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A Week With ArtÉmotion

At the beginning of June, I traveled to Salt Lake City for the artÉmotion Adult Ballet Summer Intensive, and it was THE BEST THING EVER.

The classes were amazing, the teachers were amazing, the other dancers were amazing...I could go on and on. Plus Salt Lake City had some pretty amazing weather (sunny and hot all week, which I love).

To sum up (I'll go into greater detail below), I HIGHLY recommend it and would do it again. In a heartbeat. With exclamation points!! 

Side note: my ankle did fine, and I wasn't nearly as sore as I expected.

More details on the program below for those that are curious.


Program Overview

The artÉmotion Adult Ballet Summer Intensive offered three levels (beginning, intermediate, and advanced) for either a full day or half day. The entire program ran for six days total (Monday through Saturday) from either 9 am-12:15 pm (half day) or 9 am-3:15 pm (full day) at Ballet West/Ballet West Academy in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Each day began with an 1.5-hour ballet technique class for each level. This was followed by a 15 minute break and then a second 1.5-hour class that changed each day (one day each of contemporary, modern, and jazz, and three days of pointe/variations).

For those there for the full day, there was an hour lunch break and then we had a 2-hour rehearsal with a professional dancer where we learned brand new choreography that we performed on the final day (Saturday afternoon).

Both versions of the program included a photo shoot, which was coached by Allison DeBona (the director of the program and a First Soloist with Ballet West). She was really down to earth and encouraging, and made us all teary on Friday when she gave a very sweet speech.

One nice thing about the program was how flexible it was. When you initially sign up you have to pick a level, but they were very accommodating if you needed or wanted to change classes. For example, a few dancers weren't sure which level would actually work for them, so tried a class before settling on one. I signed up for the advanced level and did the advanced technique class and choreography, but because I'd just gotten back onto pointe, I asked if I could switch to intermediate pointe instead and it was not a problem at all (I ended up taking the intermediate level second class all week).

Classes & Teachers

We had a different teacher for technique each day, all of whom are professional dancers (mostly from Ballet West). What was awesome was that they each had their own "thing" to work on: one really focused on stamina, another on épaulement and port de bras, others on quick feet or body alignment, etc. Teachers for the advanced class included Adrian Fry (Ballet West Principal), Rex Tilton (Ballet West Principal), Allison DeBona, Jordan Tilton (Diablo Ballet, formerly San Francisco Ballet), and Tyler Gum (Ballet West Soloist). I was proud that I was able to keep up fairly well--steps weren't difficult, but everything was FAST. Petit allegro was my biggest issue, so I know what I'll be working on this summer!

I was pleasantly surprised by how much I liked modern (taught by Justin Bass). My past experience with modern dance involved a lot of rolling around on the floor (not my favorite), but Justin had us use a lot more of our bodies and the space around us. Contemporary (Patrick Cubbedge) really worked on getting us our of our comfort zones, and moving in different ways. I got a little teary when he had us dance out our fears. Jazz with Andrea Kuhn was a delight, and she was helpful breaking down some of the trickier jumps (hi, switch leaps!)

Pointe class always started with a barre warm up, a few combinations in center, and then we learned a variation (I only did barre on pointe because I'm a wuss). As I mentioned, I did the intermediate level pointe class, which ended up being perfect for my grumpy ankle--just the right amount of challenge from what I'd been doing at home without having to worry about turns or anything.

As for the variations, with Emily Adams (Ballet West Principal) we learned Blue Bird (so fun!), and from Kimberly Ballard (Ballet West Corps) we learned a really lovely variation from Pas de Quatre. The latter is from the romantic era, which I continue to love; it really emphasized the upper body, focusing on the face and arms. The third pointe class was taught by Allison DeBona, but because it was the Saturday of the show those of us doing choreography left early to rehearse and I missed out on learning Black Swan! However, I really loved Allison's barre warm-up, and she let us all gather around (like the ballet nerds we are) to see how she pads and puts on her shoes.

Choreography & Performance

As part of the advanced choreography group, I had the pleasure of working with Raymond Tilton (Diablo Ballet, formerly San Francisco Ballet). He picked AMAZING music, and gave us all a heart attack the first couple of days with how quick the steps were going to be. Not to mention that the piece was 5:30 long--oof. Near the end of the week, he gave us a pep-talk about how amazing we were all doing and how proud he was of us (prompted by some of us being hard on ourselves).

On Saturday after lunch we did a final performance (which was posted on ArtÉmotion's Facebook if you'd like to see it!) Besides the choreography each level learned, dancers also had the option to perform some of the shorter routines they'd learned in classes throughout the week. I had considered doing one of the intermediate pointe variations I'd learned, but I hadn't recorded them and couldn't remember the choreography fully! Note to self for next time: record variations!

The Other Dancers (my peeps!)

I met so many kindred spirits--women and men who love dance like I do. It was so fun to hang out with everyone! There was no competitive feeling at all--we were all there to dance, and everyone was so supportive of one another. I came away exhausted, but with amazing memories and new friends.

Something that I heard from multiple teachers throughout the week was how much they enjoyed working with adults because of how hard we worked--not because we HAD to, but because we WANTED to. Many of them also work with teenagers and sometimes don't see that same sort of passion. It's interesting, and I think shows a lot about adult dancers.

Again, I really adored this program, and hope to be able to make it back there next year!

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