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Coming Full Circle with ABT

15 Jan

Beyond the wonderful past few months I’ve had as a membership intern with American Ballet Theatre, the company has had a profound impact on my life. My first summer intensive as a ballet dancer and my first time living in an apartment in New York City was with ABT in the summer of 2013. I fell head over heels in love with ballet, ABT, and New York that year and again in 2014. Those 5 weeks both years confirmed for me that I had to move to the city, and 7 years later I did just that.  

Returning to the 890 Broadway studios, where I first entered as a dancer, as an intern was such a wonderful, full-circle experience for me. Although I decided not to pursue dance professionally, ABT has provided me with the opportunity to combine my deep passion for ballet with the skills that I have gained over the past few years in development and connecting with people. With the guidance from Grey, Grace, and the rest of the membership department, I have gotten to help with sending out thank you gifts to donors, assisted individual donors with their memberships, and spoken with members over the phone about their donations and connection with ABT. My communication skills, both externally through donors and internally through my supervisors, have improved immensely during the course of the internship.  

The highlight of my internship would hands-down be getting to help with the membership table during the Fall 2021 season. We assisted with answering questions that people who were attending the performances had about the membership levels at ABT, during which I got to speak with a board member and the mother of a dancer that I highly admire! It was also incredible getting to watch as many of the performances as I could fit into my schedule – I ended up watching 6 performances in 8 days. Feeling the excitement of the audience watching a live ballet for the first time in about 2 years and seeing so many of the dancers that I have followed on social media again was surreal.  

Ballet and connecting with people have always been my deepest passions, and my time as a membership intern with ABT elegantly combined the two. I will also always have the deepest gratitude to ABT for being the reason why I knew that I needed to live in New York, and for being one of the first things to welcome me back with open arms once I did.  

Ashley Tern

Membership Intern

Fall 2021

Pleasant Surprises from an Unexpected Detour: Broadening the Horizons of a Career in the Arts

5 Sep
My first experience with American Ballet Theatre was going to see Maria Kochetkova perform Swan Lake at the Metropolitan Opera House with my mother. I remember barely being able to keep still in my chair, wanting to pounce up and join in the choreography. I remember leaving Lincoln Center on the 1 Tain with the largest smile on my face, not only feeling more inspired than ever to keep dancing, but also that I could do anything if I put my mind to it.
My next experience with American Ballet Theatre was dancing in their three-week Collegiate Summer Intensive in the June of 2016. I soaked in every last moment of being in the studios; I was beginning my Freshman year of college in the Fall and I was getting too old for most Summer Intensives. A classmate had applied to be a counselor for the five-week intensive, and I thought that was something I would definitely be interested in.
The next Spring I composed an email to the Summer Intensive staff inquiring about the Summer Counselor position and was asked to come in for an interview. There, they asked if I would be interested in an internship for the summer with the JKO Pre-Professional Division.
It was incredibly unexpected: I was still only 18 and had only finished my first year of college. But through out my experience this summer, I drew from and continued to refine my knowledge of ballet education and organizational, administrative, and editing skills. I worked closely with the JKO staff preparing for the school year with the students’ registration, refining the student and faculty handbook policies, collecting inventory of the uniforms, and mailing out the teacher and accompanist contracts.
As the school is not in session during the summer I also had the opportunity to assist in other areas of ABT Education Offices, such as Project Plié and the multiple Summer Intensives happening both in NYC and across the United States.
With the internship program we also had other opportunities, such as an exchange program with Roundabout Theatre, a visit to DanceMedia’s Pointe Magazine, tickets to experience some of ABT’s Metropolitan Opera season, and even a backstage tour of the Met. On top of this, every week we would have intern meetings to hear from different departments of the organization and what comprises a career in arts administration: all the way from how ABT functions as a non-profit to grant writing. These lectures were incredibly eye opening for me, as previous to this summer I had only experience as a dancer; I learned of so many more ways the arts can be turned into a career.
Overall, I was immensely moved by the amount of effort ABT placed into the outreach of dance for the youth and in the local schools. In a time where the arts are struggling to remain relevant, ABT is at the forefront of the mission. At the Young People’s Ballet Workshop students from public schools from the NYC area poured into the Metropolitan Opera House to watch some of their peers perform alongside company dancers, and it thrilled me to see the amount of unconfined excitement buzzing in a room full of young students.
I saw them sitting in the seats where I watched ABT perform for the first time, and just looking at the gleam in their eyes and the uncontained smile of their faces that they also were not just inspired to move, but that they could accomplish anything they put their minds to as well.
It was an honor this summer to intern with American Ballet Theatre and to know, that in my small ways, I am helping young dancers to be inspired just as I was and I would recommend this opportunity to anyone interested in any form of arts administration.
Kasey Boekema
JKO School Intern
Summer 2017
Kasey Broekema is 19 years old entering her sophomore year at Columbia University studying dance and English.

