Sunday, June 28, 2015

ABT NYC Summer Intensive 2015- Week 1 by Robbie Downey

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For my 5th summer in a row I have arrived in New York City, my home away from home, to attend a ballet summer intensive. This year I was accepted to American Ballet Theatre NYC , San Francisco Ballet, Ellison Ballet and wait listed for Royal Ballet (UK). I chose ABT because I felt like I needed to mix things up and start looking at programs attached to a company. I will be 17 in December and I have already finished high school. It is a tough decision because I have grown up with Ellison Ballet and Mr. Ellison and Miss Forrest provide some of the best instruction in the country! They are like family to me and so are my friends that also attend. I will do my best to still work with them this summer.

Throwback to 2012 with Mr. Ellison and Miss Forrest 


I chose ABT because of their history and their repertoire has a strong classical focus and I absolutely love New York City. Also, they have some of the strongest and most incredible dancers in the world performing with them. They also have great teachers and you should always look for that in a program when deciding. ABT frequently performs in Southern California and their Nutcracker is headed there so that was another big factor for me. Another thing that is a plus is my good friend, Scout Forsythe, dances there and I know she really loves it. Sometimes you just don't know what it's like until you go. It can be really hard to decide. Plus you have to go with a program that likes you and shows interest in you. I am hoping this summer will give the directors a chance to know me better and see how I work. My last time at ABT summer was at age 12 . My first summer intensive ever! I look forward to the next  5 weeks!

The river after the rain. I love this city! 

My journey started with a non-stop flight that arrived around 10pm. I learned my lesson taking connecting flights. Always fly nonstop when possible! I am subletting a room in an apartment occupied by 3 of my friends from Ellison. One of them is gone for the summer. It is a great place with a door man and grocery store next door. I feel lucky to have the opportunity to stay there. Sometimes things just work out. Housing can be a big, expensive, issue if you attend ABT. There are no dorms so you have to get creative. There are places to stay but you will likely need a chaperone. It is doable it just takes some coordinating. ABT does send out a list to anyone wishing to coordinate with others. Plus a list of accommodations.

Union Square

I had trouble getting in with my key but it ended up fine. But you never know what is going to happen and when you are 16 it can be a little nerve racking. Make sure your cell phone is always charged and you have a portable charger! My phone itself was having issues. I had to head straight to Apple on Saturday to get a new phone. I'm sure my mom was super happy about that added expense right now. :-/ But these days you can't go with out it and also how would I vlog and blog!!?!

Sunday it was straight to Steps for class with Karin Averty. She was a former dancer with the Paris Opera Ballet and a guest principal artist with San Francisco Ballet. She is now a freelance ballet instructor for companies and schools worldwide. I really enjoyed taking her class. After class I went to grab a few things from Trader Joe's.

Karin Averty - Photo © 

On Monday I had placement class at 1pm.  Registration started at 12 so I got to the studio around then and there was a line formed outside. My friend Jordan Kesler, who went to Ellison last year, is also at ABT this summer so I met her in line. I also met her friend Arne who I messaged a bit before the intensive started. Once we were in the building we checked in and they gave us a number and had us take a picture with it. Sort of like a mugshot but most of us were smiling. (Haha) 

Me and Jordan Kesler snapping selfies in the ABT studios.

The class was taught by Leslie Brown and it was a pretty fast class but I liked it. Harriet Clark, C. Yeagar, Franco DeVita, and Melissa Bowman watched our class. I believe Mrs. Bowman is the Director for Summer Intensives and the children's division of the JKO School (Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis). It is the associate school of ABT. After the placement class we headed upstairs for nutrition class. I found this class extremely helpful. I took quite a bit of notes during the class to help me while shopping for groceries. After nutrition class we had injury prevention which was also very helpful. As dancers we obviously do not want to be injured, so it is great to learn some tips to help prevent injuries, or to prevent injuries from getting worse.  It is very nice because they offer free PT appointments during the summer intensive. Remember that is is better to see a PT sooner than later.

Scout Forsythe (ABT Corps de Ballet) and Franco De Vita (Artistic Director, ABT Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School) Photo ©

We wouldn't find out our level placement until the next day at 8:30 am at ABT. On Tuesday I got there at 8:30 and had to wait in a line outside for a little bit. The level assignments were posted in a studio upstairs. Levels at ABT go by colors and I was placed in Violet. I am really happy with my level! My friend Jordan is also in my level along with a couple of other girls I know. Typically colors are as follows... red, yellow, blue, green, indigo, violet, aqua. Placement seems to be age based and the last 3 levels are usually 15-18 year olds. 

