To be honest, I have a love-hate relationship with commercial dance intensives. As with everything in life, there are pros and cons to participating in intensives or mentorship programs. If you find yourself feeling that the benefits outweigh the costs (literally and figuratively), then give it a try. But remember, you will get out of the program only what you put into it. If you commit to fully immersing yourself, then you will walk away with something gained.
Pre-Registration To-Do List
Before signing up for someone’s intensive or mentorship program, try to take his/her class first. You want to make sure that you like the instructor’s teaching style and general vibe before investing hundreds and sometimes thousands of dollars into a program that may not be right for you. As a word of caution, there are some choreographers who do not have open weekly classes. You can always wait it out for the next available class. But note that these choreographers are professionals who are constantly working and traveling. So, it may be a while before you can take their classes. As an alternative, you can research the instructor to see if you like his/her work.
Dance intensives and mentorship programs are great networking opportunities. First of all, you are working with real professionals: working choreographers, creative directors, and teachers in the industry. You can and will learn a great deal from these individuals. Bonus: if you make a good impression, he/she could become a useful contact. Better yet, you could walk away with a job or an additional opportunity. Second of all, these programs give you the chance to interact with your peers. We often take classes and, afterwards, we immediately leave. The result is that we aren’t meeting people in the dance community. Intensives provide an opening for you to get to know your fellow dancers. These people might not necessarily become your best friends but, they will become a friendly and recognizable face at auditions and in other classes.
Networking aside, you sign up for intensives to learn. And these programs provide the perfect setting. Intensives and mentorships grant you intimate classes with more opportunities to receive meaningful feedback. Your instructors have been in this industry for a while. Take their feedback seriously. They will give you pointers on how to better yourself as an artist and on how to better your chances at auditions. So pay attention! Take home with you both the feedback you receive and the new exercises you learn. This way you can continue your improving on your own.
If learning valuable lessons isn’t enough for you, then think of these programs as career advancement opportunities as well. Agents often attend intensives to observe and provide feedback of their own. On occasion, they will sign dancers, too. So consider this another reminder to always put your best foot forward.
A more tangible benefit of participating in intensives is the footage you can take home. At most intensives these days, you will be filmed. That footage could be of you dancing solo or in a group setting. Using this footage in your reel and posting it on social media is a great idea.
Let’s continue our discussion of footage. Yes, footage is both a pro and a con of dance intensives. When filmed correctly, footage is a great benefit of intensives. But given the human propensity for error and the occasional technical mishap, footage is not always guaranteed to be clear and usable. It may be a blurry shot or you may be out of the frame for some of it. No matter the issue, know that you cannot bank on getting good footage from an intensive… even if you technically paid for that footage since that is what they advertised when you signed up. I know that may sound beyond simple, but it has happened to peers and myself more than once.
Speaking of price, here’s a simple exercise for determining value: take the cost of the program and divide that by the number of hours you are actually in the room. I participated in an intensive that cost me $75 per hour. For those of you unfamiliar with class prices, to give you some perspective, a normal drop-in class is around $16. That money could have covered several classes with different instructors teaching a variety of styles. It’s up to you to determine the worth of an intensive. So make sure that you’re taking all of these factors and alternatives into consideration.
As I just mentioned, taking a handful of drop-in classes can be more beneficial than participating in an intensive. This is especially true for those intensives that don’t offer an experience that is different from the instructor’s weekly classes. Intensives should feel like something more than your standard, weekly class. After all, that’s why you’re paying the big bucks! For me, there has to be more to it than learning a combination. You can do that in any other class. And the “promise” of footage isn’t enough to make up that difference in price.
Some intensives offer a lot of great “extras” (e.g., agent attendance, wardrobe discussions, hair and makeup tips, Q&As, etc.). These “extras” are not, however, guaranteed at every program. A bare intensive will offer you a standard dance class, filming, and feedback. Even then, though, you might not get direct feedback. And at that point, you might as well have just taken a normal $16 class. These are the two ends of the intensive spectrum. My point is that intensives can be a bit of a gamble. Factor that risk into your decision-making process.
The last major con is not, unfortunately, one you can really prepare for in advance. You can take a great intensive and work your butt off, but the choreographer still might not remember you. Granted, it’s your job to continue to take his/her classes and to get your face into his/her head. But if the instructor doesn’t remember you after a few days, you may find yourself feeling rather defeated. Remember, you’re paying a lot of money for the program, and you’re working really hard. Sadly, this doesn’t guarantee you the connection with the choreographer after the intensive or program concludes.
Below is a list of the different mentorships and intensives in the industry:
- Body Language Experience by Liana Blackburn
- Cameron Lee Mentorship Program
- Creating Opportunities by Chonique and Lisette Bustmante
- Dana Foglia Mentorship Program
- The Galen Hooks Method
- Industry Intensive By Brinn Nicole
- Motivating Excellence by Rhapsody
- One-On-One Mentorship Program with Gigi Torres*
- Panorama Dance Intensive by Alexander Chung and CJ Salvador
- Pump Camp by Aisha Francis
- Zero F*cks Intensive by Claude Racine
*You can be anywhere for this mentorship program! Gigi Skypes with you and helps break down your goals so they are achievable.
Allow me to clarify, not all of these programs that are listed above involve physical dancing. Some of them are structured around providing informational guidance only.
A majority of these intensives are held in LA, but not all. Some of these programs are held throughout the U.S. and even internationally! And the above list is not exhaustive—there are a few other choreographers/teachers who have had intensives in the past. But these are sporadic. So be sure to follow your favorite choreographers on Instagram, and check their websites to find dates and details.
Before signing up for an intensive, research the program and self-reflect. What are looking to gain from an intensive or mentorship program? Are you doing this to truly better and push yourself? Or are you taking the intensive because everyone else is doing it? Most of these programs only accept a certain number of dancers to each session. So be mindful that, if you aren’t fully invested in the intensive, you could be taking the opportunity away from someone else.
If and/or when you decide to sign up for an intensive, social media and program websites are your best resources. Most programs have a deadline for registration, and some also require applications. There is a program out there for everyone. You just have to do the necessary legwork to find the right one for you.