SAB’s First Socially-Distanced Summer Programs

The SAB five-week Summer Course is a pivotal part of our year at the School. Not only does it usher in talented dancers from across the country, but it’s also packed with challenging classes and exciting extracurricular programming all designed to create valuable learning and truly lasting memories for our attendees. Of course, this year is unlike any other. After it became apparent we would not be able to hold in-person summer classes due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the School had to completely reimagine its summer programs for the virtual space.

This year’s Summer Course began this week, following the first virtual New York Junior Session, a week-long program designed for younger children, ages 10-12. And while everything is now remote, the School has still managed to flesh-out classes and programming that provides a truly enriching experience for the dancers, even if it’s unlike any SAB summer in history.

SAB New York Jr Zoom class

Within SAB’s online “studios,” attendees participate in days filled with classes taught by full-time faculty members and special guest teachers, just as they would have in previous summers. In an effort to allow the faculty the ability to give individual corrections and feedback, the class sizes are kept to a minimum, ensuring the dancers still get the kind of personal attention to their technique as they would in a physical classroom. What’s more, the summer class schedule is nearly as robust as usual, offering classes in technique, pointe, character, pilates, conditioning, and even variations.

In last week’s NY Junior Session, students were treated to a myriad of extra activities to further enhance their experience. The week began with a special online presentation with representatives from Freed of London who gave an overview of the pointe shoe company’s history and shoemaking methods. They provided students with videos and anecdotes from their factory while answering student’s questions and explaining how, even in this time of social-distance, they are providing virtual pointe shoe fittings!

NYCB principal dancer, Tiler Peck in conversation with NYJR summer program dancers.
NYCB principal dancer, Tiler Peck in conversation with NYJR summer program dancers.

A series of conversations with New York City Ballet principals were also presented throughout the week, allowing the students to end many of their long virtual dancing days with inspiring talks from Tiler Peck, Gonzalo Garcia, Sara Mearns and Megan Fairchild. And while these talks may have been through Zoom, they felt intimate and students had the opportunity to interact and ask several questions of the dancers. And that’s just the tip of the SAB summer programming iceberg. Our New York Junior students also had seminars on nutrition and physical therapy, conversations with recent SAB Winter Term students, and even some social programming where they played a ballet-themed jeopardy game!

The School has similar programs slated for the five-week Summer Course and it’s 2-week California Workshop for Young Dancers.  The Summer Course will also include a broader assortment of social activities for the dancers in an effort to replicate the sense of community students would generally get when staying in the dorms on campus. Led by SAB’s Student Life team, these activities include assigning students to virtual dorms where they will get to interact with other dancers who may not be in their daily classes. These programs will be fun, educational, cultural, and enriching in their own way. From trivia nights to virtual scavenger hunts, these activities are indeed designed to be social, even if that socialization is distanced.

While it may be extremely different from past summers, there is something intrinsically exciting about this year’s courses. The dancers and their parents, along with SAB faculty and staff have had to approach the programs with imagination, innovation and a different kind of patience – that’s pretty remarkable. And we hope that this year’s students find this historic summer rewarding in its own right.