Inside SF Ballet School's Summer Session

SF Ballet School's 2015 Summer Session. (© Chris Hardy)

Each summer San Francisco Ballet School hosts an intensive summer session designed for serious ballet students from around the world. This year, more than 1,500 students auditioned, with 300 students hailing from as far as Japan, Brazil, China, and New Zealand, ultimately attending. The summer session is divided into intermediate and advanced programs and is designed to improve skills, build strength, and give students a deeper understanding of ballet as an art form, while exploring the demands of a professional career. Students are exposed to our school’s renowned faculty, as well as guest artists from around the globe. Over 160 students attended summer program 1 for intermediate students, and we welcome nearly 150 students to the 4-week program 2 for advanced students, that started July 11.

We sat down with Zoe Lucich (age 14) and Jasper Stanford (age 14) for a peek inside Summer Program 1 for Intermediate students through their eyes.

When did you start dancing?
Zoe Lucich: I got started because my mom (former principal dancer and choreographer Julia Adam) was a professional dancer here at SF Ballet. I grew up in the studio alongside my mom while she was choreographing. I immediately loved it. I danced around at home all the time, but didn’t really start training until I was seven when I was enrolled at Marin Ballet. I was there until I joined the year-round program.
Jasper Stanford: I go to a small studio in my hometown called the San Ramon Valley Dance Academy. I study multiple styles like ballet, jazz, contemporary, lyrical, tap, and even hip-hop.

How many years have you attended SF Ballet School’s Summer Session?
JS: As this is my third year, I’ve known for two years how amazing the program is. I enjoy working with all of the teachers, but the male teachers in this program are great because there aren’t a lot at my home studio.
ZL: I came to the School last year. This is my second Summer Session. Last year I really enjoyed myself–it was super fun, and it really felt like I was training to become a professional dancer. It’s a fun area and I love being in the city. Last year I loved the classes and teachers, and each year I enjoy it more and more.

Can you explain a typical day for you?
 I arrive around 9 am, which is about 45 minutes before class starts. I leave myself time to stretch and get ready. We start with a technique class in ballet slippers with anyone from Ms. Sylve, Mr. Armand, Ms. Ribeiro, or Ms. Van Dyck. After a 15-minute break, we go into pointe with Ms. LeBlanc or Ms. Sylve. We’ll have a two-hour break to go with our friends to get lunch. It’s important to let your muscles and mind relax, eat, and digest. It’s nice that the School leaves us enough time to get ready for the next class. In the afternoon we will have pas de deux class, contemporary, or jazz, depending on the day.
JS: I normally get in at 9 am or so. We have technique class first, but it’s different every day. It could be batterie [a men’s class focused on jumps and turns], pas de deux, or contemporary, so it depends. For lunch breaks, I usually stay in the neighborhood since there are a lot of food choices.

What has been the best part about this year’s Summer Session?
 I’ve really enjoyed pas de deux class with Mr. Lyons—he makes it a really fun environment, and it’s nice to be in class working with the boys.
JS: This year especially I’ve really enjoyed the diversity of classes. Not every class is a ballet technique class and jazz and contemporary have been my favorites.

What has been a challenge this summer?
 At first it’s scary going in the first few days. You wonder how good everyone else is going to be, but within a day or two you feel comfortable and make friends quickly. It’s a supportive environment.
ZL: It’s really a reminder that it’s time to step it up. In the end, when you do step it up and work hard, you feel good about yourself.

How is it different from the School’s year-round program?
 The days are a lot longer in the summer program. You have a lot more classes and more chances to test the limits of your body, experimenting with your capabilities. There’s a lot pressure but at the same time it’s extra time to have fun and work hard. It’s not super stressful. There are still high expectations but there’s something really fun about Summer Session.

In what ways have you improved over the past couple of weeks?
 I’ve probably improved mentally and physically. Mentally, it’s taught me what it’s like being at a professional ballet school. Physically, I like how Summer Session has a different structure that challenges you and works all the right muscles without straining our bodies.
ZL: Also, I feel like the teachers are so great and I really enjoy their classes. They are caring and lovable in a way, but they are also strict and have high standards. The teachers push us and I am feeling the reward; I can tell I am slowly improving and getting stronger.

What do you want to do after your finish your training?
 I really want to become a Trainee here at SF Ballet School and then join SF Ballet. Ever since I was a little girl I’ve wanted to be in this Company. I love the variety of repertory and all the Company members can do both contemporary and classical. I like that SF Ballet gives the dancers the experience to do a bunch of different types of dance.
JS: SF Ballet is an amazing company, and I try to see performances as often as I can. I love the dancers and choreography here. I definitely want to study ballet and dance in college. Past that, I’m looking at contemporary ballet companies or working in the entertainment industry.