Technique, Performance, and Networking Align in Next Generation Ballet’s New Summer Intensive Partnership
Focused solely on ballet students’ development no matter what company or college awaits them, Next Generation Ballet has produced successful alumni who’ve gone on to join renowned companies around the world, from Boston Ballet to Dutch National Ballet. Without a professional company to feed into, the pre-professional program of the Tampa, Florida–based Patel Conservatory prepares artists for today’s ballet industry by focusing on an American speed and lightness in the legs and feet combined with classical port de bras.
Summertime at Next Generation Ballet
During the summer, Next Generation Ballet welcomes dancers to choose from what artistic director Philip Neal describes as a “menu” of programs. The five-week summer intensive packs in 30 to 35 hours of weekly in-studio training and culminates in a unique professional performance experience, thanks to NGB’s location within the Straz Center for the Performing Arts—“the largest performing arts center south of the Kennedy Center,” notes Neal. The shorter two- and three-week options expose dancers to NGB’s foundational training while allowing them to enroll in additional intensives around the country.
No matter which program dancers choose, the summer intensives’ secret sauce is its faculty: a mix of NGB’s dedicated full-time staff and a host of all-star guest teachers—for example, New York City Ballet principal Daniel Ulbricht and Boston Ballet principal Chyrstyn Fentroy were just two of those teaching in the 2023 program. “We have guest artists every week,” says Neal. Aside from a rigorous slate of ballet technique, pointe, men’s classes, and partnering, the curriculum is rounded out with classes in contemporary, jazz, stretching, and conditioning.
In preparing dancers for the end-of-intensive showcase and their eventual careers in dance, Neal shares how Next Generation Ballet is “really interested in how dancers move and how they’re going to integrate different dance forms into ballet. I tell dancers, ‘Look at the rep on the company websites if you haven’t seen them perform and look at what is required of you.’ You have to be exposed to all of these different things.”
When Broadway shows are not touring to the theater in the summertime, NGB gets the full run of the Straz Center. Five-week-intensive students perform in the 1,200-seat theater, which is operated by a full union crew, and they have the opportunity to take classes onstage, just like professional dancers would before a company performance. Keygan Robinson, a current Next Generation Ballet student, will never forget the performance from his first summer intensive at NGB at age 13. “I was thinking, Oh, it’s going to just feel like a recital,” he says. “But it really felt like a real show.” The performance, like the preceding weeks of intensive instruction, emphasizes diverse dance styles. The first half of the performance may feature jazz, contemporary, and flamenco repertory followed by excerpts from ballet staples like Don Quixote, Sleeping Beauty, or Le Corsaire closing out the showcase.
A Special Affiliation With Ballet West
This year, a brand-new east–west collaboration will present summer intensive dancers with an unparalleled networking opportunity with one of the nation’s top ballet companies. Next Generation Ballet has partnered with Utah-based Ballet West, and the two organizations will collaborate on the audition process for their intensives, with Neal and Ballet West Academy director Evelyn Cisneros-Legate both signing off on who is accepted. They will also travel to each other’s intensives to watch and engage with the students. In Tampa, Ballet West Academy faculty members will be on site throughout the intensive, including Cisneros-Legate for the final week of the program and the showcase.
Neal proposed the affiliation after he spent time staging a Jerome Robbins work at Ballet West and guest teaching for the company and its school. “Artistically and aesthetically, through the curriculum, our programs align very well,” he says. “I have adored everyone at Ballet West for a long time and we certainly know each other through YAGP and careers having crossed amongst the faculty and staff.”
The two organizations will encourage their students to attend each other’s programs in upcoming years. As to whether NGB will serve as a recruitment ground for Ballet West Academy’s year-round programming and traineeships, Neal says, the future holds all possibilities: “Once the symbiotic reciprocity starts, you keep finding more and more ways over the years to continue to cultivate it.”
Beyond the Studio
Ballet West is also managing NGB’s summer residences, which will be located at the Barrymore Hotel Tampa Riverwalk, right across the street from the Patel Conservatory and the Straz Center. Students have the benefit of an intimate, walkable campus with the training facility, performance venue, and dorm, within minutes of each other. What’s more, they also have access to Central Florida’s hallmark fun in the sun. Outings include plenty of beach time and memory-making trips to Disney World and Busch Gardens.
AvaGrace Mazuchowski, another current Next Generation Ballet student, recalls how NGB was her first-ever summer intensive. She says she’ll never forget the friendships she forged, inside the studio and out. “I met really cool people that I still talk to, even to this day,” she says. Echoing Neal’s emphasis on the need for strong community ties between dance organizations, Robinson can already see how the connections fostered in his first summer intensive will be impactful later in life: “It’s a super-small world. Getting to know all these great people and other great dancers is important.”
“It’s a very unifying art form,” says Neal. To join Next Generation Ballet in Tampa this summer, learn more about auditioning here.