Virtual Dorm Life at the SAB Summer Course
SAB’s five-week Summer Course wrapped up last week and, just as in years past, the program was a busy one! Our students took multiple classes each day, sharpening their technique and learning from full-time faculty members as well as a handful of guest teachers. Of course, the one significant difference in this year’s program was that it was held completely online.
Our faculty and staff worked in tandem to ensure that summer students were able to learn as much as possible within the online “studio” space. Class sizes were designed to allow teachers to clearly see each student and provide personalized feedback and instruction. Additionally, our Student Life staff strived to develop a full complement of online programs and activities for students to attend outside of the classroom. These extra-curricular programs are always a key component to a fantastic SAB summer, and this year was no exception. From cultural experiences, exclusive talks with New York City Ballet dancers, traditional games and just plain fun, our virtual programming brought our students together from their homes across the country!
While we didn’t have students stay on campus this year, they still got a taste of SAB dorm-life through a few innovative virtual events. Each week of the program, students could join various online activities and were even assigned “floors,” to provide a chance for attendees to meet other dancers who may not be in their daily classes.
“Students learn so much about themselves as young people and as dancers during a summer intensive—and a lot of that learning takes place outside of the studios,” Sion Harrington, SAB’s Dean of Students explained.
“We had to re-shape these moments of learning for virtual engagement, ensuring that our students had access to our wellness resources, our programming models, and our cultural partners. In the end, our students’ ballet training was complemented by non-artistic learning in areas such as personal enrichment and development, health and wellness, diversity and inclusion, cultural competency, and social development.”
The challenge, of course, was how to effectively inject the typical socialization that takes place in our SAB Summer Course when we all have to remain socially distanced.
“We came up with the idea of dividing students into assigned ‘floors’ to replicate our traditional housing structure during the Summer Course,” our Associate Director of Student Life for Residential and Transitional Programming, Eunice Omega shared. “Each Thursday, every floor met to socialize with students outside of their dance classes. We held programs like a Virtual Scavenger Hunt, Ballet Trivia Night, and closed with a Virtual Dance Party. All of the programs were well attended, and I think that speaks to the importance of connection especially during these times.”
Cultural experiences are another hallmark of the Summer Course, and with Lincoln Center as our usual home, we normally would have plenty to share with the students. This year, Molly Murray, Assistant Director of Student Life for Academic and Cultural Programs ensured that “students were presented with the school’s rich history through faculty and alumni testimonials, alongside personal recollections of Mr. Balanchine. They were also given online resource guides to continue their learning and feed their love of ballet, SAB, and NYCB at home.”
One aspect that we found particularly impactful this year was our Studio Talks series. Traditionally, these would live up to their name and current NYCB dancers would join students ‘in the studio’ to share their experiences. This year, dancers Zoomed-in from their homes around the country.
Elise Drew León, Manager of Diversity and Inclusion, led the program this year and shared how “Studio Talks with NYCB Dancers were a chance for students to hear directly from professionals who were once in their shoes as Summer Course students.
“We even did a photo flashback showing these dancers as young SAB students!” She exclaimed. “Completely driven by students’ questions, these conversations demystified what it takes to become a professional dancer and reminded students that no one journey is the same nor perfect.”
The journey for ballet students this summer is certainly not the same as it has been in the past, and it certainly may not be ‘perfect,’ but neither is it devoid of value and innovation. With the dedication of SAB’s Student Life Department and the generosity of our faculty, alumni, and cultural partners, we managed to deliver a virtual dorm-life that was certainly social, though distant.