Get Ready for Your Summer Intensive With These Packing Tips

June 8, 2022

Summer programs are right around the corner! Whether you’re leaving home for the first time or you’re an intensive expert, you’ll need to think about what essentials to bring with you. Here are some packing tips for a summer of success.

Organize Your Suitcases

A young woman in white shorts (shown hips-down), sits on top of her orange suitcase overflowing with brightly-colored and patterned summer clothing. She presses down on the lid of the suitcase, which rests on a light tan carpet in a living room.
Getty Images

The first step to packing is managing your suitcase space. Charlotte Ballet II dancer Anna Mains attended summer programs at American Ballet Theatre’s North Carolina and New York City locations, Houston Ballet, Joffrey Ballet in Chicago (where she returned as a chaperone), and Arts Umbrella in Vancouver, Canada. All that traveling helped her learn how to codify her packing system.

“I’d have two suitcases,” she says. “One was for dance—I called it ‘The Pharmacy’ because I would put pointe shoes, a foam roller, everything that I needed to take care of my feet, and dancewear.” In the other, she would put clothing, bedding, street shoes and toiletries.


A group of young female ballet students, wearing pink tights and black leotards with pink ballet flats, stand in a group in B plus position with their arms en bas. The photo shows them chest-down as they stand in an indoor studio with a grey marley floor and a white barre behind.
Getty Images

Many intensives have a dress code for class. But how much dancewear should you pack? Jenny Roman, owner of The Dance Store in Los Angeles, says students should bring at least:

  • One leotard for every dance day of the week
  • One pair of tights per day
  • For men, one dance belt per day, one fitted T-shirt per day, and at least one pair of socks per day
  • Miscellaneous items for supplemental classes: a skirt or two for partnering/variations; black tights, socks, black fitted shorts or leggings for contemporary; any other kinds of shoes if needed (character, jazz, sneakers for hip hop)
  • Warm-ups to re-wear during the week. Mains suggests trash-bag pants or shorts, legwarmers, etc

This is with the expectation that laundry can be done once per week. Roman recommends handwashing and hang-drying all leotards, tights and dance belts for care of the material. If you are going to use a washing machine, make sure these items go in cold water on a gentle cycle.

Pointe Shoes and Ballet Slippers

A pile of used pink and tan pointe shoes and ballet flat shoes rests on a tan shelf in front of a white wall and brightly lit window with wooden rails.
Getty Images

While dancers break in pointe shoes at various speeds, Mains recommends packing at least one pair per week. To make her own last as long as possible, she darns the tips and uses Jet Glue to reinforce the box and shank.

Rotating your pointe shoes throughout the week also helps, says Roman. “Use one pair on Monday, another on Tuesday, and so on, so that the shoes will have time to dry.” Drying between uses decreases the amount of moisture absorbed into the box. You can also store them in a breathable pointe shoe bag and stuff paper towels in the tips to absorb wetness.

Don’t forget a sewing kit for ribbons and elastics! And consider packing another pair of toe pads in case one gets lost. Mains also suggests a stock of small first-aid items, like Band-Aids, toe tape and ibuprofen.

As for ballet slippers, Roman recommends bringing at least two pairs; or three, to ensure having a clean pair for any final performances.

Dressing for Outside the Studio

When you’re not dancing, you want to be comfortable. Mains says she found a balance by bringing mostly:

  • Athletic wear for the dorm and going to and from the studio (yoga pants, loose T-shirts, shorts, sweatpants, etc.)
  • A nicer outfit or two for outings
  • Staple pieces that you can mix and match, layer and re-wear (jeans, neutral T-shirts, light cardigan or hoodie)

Mains also recommends a good walking shoe to protect tired feet. With increased dancing, pointework and walking throughout the day, supportive sneakers are essential.

Dorm Hacks

A pair of bright blue flip flops rests on a white background.
Getty Images

Since meningitis and other bacterial infections are more common in dorm settings, Mains says it’s wise not to walk around barefoot. Be sure to pack:

  • Comfortable slippers to wear in the residence hall
  • Flip-flops for the shower

The dorm is your home away from home this summer. To create a space in which you can relax, Mains suggests bringing:

  • An extra pillow and bedding if possible. Sheets or a blanket from home will make you feel much more comfortable than what might be provided at the dorm.
  • Photos of friends and family to hang up around your room. “When I got older, I started packing fairy lights,” says Mains. “At the end of the day, I didn’t want the overhead lights on. It made it so I could actually relax.”
  • A yoga mat if you plan to stretch in your dorm room.

Space-Saving Tips

To prevent overstuffing your suitcase, you may want to wait and purchase certain bulky items the day you arrive at your intensive, including:

  • Toiletries (shampoo, conditioner, bodywash)
  • Epsom salt (and a cheap bucket if you don’t have a tub to soak your feet in)
  • Laundry detergent
  • Cleaning products like paper towels and disinfectant spray or wipes to keep your dorm room germ- and mess-free
  • Ice packs, if you have access to a freezer

Essential Extras

A male or female in a light gray sweater and white shirt (chest and arms/hands shown only) holds a pen and journal, writing.
Getty Images

Don’t forget sunscreen for long outdoor activities! And depending on where your intensive’s located, you may also want to pack a small umbrella or rain jacket. Additionally, check local COVID-19 guidelines and the summer intensive’s policies—make sure to bring plenty of masks if required or in case of an outbreak.  

Lastly, consider packing a notebook or journal. “I always had a notebook,” Mains says. “I could write down corrections from class or just detail my day, which is always fun to look back on.”