From Across the Pond to a Summer with ABT and Project Plié

22 Aug

Across the Pond, a few months ago while lying in bed, it hit me that study abroad was drawing to a close and it was time again to search for a summer internship. At Spelman, we have a career opportunities database that emails constant internship and part-time job opportunities that peak your interest or have to do with your major. One cold day in April, yes it was still cold in England, I received an email with dozens of links to different summer internships I would be interested in. Writing internships, PR internships, Law internships, Social media internships, Communications, the whole nine. Don’t worry, I’m an English major so all of these naturally apply. However, hidden within these many emails was something that had nothing to do with my major, but made me more excited than any of these other opportunities combined. American Ballet Theatre was on the lookout for summer interns! To me, this was a magical opportunity. Interning at ABT meant that I could learn how to combine my first love with a career. I could learn what it takes to manage a school, or to run one of the biggest most prestigious and recognized ballet companies in the world, not to mention rub elbows with dancers I have admired since childhood. I applied with haste and anxiously awaited a reply.

Once I received a confirmation for an interview from Dennis, I began to do some research. It has been my experience that interviewers like to ask what is the interviewee’s favorite initiative or outreach program of the company. While perusing the ABT website I came across an initiative by the name of Project Plié.  Launched in 2013, Project Plié is ABT’s initiative to diversify the classical ballet world through several avenues including the dancers, teachers, companies, and arts administrators. Equal representation of all ethnic groups in the performing arts is particularly important to me, so as I researched more about Project Plié I became more excited to answer a question that I usually dread. Surprisingly enough, Dennis didn’t ask me anything of the sort. As the interview was ending, he brought it up himself. In addition to offering me the internship at the JKO School, he offered me a Project Plié scholarship as well!

Working at ABT, experiencing New York for the very first time, and helping to further along a one of a kind diversity initiative was the most fulfilling thing I could have done this summer. Learning more about arts administration and non-profit organizations was just the icing on the cake. I am more than excited to take what I’ve learned at ABT into my future experiences and will never forget this once in a lifetime opportunity. Thank you to Dennis, Rebecca, Monica, and all of ABT!

Eva Cooke

Training Programs Intern

Summer 2015

Bicoastal Ballet

22 Aug

Similar to the soon-to-be bicoastal company, my ABT experience came in two significant and rewarding parts. The first brought me to the Summer Intensive department on the 4th floor of 890 Broadway in Manhattan as an intern. I spent my semester reviewing audition materials, organizing files, and helping the office prepare for the hundreds of students who would flood the studios of the nine intensives throughout the country. I even got to work and attend the 75th Anniversary Gala, but that could be a whole other blog post in itself. When there was a lull in SI work, my help was available to any other area of the open office space, from Studio Company to National Training Curriculum. These days gave me insight into the various ways this renowned ballet company spreads its knowledge and talent while, at the same time, I was answering emails from summer intensive students who could, quite possibly, be the next Isabella Boylston.

It was these amazing four months in New York that brought me the opportunity to travel to Orange County, CA, the site of ABT’s newest training school. Although I wasn’t working at the William J. Gillespie School, I did get to work with its future staff and potential students at ABT’s final intensive of the summer. Every day I watched the nametags I created in New York shine from the leotards of their young, talented owners. The paperwork I collected and compiled for the program was now back in my sight 3,000 miles away from its original destination, waiting to be put to practical use. It was humbling to acknowledge that I helped make this experience possible for the counselors, teachers, and students I would get to know in the coming weeks.

As a counselor, I observed and learned from past ABT principal dancers who have since transferred their skills to the world of teaching. I helped kids battle homesickness, injuries, and anxiety while simultaneously watching them grow as people and artists. All the while, I was backed by a group of incredible counselors who came together in the craziest of situations and even agreed to perform a lip-sync version of the Pitch Perfect finale (complete with choreography) at our dorm talent show. At the end of the three weeks, I stood in the wings during the final performance and waited to hand off props to my yellow group. They had worked so diligently to dance their piece from Swan Lake and the final result was everything they had hoped. I was exhausted and stressed but more than anything I was proud.

