Hayden Stark: Houston Ballet – Dance Spirit


It is the fantasy of any young dancer: attend an intensive summer course, dazzle the artistic staff with your flawless technique, land a contract with a company and grand-jet at sunset.

If only it was that easy, right? But if the road from intensive to business has not been so well traveled, it does exist. You may need to replace the words “company contract” with “second company contract”, “apprenticeship” or even “internship”. At the end of the day, however, summer internships are a great first step on the path to the job of your dreams – they’re a place to improve your dancing, feel like you’re in company, and introduce yourself. to directors who could potentially hire you.

We caught up with six professionals who have taken the intensive summer journey to a dream job to find out how to give you a chance to fight with this coveted end-of-summer deal.

Maya Harr, member of the Alonzo King LINES Ballet Company (RJ Muna, courtesy Alonzo King LINES Ballet)

Maya Harr: Alonzo King LINES Ballet

When Maya Harr participated in Alonzo King’s LINES Ballet summer program in 2016, she was in an enviable position: she had already been offered internships at both LINES and Ballet West for the following fall. Having attended Ballet West’s Summer Intensive twice, she was using that past summer to help him make a decision on where she should be next year. The LINES summer program sold her to the company. Shortly after the start of her internship, she was offered a full-fledged company contract.

Knowing that LINES Ballet was the place for her: “I went to the intensive summer at LINES thinking maybe the company was where I belonged. One of my biggest mentors growing up was Kristina Windom, who danced with LINES in the 90s. Over the summer I fell in love with the motivation, the training and the people I met there. “

Give yourself the best possible chance for a contract: “It wasn’t my intention to get a contract directly from the summer program. In my mind, that wasn’t even a possibility! I just wanted to be in the LINES environment, and work and grow as a ‘artist. I used it was an opportunity to break out of my classic shell and learn to express myself in a new way. “

His advice to all those who hope to follow in his footsteps: “Summer Intensives are a great opportunity to show artistic staff what you are capable of. Most importantly, they are a great opportunity for you to grow. Respond to what you are being taught. Show that you can take corrections will demonstrate that you could be an asset to the business. “

Paul Suzi (front) at the Boston Ballet Summer Intensive (Igor Burlak, courtesy Boston Ballet)

Paul Suzi: Boston Ballet II

The story of Paul Zusi is a magical fairy tale. On the penultimate day of the Boston Ballet’s 2019 summer dance program, Zusi had just completed the first of four end-of-program performances when Peter Stark, associate director of Boston Ballet II, asked him to follow him to the office. from the Boston Ballet director Mikko Nissinen. “I kept thinking, ‘There’s no way this is happening right now,’” Zusi says. Nissinen congratulated him on a great performance and immediately offered him a contract with the Boston Ballet II, starting this fall.

Knowing that the Boston Ballet II was the place for him: “The Boston Ballet’s reputation and diverse repertoire caught my attention. But I had no idea how the company would feel until I started the summer program. This experience has shown me that this is really what it is. I wanted to.”

On the lessons learned from the intensive: “At first I decided to be the most focused and determined person in the intensive. In fact, I was just the person most stuck in the intensive! Eventually, I realized that I needed to relax and see the corrections as a good thing, rather than proof that I was failing. “

His advice to all those who hope to follow in his footsteps: “Build a good relationship with your teachers, give everything in technique class, and be smart. Taking care of your body is an important part of being in a professional business. They need to see that you can be responsible.”

Ailey II dancer Jamaris Mitchell (Nir Arieli, courtesy Ailey II)

Jamaris Mitchell: Ailey II

For Jamaris Mitchell, who is in his first season with Ailey II, attending the company’s summer intensive made all the difference. After participating in the program for several summers, she got an apprenticeship with Ailey II in 2018, and a year later, she officially joined the second company. “When I found out I had it, I wanted to scream, cry, scream and laugh at the same time,” she says. “After all these years dreaming, I finally did.”

Knowing that Ailey II was the place for her: “When I was 6, Troy Powell, artistic director of Ailey II did a master class in Syracuse, NY. It was my introduction to modern technique, and I ate it. seeing the company dancing in person, it was difficult for me. I constantly begged my mom until I was old enough to attend the summer intensive. “

Give yourself the best possible chance for a contract: “Above all, I followed the rules. I went to class, I listened, and I absorbed all the knowledge I could from my teachers. they told me about my goals, and they gave me advice on how to achieve them. They taught me to introduce myself, to work with choreographers, to audition, and I listened.

