A Day in the Life at Brevard Ballet Academy Summer Intensive

People (AKA Emma) have been asking for a ballet post for a while now, so here we are.

I just finished a two-week intensive at my ballet school, Brevard Ballet Academy. Think of it like a ballet summer camp. Many professional companies hold longer intensives that dancers from all over can audition for- for example, right now a friend from my class at BBA is at The Houston Ballet's summer intensive, which is six weeks of dancing up to eight hours a day, six days a week. Local ballet studio intensives like the one I just did are smaller. Mine was just two weeks, Monday-Friday, four hours of dancing with a half-hour break in the middle.

I've only been at BBA for two years, but I've danced for as long as I can remember, so I don't know what non-dancers don't know about ballet. So I've tried to explain everything as clearly I could while still keeping it vaguely interesting.

This is Monday of the second week of Brevard Ballet Academy's 2019 summer intensive.


7:30 am
Breakfast: Fried egg, spinach, and cream cheese sandwich on whole wheat bread.


9:00 am
Do my bun, spray hair-spray until said bun takes on the consistency of concrete, shimmy into tights, a leotard. During the year, the different levels wear different color leotards, but for summer intensive we can wear whatever color we want. Even so, I wear black today. I think it looks cool.

For cover-ups I wear leggings and a shirt that's loose enough I can pull it on and off without messing up my bun.


9:45 am
I arrive and stretch, mostly working my hip flexors and shoulders since they're what's tight in the morning. I've changed out of my leggings so I don't stretch them out, with my skirt on instead. Plus my legwarmers that my sister crocheted for me. :)


10:00 am
Technique class begins. That's ballet in flat shoes. Almost any classical ballet class follows a similar progression: Start with reverance(bow to teacher) or go straight to starting at the barre, then a brief interlude of stretching before moving to the center of the room. The combinations in center are similar to those at the barre, but since there's nothing to hold onto you have to work harder to balance. Then we'll do combinations that move across the floor.

When I say combination, I mean a combination of dance moves that flow together, like very short choreography. The teacher has music that fits specially for the different sections of class. At professional companies or highly prestigious schools like Vaganova, a pianist plays for the class, but at most schools, like mine, the teacher uses recordings. The teacher gives us the combinations, and we do them as many times as we're told, until the music runs out, or until we've made it across the room (or until our legs fall off, in the case of jumps).

Class ends by cooling down with port de bras (a stationary combination of mostly arm movement). I can best describe it as a longer, showier reverance.

We have a couple water breaks in between. I bring a huge bottle, probably a liter, of water with me every day.


11:30 am
We put on our pointe shoes. This is all the stuff that goes on my feet before the pointe shoes:
-Shocks, which are like compression socks and ankle braces in one. I don't use them all the time, but my ankles felt really rough over the weekend so I want to give them all the extra support I can today.
-Icy Hot, a cream that numbs blisters and bruises. I try to use it sparingly, but it is really helpful.
-Band-aids to pad a popped blister and around the toe that's still bruised from the last show.
-Toe tape holds the band-aids in place. I also wrap it around places where I'm starting to get blisters.
-Spacers between my big and second toes, hopefully to prevent bunions.
-Toe pads around my toes. Slip my tights over my toe pads.
Then the pointe shoes.
All this talk about feet stuff is making this the grossest post I've written.


11:40 am
Pointe class is similar to technique class in that we start with warmups at the barre and move to center, then across the floor. Everyone's just in a little more pain(but it's worth it) and you have to hold your weight slightly more forward on pointe than on flat. Those are the main differences.

12:30 pm
Lunchtime. Before I eat, I stretch my extensions, my back, and my ankles. I do this for two reasons: One, I've read that if you stretch while your muscles are warm, flexibility increases. It makes sense and it seems to be working. Two, it's pretty cold in the lobby where we eat, and stretching helps me from getting too stiff from that cold.
I also put my street clothes and warmups back on to keep my muscles as warm as I can.


12:40 pm
We eat while watching the 2019 Prix de Lausanne Finals (not live, a Youtube video). I brought some fresh mango and a peanut butter sandwich on whole wheat bread. It's a light lunch because dancing on a heavy stomach feels terrible and anyways I want my leotard to fit haha. I'll eat a lot later tonight, but for now this will keep me full, plus it's some of my favorite foods so it puts me in a good mood.

On that note, the sticklike "ballerina body" is an outdated ideal. If you're doing the dance right, it will look good no matter what shape you are. Ballet is for everyone, so eat what fills you. :) In my case that's peanut butter WOO.



1:00 pm
Contemporary class. We dance barefoot. At first, it's hard for us straight-laced ballerinas to loosen up, but with a few fun improv games we get into it. We also learn choreography to a dance to that one really popular Billie Eilish song.


2:30 pm
After class, I stretch again, but not for too long because I have to get home and get cleaned up for work.

Here I am sweaty and gross and burning in the hot car. :)
That concludes my day at the ballet intensive, but there are some parts of it that carry over into my routine at home.

-Having danced all day, I'm super hungry. I snack when I get home, then again at work, then after dinner I have a huge dessert(which is not that unusual for me even when I'm not exercising so much).
-While eating dessert, I soak my feet in warm water, epsom salts, and vinegar to counteract some of the hurts my pointe shoes have inflicted on my feet.
-Before I go to bed, I stretch again, to avoid being sore tomorrow. Since I've already been doing this for a week, the muscles I use for ballet probably won't be sore, but contemporary involved a lot of neck stuff and some jumps I'm not used to, so I might be sore there.

I'm kind of sad that the intensive is over! I've loved dancing all day. But honestly, I'm pretty much always dancing- grand jetes in the hall, pirouettes in the kitchen, plies while washing dishes.

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World peace and love,

Heather <3

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