea pig for the instructor, and we learned a pas de deux from Giselle. I don’t think the class would’ve been as fun if I hadn’t been partnered with the instructor though.

Sunday – Week 1

I think I must’ve been coming down with something because I felt absolutely HORRIBLE today. Like barely even showed up horrible. Needless to say this was probably not my best day although floor barre and technique class both went relatively well. Then we had a repeat of Repertoire still learning the same variation from Paquita (although we were going back and simplifying it, taking out my favourite cabriole diagonal). To be fair I did sit most of this class out because of how awful I felt, and only went in for the last 10 minutes or so when we went over it in smaller groups. Kinda diva-y but I have to do what’s best for me, and dancing a full jumpy variation over and over again was not in the cards today. To finish off the day we had a stretch class which I would’ve loved, but I was feeling so sore and achy I could barely do any of the stretches. I’m better than this, I promise!

Thursday – Week 2

After spending the next 3 days to relax and feel better, I went into Thursday full force with floor barre and the same technique class as I had had twice already. I was beginning to understand the teacher’s choreography a little better, which made the class a lot more smooth. I didn’t do any large jumps though cause I didn’t want to risk anything. In Repertoire we started learning a variation from Giselle. It was fun and actually kind of challenging, especially the first beginning part with all the glissades and posés in different directions – the posé derriere is a killer! I did have the instructor say though that my timing and musicality for that section was ‘spot on’ when we went over it in smaller groups, so I’ll count that as a win.

Friday – Week 2

Friday of week 2 was another relaxing Contemporary Friday starting with floor work again – I was thankful that we were given a sheet of exercises and was shamelessly *that person* taking extra notes on the sheet to make sure I remembered everything. After that we had contemporary with a different teacher. It was super weird but fun to focus on not using your muscles. The first exercise we did was this one where we rolled on the floor and used our bodyweight to flip from being on our back to our stomach and really connect with the floor. While I don’t think I could be a contemporary dancer (I like my turnout too much), it was fun trying something new.

Saturday – Week 2

I wasn’t actually looking forward to Saturday that much. The switch from being able to wake up late to having to be out of the house by 7AM is HORRIBLE and I found both Saturdays to be quite hard. That combined with not really wanting to go to “Beginner Ballet 2” again and wondering if the Pointe class would be useful to me at all made for a kind of sour mood. I was also still not feeling too great and to be honest almost skipped out. The technique classes went well and I made the decision not to jump, which was for the best so I could keep my stamina up.

I could’ve skipped the pointe class though because all we did was really echappées to fourth and second at the barre, then simple posés en avant in the centre. And this was after the teacher had asked what people had been doing on pointe! It seemed like a challenging class for the rest of the people in Elementary/Intermediate though.

Sunday – Week 2

This day was actually the best day of the whole intensive. After starting with our usual floor barre (which was SO needed), we went into technique class with First Soloist Chelsy Meiss. She was such a sweetheart and I loved the care and thought she put into her exercises and explaining from her perspective what things to focus on (like hammock legs in tendus and arms before legs in jumps). From there we went to Repertoire but in the small studio. The room was much too small for 12 people to be doing variations and I kept getting my space blocked, especially when going backwards. Since I had to travel back to Ottawa that afternoon I skipped out on stretch.

Overall Thoughts

I thought that this round of Intensive would be similar to the one I did in January, but comparatively it seemed not as organized. I felt a little jipped that I was put into pre-scheduled classes, and that we weren’t even told what the pre-scheduled class was! If I had known what the levels of the classes were that I would be going into, I feel like I would’ve been less shocked going into Intermediate/Advanced ballet or Beginner Ballet 2, and could’ve better prepared myself.

I was also kind of annoyed that there were Pas de Deux and Pointe on the schedule, to be honest, even though Pas de Deux was a big draw for me in the January intensive. There were literally no men in our level and the men in the Beginner level didn’t stick around, so we pretty much had to partner up and learn both parts of the variation. If you know that there aren’t going to be enough, or even any guys, why schedule a Pas de Deux class?! As for pointe, there’s a very obvious range of skill levels in the Elementary/Intermediate level since, from the website, the only criteria for being in this level is “3-5 years of ballet experience”. This doesn’t mean consistent classes, or with good teachers, or anything, so evidently the range of dancers who think they’re in this level is quite varied. It would be a lot better if on the first day there was an orientation/placement class with the whole group where people could self-sort themselves into a level, or recommendations could be made. Even if there were some sample videos of what an allegro or across the floor exercise would look like at each level would be helpful for people to look at before registering for one level or another.

I was also not as happy with the 2 weeks of 4 days setup compared with the 1 week of 5 days setup that the Winter intensive had. I had to take a week and a half off of work to attend the intensive, and for 3 of those days I was just waiting around since there was nothing scheduled. I can’t even imagine how expensive Intensive would be for people who had to stay in a hotel for the entire time! Since this is one of the only Adult intensives in Ontario (and probably the most well-known at that), people travel from as far away as Montreal to attend.

Now, this isn’t to say that the Intensive is bad or not worth going to, it’s just not for me. If you live in the Toronto area or are at a lower level ballet-wise, this is perfect for you. You’ll be challenged, have fun, and won’t be spending over a grand on a hotel for the week and a half you’ll be here. You’ll meet awesome people like you who are adults but love ballet, and make a connection with dancers in the same boat. This Intensive, however, is not for you if you live outside the city and don’t have a friend or family member to crash with close by (the commute back to Oshawa was over an hour each way), or if you’re at a more advanced level.

Without seeing the schedule and teachers beforehand, I don’t think I’ll be going to the next Intensive.

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