As summer intensive season wraps up, I have asked some dancers to share their experiences at various intensives around the country.
Grand Rapids Ballet apprentice, Celeste Lopez-Keranen, gives us an inside look at her summer intensive experience at San Francisco Ballet.
Name: Celeste Lopez-Keranen
Hometown or Company: Grand Rapids Ballet
Summer intensive attending: San Francisco Ballet
Length of intensive: Four weeks
Why did you decide to attend the SFB summer intensive?
I attended this intensive last year, and I absolutely loved it. I became interested after seeing many friends attend the San Francisco Ballet Intensive and come back so strong. I understand why, as the faculty is so invested in the student’s path of improvement. During my time, I really enjoyed the classes offered and appreciated the focus on training instead of a final performance.
What does a typical day look like and who are some of your teachers?
Typically, I woke up at 6:00 AM, ate a quick breakfast, and started my commute to SFB by 8:00 AM. We would have three or four classes a day and end at 4:45. Some of the summer course classes included: Ballet Technique, Pointe/Variations, Pas de Deux, Contemporary, Floor Barre/Mat, and Conditioning.
I enjoyed learning from all of the faculty at SFB, and it has been beneficial to take things from teachers (who, by the way, are all masters in different styles and techniques) and choose which mannerisms to apply. The styles ranged from School Director, Patrick Armand’s classical french classes, to Guest Faculty, Myrna Kamara’s lively Balanchine variation classes. Other amazing teachers I’ve had there were Karen Gabay, Jacquelin Barrett, Pollyana Ribeiro, Dana Genshaft, Anne-Sophie Rodriguez, and Kristine Elliot.
What are your favorite aspects of the intensive?
There are so many things I love about summer intensives. The ability to meet dancers your age from all over the world is an amazing opportunity in itself, and the friendships you make along the way are priceless. Since I have been in a professional setting at the Grand Rapids Ballet for the past two years, I feel that it is beneficial for me to go back to the black leotard, pink tights, pointe classes, and being a student again. It’s so important to continue to learn, so that one doesn’t stagnate, and being in an environment like this really reminds you of your strengths and weaknesses. Another aspect of summer intensive that I love is, of course, the results. It is so rewarding to be able to see improvement from the first week to the last. Lastly, having the chance to be in a different or bigger city for an extended period is really special.
Most challenging aspects?
Summer intensives are called intensives for many reasons. For me, the most challenging aspect by far was the inability to dance as well or better than the day before. With the amount of hours you dance in one day, your body does it’s best to recuperate from the day before, and it can feel like it’s playing catch up. It was hard to remind myself to continue to try my personal best, without putting unneeded pressure on myself because I couldn’t hold a balance as well as the day before. If you always try your best, absorb the information from teachers, and take care of yourself, you have a high chance of improving.
How much downtime do you have, and have you been able to experience the city very much? Tell us a little about some things you’ve been able to do while in SF!
During the intensive we danced six days a week. Monday through Friday, was usually 9:30- 4:45. On the weekdays, we had nights to go out to dinner, explore, or wind down at the dorms. Saturday we had one technique class, and would be done for the day at around 1:00. So, we would have about a day and a half to ourselves.
San Francisco was so magical because of everything it had to offer. You get a big city feel combined with so much character and opportunities in nature as well. Even with almost all of my downtime exploring, I still didn’t get to see everything. Some of my favorite sights were: shopping in Haight-Ashbury, taking the ferry to Sausalito, making frequent stops at Boba Guys, exploring SF’s MoMa, relaxing at the Painted Ladies, making a stop at the Golden Gate, and watching San Francisco Ballet’s performance at Stern Grove.