His advice for all those who hope follow in his footsteps: “Make friends. The program is very demanding, just as the business is demanding. The friendships you make will keep you going. They are your support system and will be a big part of your eventual success.”

Jackie Aitken (center) with fellow Radio City Rockettes (Angela Cranford, courtesy MSG Photos)

Jackie Aitken: Radio City Rockettes

In August 2014, Jackie Aitken, who had participated in the Rockettes Summer Intensive a few months earlier, performed at the Moulin Rouge in Paris. During intermission one night, she took a moment to check her emails, and what she found made her cry: she had landed a contract with the Radio City Rockettes. She was so excited that she could barely pull herself together in time to end the show. She had long dreamed of joining the troop, but never imagined that her time would come so quickly.

Knowing that the Rockettes were the place for her: “During my week at RSI, the Rockettes taught me and I had the chance to perform their numbers at Radio City Music Hall. that this job was exactly what I wanted. “

Give yourself the best possible chance for a contract: “There is no time to waste at RSI! I tried to always think on my feet, follow the teachers’ instructions and have fun.”

His advice to all those who hope to follow in his footsteps: “I have come full circle and now teach RSI myself. What I want to see are dancers who are dedicated and hard working, have good energy and do their homework. girls going home and training and coming back prepared. “

Pacific Northwest Ballet soloist Kyle Davis in Alexei Ratmansky’s “Don Quixote” (Angela Sterling, courtesy PNB)

Kyle Davis: Pacific Northwest Ballet

In 2008, Kyle Davis won the prestigious Prix de Lausanne competition and was offered an apprenticeship at the Royal Ballet. But the year before, he had had a great experience at the Pacific Northwest Ballet’s Summer Intensive, and he couldn’t shake the feeling that Seattle was where he belonged. On a whim, he called the PNB offices and asked to be directed to art director Peter Boal, hoping Boal remembers him. “I was like, ‘The worst thing he can say is no,’” Davis recalls. Davis asked if he could join PNB as an apprentice this fall. Although Boal had no vacancies, he managed to strike a deal with the company’s board of directors. Soon after, Boal called to offer Davis an apprenticeship. Davis was promoted to the corps de ballet in 2009, and soloist in 2016.

Knowing that PNB was the place for him: “During the PNB Summer Intensive, I had a lot of technique and variation lessons with Peter, and I really enjoyed working with him. The dancers in my class were exceptional, and I remember having thought: ‘If these are the types of dancers, their summer attracts intensive, the caliber of the dancers in the company must be really good. “

Give yourself the best possible chance for a contract: “I didn’t just focus on myself. I understood that every dancer in the hall was going to have something I wanted and could learn from them. It could be the way they turned their leg. support to maintain participation, or the way they came out of their jumps. If I had been focused on the inside, I would have missed the opportunity to learn. “

His advice to all those who hope to follow in his footsteps: “Introduce yourself and be present. It is not enough to be there on time. If the person in the front of the room sees that you aren’t really listening, chances are they aren’t hiring you.

Hayden Stark, soloist of the Houston Ballet (Claire McAdams, courtesy of the Houston Ballet)

By the time Hayden Stark graduated from high school in 2012, he had auditioned for many ballet companies without success. Discouraged but not ready to give up, he attended the Houston Ballet intensive that summer determined to give it his all. And in the program’s penultimate week, his efforts paid off: he was offered a position with the Houston Ballet’s Second Company. A year later, he joined the first company, and in 2017, he was promoted to soloist.

Knowing that the Houston Ballet was the place for him: “I trained at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts. While I was there, the Houston Summer Program came highly recommended – dancers always came back with better technique and better. attitudes. I had also heard that they had more little guys in the business, and since I’m 5’7 “, that was a draw for me. I had been on summer programs with other companies before, but something about the rep I did that summer with Houston really set my teeth in. “

Give yourself the best possible chance for a contract: “I focused on getting a contract from the start of the summer program. I worked really hard. I proved that I could learn choreography quickly, which showed them that if they put me in the second company, they throw me on stage at any time. “

His advice to all those who hope to follow in his footsteps: “Don’t overdo it the first week. It might sound silly, but people always make this mistake. There are always a handful of kids who go a little too hard the first week and end up hurting themselves and getting in. the House.”

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