Each location came with its own unique lessons and opportunities but, in its entirety, ABT gifted me with invaluable experiences, life long friends, and a lot of laughs along the way.

Julia Weber

Summer Intensive Intern – Spring 2015

Orange County SI Counselor 2015

Spring 2015 interns at the 75th Anniversary Gala

Spring 2015 interns at the 75th Anniversary Gala

The 2015 Orange County Summer Counselors

The 2015 Orange County Summer Counselors

Happy Memories and New Opportunities

10 Aug

I spent my senior year of high school blissfully working in and roaming the halls of 890 Broadway as one lucky twelfth grade apprentice/intern at American Ballet Theatre’s Educational Outreach Program. The office was always bustling with activity from the JKO students and your regular school year spectacles. Now as a dance major done with her first year at college, I wondered how I would fill my summer months back home in NYC. Looking to better my understanding of arts administration (and secretly wondering if ABT was as exciting in the summer as it is during the school year), it made complete sense to return to the home of a company that I had admired as long as I could dance, and a place that never failed to bring a smile to my face at the end of a long day.

As a previous Outreach intern, I didn’t know what to expect as I walked in this past May on my first day to become a National Training Curriculum intern. But after only a couple of days back at ABT, I regretted not stopping to take a look last year at the NTC desks that I had passed a hundred times.

The National Training Curriculum is a program taught at the JKO School and has been extremely successful in turning out highly sought after dancers. The program provides a remarkable and unique opportunity for dedicated dance teachers to learn how to train their students in ballet­—properly and healthily—from ABT’s own instructors, through a series of lectures, demonstrations, and exams. The ultimate goal is to walk away certified by ABT, and hopefully move on to become an Affiliate Teacher by then presenting your students for their own exams. I was fortunate enough to occasionally pass by or walk into a room where a lecture by Raymond Lukens or Franco De Vita (two of the brains behind NTC) was taking place and catch a tidbit of information about how to properly approach your turnout or placement at the barre.

In addition to being an intern for NTC, I was also a counselor for ABT’s five week Summer Intensive program in NYC (which allowed me to learn that yes, ABT is just as exciting and crowded during the summer as it is throughout the year). At the beginning of the summer, I stressed about how I was going to manage to do both, but being submerged in two different branches of ABT’s Education and Training Department entirely enriched my overall experience. The combination of the two programs complimented each other in a way I never expected, and culminated in my sudden enlightenment of another career path.

I never desired to become a dance teacher. Professionally dancing has always been my dream, but I never wanted to consider taking a teaching job. This summer, however, wholly changed my opinion of teaching. As an NTC intern I learned all about the administrative and business side of instructing, and as a summer counselor I had a more hands-on experience in personally dealing with children. The knowledge that I acquired from both made me realize that not only would I not mind teaching dance, but I would also look forward to it. As someone who had never considered taking the dance-teacher route for lack of faith in myself, I now welcome this unforeseen possibility for my future.

My whole adventure with ABT this summer has made for some happy memories. I am thankful for the opportunities that have been provided and for this unforgettable learning experience. What little bunhead doesn’t dream of working with American Ballet Theatre, and helping with the magic behind the curtain?

Julia Sandke

National Training Curriculum Intern

Summer 2015

The Membership Department

10 Aug

Before coming to American Ballet Theatre, I had no idea what to expect. I was nervous because it would my first experience with ballet, my first internship, my first time being in New York, and my first time living on my own. In spite of my concerns, I chose to come to participate in the internship anyway, which I can now say was one of the best decisions I have made in my life. This summer I had the opportunity to serve as an intern in the Membership Department. This particular department is one of the most important parts of the American Ballet Theatre’s Development Department. I started my internship in the middle of the spring season at the Metropolitan Opera House. During this time, the Membership Department is usually in a frenzy day in and day out. Starting my internship in the middle of the season forced me to learn and adapt quickly. Even though the pace of the work was intense, the peaceful atmosphere of the office never allowed me to feel stressed.

