It almost feels like the first day at camp: you don’t know anyone, you have to ask your way around the facility, and you know there’s going to be a lot of action in the next four weeks. Instead of sleeping in bunk beds in cottages somewhere in the woods, I find myself in the jungle of New York City.
Luckily it is not camp that brought me here but Summer Study NYC: A Contemporary Dance Intensive at Steps on Broadway. Somewhere between five and seven hours of dance classes every day and creating dance lie ahead. The foam roller, tiger balm, and two bananas are already packed in my bag to take on those sore muscles. Our group is a comfortable size of eight dancers from four different countries, who range in age from 19 to 32. The small size of the group gives me the chance to learn everybody’s name after just one day. This is a real achievement for a scatterbrain like me. We all live somewhere between pre-professional and professional dancers. Most of us signed up for the Steps intensive to learn new skills to get one step closer to realize the dream we all share: being a professional dancer.
The Contemporary Master classes, which happen every afternoon for two hours, are an inherent part of our schedule. Each week we are introduced to a new contemporary master. The first week starts off with Kevin Wynn. Speaking of jumping into cold water. If you’re not familiar with his class, here is a quick insight — numerous abs and leg exercises and pushups that remind you of boot camp, but are so fun that you can’t stop going full out. Good thing I packed bananas, my foam rollers and tiger balm. After that he teaches us his modern barre, which makes all of our brains sizzle. Then we create arm combinations together and pair them with tendues, dégagés, or jumps. One of his specialties, and perhaps his pleasure, is to push his dancers to their absolute maximum of speed and coordination. That becomes pretty obvious when he keeps telling the percussionist to keep picking up the speed. For the last half hour, I know it seems like there would be no time left, we learn Kevin’s choreography. Of course they are close to being at lightning speed, with many small details and many changes in direction, but so much fun. I surely will not win a prize in precision or beauty with my performance in his classes but what a challenging and amazing start to the summer intensive. Each day I walked out with a big, sweaty smile.
Besides the master classes, we have ballet two or three times a week, to keep us upright after all the contracting, curving and dropping. Lucky for me, one of my very favorite contemporary teachers in New York is also part of our schedule: Jana Hicks. The rest of the group has fallen in love with her after the first class. It just makes it that much easier to muster another two hours of energy at the end of the day.
Well, the first week is over and it was a blast. Besides sweating together in class, the group spends breaks in Central Park tanning and eating, chatting about life, and even hung out on the weekend in Coney Island for the Mermaid Parade.
Bring on the next week with Donald Byrd.
Freelance Writer, Summer Study Student