“I feel like I’ve really done something with the summer.” That’s what Benjamin Simoens had to say when I asked him how he’s enjoying Summer Intensive.
It’s hard to believe it’s is over so quickly. Then again, I suppose it feels this way every year, for the students especially. They arrive and immediately they’re swept away into classes. All day, Monday through Friday, with an optional class on Saturdays. Each week a different guest teacher is brought in to teach a different style, African, Afro-Cuban, Jazz, Modern, Spanish, all while they’re working on their technique, and preparing a piece to perform in Emergence, the showcase for the Summer Intensive students taking the stage this Friday at the Sharon Lynne Wilson Center.
I met with Benjamin and Marta Kelly who I interviewed a few weeks ago, to get their parting thoughts on the program, and to see what kind of progress they’d made on their goals.
Benjamin noted earlier this summer he wanted to work on his technique and presentation. “My presentation definitely got better in Rolando’s class. The way he teaches really has helped with that,” he says. “My coordination has gotten better and I did some things I’ve never done before. The teachers have been pushing me further than I’m normally pushed so I’ve learned how to really use my extension and turnout. I never realized I had so much more to use.”
Benjamin unfortunately experienced what many dancers do, an injury. He’s had to balance his time between nursing a sore shoulder and trying to learn as much as he can during his time in Intensive. “It was painful but that only lasted five days. I still had to be careful in pas (partnering class) because my shoulder got a little twinge in the lifts, but I was back to 100% within a week and a half,” he explains.
Luckily we have the medical team from Froedtert and the Medical College of Wisconsin on site to keep our students up on their toes. This team is the same one that works on our Company dancers during the season, and the Milwaukee Brewers and U.S. Speedskating Team to new a few more. “The Friday clinic has been really helpful,” says Benjamin. “It’s easily accessible, you just go downstairs, and you can get a professional opinion. Then you’re not trying to guess like ‘I think I just pulled it.’”
One more highlight, he says, is the faculty Milwaukee Ballet assembled for this Intensive. Benjamin explains, “I really liked the all the teachers here. We got a new one every week and I can honestly say I liked all of them. I know that’s something my brother is struggling with at the Intensive he chose.”
Marta Kelly is also grateful for the Intensive faculty. “All the teachers we’ve had have really helped me progress over the summer. I’ve definitely gotten closer to my goal of closing the gap between student and professional, but I have some details to work on,” she notes.
“Each week we get a different teacher, and they’re all teaching ballet, but they’re teaching you to focus on different things. When we had Courtney [Kramer, Company Dancer], she really dances through her feet so that helped me work on mine. Other teachers focused on accents and musicality.” She continues, “Mireille really helped me with my placement in my pirouettes and now we have Rolando, who is teaching us how to use our plié correctly. Everything comes out of plié. It feels so good and it really helps you to use your muscles correctly. That way you’re not compensating and using your other muscles incorrectly.”
She adds, “Even though my body was really sore, it was interesting to study a different type of ballet every week.”
So, what’s next for our students, after Emergence? Benjamin will return home to California where he’ll train for another year. Marta, however, will be back to dance with The Nancy Einhorn Milwaukee Ballet II Program next season. All of the Summer Intensive students are invited to audition for our second Company, and Marta was one of the few who made it in. She will take a quick trip home to Tampa and “figure everything out from there.”
She’s excited to return to the Midwest in fall, saying “Milwaukee is really nice. Very welcoming, very homey. I’ll miss my mom and my little dog, but I’m excited for this opportunity and to see where it takes me.”
You can see Benjamin, Marta and all of our hardworking Summer Intensive students in Emergence this Friday at the Sharon Lynne Wilson Center. Show times are 4:30 and 7:30pm.