The Membership Department is responsible for recruiting and retaining the members who “make ABT happen.”In order to try to recruit new members, some nights during the spring season, I worked at the Membership table, a table set up at the Metropolitan Opera House. While at this table I made it a point to interact with the audience before and after each performance and during intermissions. I engaged the audience members by passing out pamphlets, answering questions explaining how membership at ABT works, and by simply asking them about their feelings about the performance. It feels great being able to say that I helped 3 people become members while doing this! In order to help retain the pre­existing members, mailings are sent out monthly in order to remind those whose memberships are expiring to renew. Unfortunately, these mailings are usually very large and create papercuts to match. However, each member who renews their membership makes it worth it! Members receive a special set of benefits that can include personal ticketing services and invitations to private events. During the spring season, patron ticketing is hectic. Each day there are numerous calls with single ticket orders, subscription exchanges, and other ticket exchanges. This particular area of the department is very demanding and things can pile up extremely quickly. However, when it is all done and you managed to squeeze that last order in before the messenger got too irritated, you are left with an amazing feeling of accomplishment.

After the spring season is over, everything in the office seems to come to a screeching halt. The cloud of intense urgency that hangs over everyone’s heads seems to fade away and everyone is left with the most beautiful smiles and hearty laughs. Everyday there was a new reason to celebrate and we celebrated indeed. We celebrated with dance­o­clock, chocolate, the best homemade baked goods in New York, and more chocolate. Overall, my favorite part of the internship was the atmosphere in the office. Everyone works well together and genuinely tries to make sure that each employee in the office has whatever they need to make it through the day. If you’re ever in the membership office, you’ll hear the word the family a lot and after being there this summer I truly see why. While dysfunctional at best, ABT truly is one large caring family and I’m extremely grateful to say I got the chance to be a part of it.

Sydney Thomas

Membership Intern

Summer 2015

In the Lobby of the Metropolitan Opera House

In the Lobby of the Metropolitan Opera House

An Education in Connection

5 Aug

A room in the basement of the Met is filled with little kids barely higher than my waist, most in pink leotards and some with frilly tutus. Tchaikovsky’s soaring score, from Swan Lake, fills the room as the children flap their arms like swans. The parents are sitting along the mirror alternately cooing and snapping pictures of their children on their smart phones. It is barely eleven am on a Saturday, a time I would scarcely see during my college days, and yet I am very happy to be there. The scene I have just described is from American Ballet Theatre’s Pre-Performance Workshop series, aimed at helping young kids understand the ballet they would see later in the afternoon.

Some people my age would be unable to handle the number of youths around them. I am, instead, invigorated by it. Ever since I taught my first class at the age of thirteen, I have loved working with younger kids. Therefore, this summer, I wished to be an education outreach intern for ABT with the hopes that I would soon understand how a major ballet company seeks to inspire the next generation. I am starting to understand and in doing so, have fallen in love with ballet again, myself.

ABT makes it about the story. Especially for the youngest kids, getting them to understand the story is important. During my first experience with a The Sleeping Beauty pre-performance workshop, the teaching artists had the little kids dance out the dramatic scene between the King and Queen, the evil Carabosse, and the Lilac Fairy. They would shake their arms in fury like Carabosse and then make a pleading motion like the King and Queen. By letting them dance to the music and learn the story beforehand, ABT hopes to make it personal for the children so that when they see the performance, they will recognize it and have a connection. And that is main reason why I pursue different forms of art: for the connection.

I have been a part of an arts program ever since I was ten years old and even though I was interning at ABT, I still woke up early to help teach tap classes for them. And being around the dancers and staff at ABT, I know why I keep returning. It is because a connection through the arts can create second families, second homes. It is the cause of why even though Julie Kent has retired from dancing, she has not left the ABT family and she can still be seen milling around the education offices, helping them to bring new initiatives to life. I consider myself lucky to get a chance to be a part of this world. It has reaffirmed my belief that I never want to leave the arts.

Nicole Wong

Education Outreach Intern

Summer 2015

Why Support the Arts?

5 Aug

At the beginning of the summer, one of my friends sent me an article from Vox – an online news source – that focused on a foundation committed to effective altruism, “a growing movement that commits itself to using empirical methods to work out how to do the most good it possibly can.”[1] The approach profiled in the article utilized a ranking system to quantify the impact that could be made by donating a particular amount to a particular organization. This approach does not favor the arts as donations to organizations in this sector score drastically lower on the effectiveness ranking.