Julie Kent (Principal Dancer ABT) teaching the violet level last year (2014) . Julie Kent just had her final performance . I wonder if she will do more teaching now. I have a pair of pointe shoes signed by her and she was very nice and elegant when I met her. I think if you look up Ballerina in the dictionary there should be a picture of Julie Kent. <3

 After finding out our levels we started with Pilates class for 50 minutes and then we had technique and pointe class with Ms. Seranno. After lunch we had another ballet technique with Mr. De Vita. The class was challenging and he wanted everything very specific and detailed. You have to watch him very carefully while he demonstrated the combination. You should do the same with every teacher. After this class we went straight into rep with Mrs. Bowman. We are learning La Sylphide. We learned the principal and one of the soloist variations on flat. We then began to learn the beginning of the corps. I really love working with Melissa Bowman! My first class with her ever was a winter summer intensive prep workshop when she was still teaching in California. I also was taught by her my first summer at ABT NY at age 12.  

On Wednesday we had technique and pointe class with Mr. De Vita.  Before class Scout stopped to say "hi". It was really nice to see her! Apparently her mom took a picture of me walking into the ABT building! Sometimes the city is not as big as you think!

Lori Forsythe's photo of me walking to ABT. Even funnier is that I was actually texting with Scout. 

On Thursday we had Pilates at 9am before technique class. For technique we had Harriot Clark. I really enjoyed her class. Her class moved by pretty fast, all though she pointed out that she usually moves a lot slower, or talks/explains a lot more. During center she had me show how I did one of the petite allegro combinations because she said I was using my turnout nicely. She also had another girl show another combination as well.  She gave some very helpful corrections. After class we had pas de deux!  Partnering is one of my favorite things of summer intensives. We lined up by height and were assigned partners. For once, there were a few more boys than girls.  Before one combination, one of the boys from JKO year round didn't have a partner so he grabbed me. He is a very good partner and is also super funny as well.  (He is a twin). Pas de deux class was taught by Charles Askegard, who I like a lot.  I remember that he was a judge and Master Class teacher at YAGP San Diego two years ago.  After lunch we had music class and then modern.

On Friday, my day started off with the Subway being delayed so I had to take a different line and route from my usual station.  I figured out that taking this line was better because it wasn't as crowded, which is a plus! There's a good app you can use to navigate the subway just check the app store.  We were originally supposed to have Mr. De Vita for technique class, but they changed it to Kate Lydon (Director of ABT Studio Company) instead. I really like her as a teacher and she gave some great corrections.

We then had pointe class with Ethan Brown. During lunch some of my friends and I went upstairs to buy a student discount ticket to see Cinderella next week. We are going to see Hee Seo and Cory Sterns! Once we got our ticket Jordan and I headed upstairs to where our rep class was supposed to be. A lower level came in and said that their class was moved to our studio.  Jordan and I checked the schedule for any changes but it was the same. Our counselor checked and at first it wasn't changed, but then she checked in the office again and it was changed! After walking up and down the stairs, to find our studio and to fill up our water, we finally were in the correct studio! After rep we had Pilates. 

My friend Audrey flew into the city on Thursday night, so I went to meet up with her after class. We grabbed some food from Whole Foods and ate in Central Park.  We did a mini photo shoot in Central Park and then headed back to her dorms. We then changed into some leotards and headed down to the park/river to take some more pictures with Audrey's camera. 

With Audrey. It's nice to have friends from home join you in the city! You can get a merde shirt at 

Finding places for ballet in the park =)

On Saturday morning we all tried to sleep in but couldn't! Audrey was up around 5am, my friend Rosemarie was up around 4am, and I was up around 6am! We eventually fell back asleep. Later in the afternoon I met Audrey and our friend Spencer and his mom to go get my double piercing in my ear. I have always liked them and have been wanting a second piercing for a decent amount of time. Probably since last summer. So I have had time to think it through. I finally decided to get it done. To be honest I was a little nervous, I couldn't remember what it felt like at first. It was super fast and only felt like a quick pinch. 

Tomorrow I am going to take a class at Steps and am going to try and get a student rush ticket to see the Royal Ballet perform! 

Audrey is becoming quite the photographer! 

Have I mentioned that I love this city!

Charcoal of me by an artist in Pakistan, Tabish Shafi. Amazing and thank you ! 

You can visit the artist's facebook page here

Thanks for following the journey! 

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