Miami City Ballet’s Summer Intensive: The Compassionate Professional-Company Experience

Sponsored by Miami City Ballet School
January 28, 2022

Ask current Miami City Ballet corps member Juliet Hay to describe her first summer at Miami City Ballet School, and one word comes to mind first: “intense.” While that may sound obvious—aren’t all summer intensives by their very nature “intense”?—the word takes on deeper meaning when it comes to MCB School’s summer programming. “Not a lot of summer intensives give you the schedule of a real company member,” says Hay. “I had never done so much partnering work before. I had never gotten pieces set on me by real choreographers. That was the summer when I stopped dancing for the teacher and really learned to dance for myself.”

MCB School artistic director Arantxa Ochoa teaching. Photo by Alexander Iziliaev, Courtesy Miami City Ballet School

According to Arantxa Ochoa, the former Pennsylvania Ballet principal dancer who is now artistic director at MCB School, Hay is not the only dancer who has transformed over the course of a summer there: “The dancers who enjoy our intensive are the ones who are ready to learn, to work hard and to be pushed on their technique and their artistry,” says Ochoa. That’s not to say that the only dancers who thrive at MCB School are those who are already stars at their home studios. In fact, it’s a cornerstone of the MCB School ethos to identify and bring out the individual gifts within every dancer.

Individual Attention

“As a dancer, you want to feel like you can be yourself in class and onstage,” explains Hay. “The faculty at MCB really help you figure out how to produce the technical result they’re asking for, while also supporting you in finding yourself as an artist. Of course technique is important, and they focus on that, but once you’ve got the technique, they want to help you get out of your head and feel the fun and joy of dancing.”

A summer intensive student in MCB School’s airy studios. Photo by Alexander Iziliaev, Courtesy Miami City Ballet School

Multiple Training Options

Miami City Ballet School’s lineup of intensives also stands out for its variety. The Spring Break Workshop is a one-week program that gives students a taste of life at the school. Come summertime, in addition to the two-week Young Dancer Intensive (for ages 9–12) and the five-week MCB Summer Intensive (for ages 12–18), MCB offers a unique add-on for technically advanced dancers: its Choreographic Intensive. For two thrilling weeks in August, invited dancers 14 and up get to experience professional-company life: They start each day with a technique class before rehearsing new works that are set especially on them by rising-star professional choreographers.

MCB School’s Choreographic Intensive. Photo by Alexander Iziliaev, Courtesy Miami City Ballet School

Diverse Ballet Faculty

From Ochoa’s perspective, it makes good sense to mimic the professional experience as closely as possible within MCB School’s summer and year-round programming: “It’s important to us that we prepare our students to dance with any classical-ballet company, which is what makes our syllabus unique. Our faculty are all former dancers who trained in the great ballet academies of the world.” Training methodologies from Russia, New York, Canada, Cuba and more are represented in the faculty’s ranks, making MCB the perfect summer destination for dancers who are Balanchine-curious but also want to sharpen their solid classical foundation.

Miami City Ballet artistic director Lourdes Lopez coaching a summer intensive student. Photo by Alexander Iziliaev, Courtesy Miami City Ballet School

A Culture of Care

The Miami City Ballet School upholds a culture of care that extends well beyond the studio doors. As Hay recalls: “I came on my own to Miami for the summer at 14 years old, and so there were multiple instances when I’d go knock on Arantxa’s door. Even if you haven’t known her for long, she’s so open and caring with every single student. And it’s not just Arantxa—every member of the faculty wants the best for everyone, and is constantly making sure people feel okay mentally and physically.” In other words: There are no dancers hiding in the back of the studio at a Miami City Ballet intensive.

MCB School is currently accepting video submissions to audition for its spring and summer programs through February 25. Its final live virtual audition, via Zoom, will be held on January 29. Full details are available here.