As someone who has always experienced the arts as a significant positive dimension of her life, that article was hard to wrap my head around. Even more challenging was the task of reconciling the view of philanthropy presented by the Vox piece with the goal of the development office at ABT where I was about to spend eight weeks: namely, to raise financial support for the company. My specific position as the Major Gifts intern heightened the intensity of this task as a large part of our office’s job is to show major donors exactly why their generous individual support is a worthwhile choice.

During week seven of the 2015 Met season, ABT presented Swan Lake – perhaps the epitome of classical ballet. Misty Copeland made her debut as Odette/Odile, the ballet’s female lead, in the run’s Wednesday matinee. Well known in both the ballet world and popular culture, Copeland is the first African American ballerina to rise to such prominence at ABT. The end-of-season promotions marked her official status as ABT’s first African American principal dancer.

Valentino Carlotti – ABT trustee and Copeland’s sponsor – delivered a toast at the post-show reception honoring the ballerina. His words finally answered the question that had been nagging at me all summer – why support the arts? – by hitting on the timely relevance and impact of her Swan Lake debut. Carlotti first toasted the beauty of Copeland’s dancing and finished by lifting her up as a sign of hope for the African-American community. The Charleston church massacre occurred exactly one week before the Swan Lake debut.

Carlotti’s comments capture the combination of celebration and poignancy that marked this occasion. Moreover, they highlight the potential for the arts to carry a relevance that extends beyond the parameters of the stage. The arts inspire and impact the outside world, just as the outside world may have the same effects on art itself. The tendency to question the necessity of the arts or the practical value of supporting them overlooks this powerful function. Art occurs not in a vacuum but in the context of the world around it. Undoubtedly, ballet holds a beauty and power internal to the art form. That aspect of art does not – should not – detract from the recognition of the power, relevance and impact that the arts carry even after the curtain has fallen and the applause has faded away.

Grace Singleton

Major Gifts Intern

Summer 2015

[1] Dylan Matthews, “You have $8 billion. You want to do as much good as possible. What do you do?” Vox, April 24, 2015, http://www.vox.com/2015/4/24/8457895/givewell-open-philanthropy-charity.

Cheers to Misty!

2 Aug

This summer I had the incredible opportunity to intern at American Ballet Theatre!  I worked with Special Events in the Development department.  This summer was especially important for ABT because it was the 75th Anniversary!   Some of the tasks I worked on while there were finalizing budgeting for the Spring 2015 Gala, sending Thank You letters, choosing and sending out Fall Gala invitations, and creating photo galleries on the website.  However, I have to admit that the best days were the days I was actually working events!

Since I began right in the heart of the MET season, there were several occasions where I was working there instead of at 890 Broadway.  I got to assist at dress rehearsals, board meetings, and other exciting events.  Soon enough I knew the backstage of the MET like the back of my own hand!  One of the best occasions was actually a day where there were two separate events scheduled for the same time.  One was an event with American Girl (which was absolutely adorable).  Girls, mothers and dolls were invited to a matinee show of Swan Lake, which also happened to be Misty Copeland’s premier as Odette.  After the performance, they were all invited to a private “milk and cookie” reception upstairs in the Belmont Room.  One of the swans even made a special appearance to take photos with the girls.  They were definitely a little shocked to see a “real live ballerina!”  Before leaving, all girls and dolls received a little goodie bag.  It was so much fun!

Meanwhile, one floor up was a special cocktail party for Misty Copeland.  One of our donors wanted to congratulate Misty on her premier as Odette, so he donated several cases of champagne for a toast.  Many of Misty’s close friends and relatives were invited to celebrate.  She made a very heartfelt speech and even shed a few tears!  Everyone was enjoying it so much that we accidentally stayed past the closing time for the MET (oops, sorry guys).  It was definitely a hectic but exciting evening.

Now, with only two weeks left for us summer interns, I’m starting to reflect on everything I’ve learned and all the new experiences I’ve gained during the last six weeks.  This has been an incredible summer for me, and I want to thank everyone at ABT for giving me this opportunity!

Kristina Weston

Special Events Intern

Summer 2015

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