When Two Worlds Collide

22 Aug
As artists, we may have different backgrounds and different skill sets but we all have one common goal; expressing our passion.  I come from a musical background and though I wasn’t so familiar with the dance world, I was eager to learn more and fully immerse myself in it during the course of the summer at ABT.
The most rewarding part of any job is not only working hard to make a project come to life but also to see the final result unfold.  Throughout the summer, I would sit in the office processing files for the upcoming JKO School year and occasionally I would hear faint excerpts of Brahms Symphony No.3, Tchaikovsky’s The Sleeping Beauty and Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet playing throughout the day.   I would leave 890 Broadway humming the tunes all the way to the subway after hearing these classical works on repeat the whole day.  It was really awesome to hear melodies I’ve performed in orchestras and see them put to dance.  I would be fortunate enough to even see some of the rehearsals from time to time in passing when I was organizing JKO School uniforms in the green room and was blown away by the hard work these young dancers were doing.  Though I am not a dancer,  I trained equally as hard when I was in a preparatory program for music and could easily relate to their vigorous days of rehearsals.
Days before the end of my internship, I was asked to help work the boutique for the Summer Intensive final performances held at the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts.  As I walked in my checkered rain boots to the water-speckled glass building,  I was secretly  hoping that I would be able to watch some of the final performance in addition to helping run the boutique. After the first round of boutique sales, I snuck into the dark theater just in time for the second dance.

The performance was like putting pieces of a puzzle together to make one final, beautiful image. I was able to hear the familiar classical pieces that I had been whistling for weeks played from start to finish, I saw the completed choreography instead of bits and pieces of a rehearsal in passing to the green room, the costumes added the visual elegance and the young dancers who performed completed the picture.  As a soloist would nail their routine, I could see them go back into the wings of the stage as their fellow dancers would high five their colleagues for a routine well done.  I was so impressed with the young talent I had just witnessed, but I was also reminded that the art that I create through music is exactly the same.  As a violist, I have to take pieces to the puzzle and put them together to create the final image I am trying to convey to my audience.

In order to perfect an art form, whether it be music or dance, the hard work, sacrifice, dedication and a sense of community are the necessary ingredients to convey passion in art.  That day forward, my appreciation for dance and dance education grew enormously and I am so thankful to have been given the opportunity to witness such amazing talent this summer.
Aline Vartanian
Training Programs Intern
Summer 2016

One of my favorite visitors…….

26 May
This Spring at ABT I’ve had the pleasure of working as the Summer Intensives intern in the Education Department, helping prepare for the exciting summer season where young dancers travel far & wide to learn from ABT’s amazing faculty at their various intensives. ABT’s educational programs are all so incredible & prestigious, all helping to train the future dancers of America. Working in the office alongside the people who make that magic happen has been such a rewarding experience, and has solidified how excited I am to work in arts education in the future.
Although I am pretty confident in the path I plan to pursue, one of my favorite aspects of my ABT internship was our weekly intern meetings on Friday. We got to meet so many people with different relationships to ABT; former dancers, board members, employees, intern alums & more! It was so exciting to meet these different people & hear their ABT stories, and learn about different aspects of the arts from them.
One of my favorite visitors was ABT’s Associate Company Manager, Ashley K. Baer. The company management team takes care of all the administrative needs of the dancers; contracts, comp tickets, benefits, travel & lodging logistics, etc. I loved hearing Ashley’s stories from the road about what it was like on tour with the company and having such a huge responsibility taking care of well over 100 people who aren’t just traveling for fun, but are there to put on a show and make incredible art each night! Ashley spoke a lot about how the ABT dancers are treated like celebrities abroad, and how appreciated dancers are in other cultures, which is something I found so interesting in comparison to America. I really didn’t know a lot about company management before meeting with Ashley, but I absolutely loved getting to hear about this exciting job, and learning about this different area of life at ABT. All of our intern meetings gave us important glimpses into different areas of arts administration, and although I love education, I feel so lucky to have interned at a company that gave us a well rounded experience & helped us learn so much.
Meeting Ashley was so informative & inspiring that if I wasn’t terrified of planes, I’d definitely be wrapping my head around pursuing company management! Luckily, my experience at ABT working alongside my wonderful mentors has helped me learn so much about arts education & I could not be more excited to pursue it in the future after this incredible semester at ABT comes to a close.
Meg Haase
Summer Intensives Intern
Spring 2016

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

5 Years Later…

2 Aug

Five years ago, I walked up to 890 Broadway with my hair in a slicked back bun and a bag full of pointe shoes. My mom kissed me on the cheek and sent me off to my first day of the American Ballet Theatre’s New York Summer Intensive. Everyday, I worked with world-renowned teachers on classical repertoire and daily technique. While the dancing was certainly my main focus, I couldn’t help but notice the office staff that occasionally appeared in the halls. Set apart by their lack of tights and freely styled hair, these young professionals represented a side of ballet that I’d never really known: arts administration. Instantly, a curiosity sparked in me to eventually take on a role in this behind-the-scenes aspect of dance.

Fast forward to this past May, and I’m still walking up to 890 Broadway, but this time with no bun or pointe shoes. This summer, I finally got to fulfill that administrative interest as an intern with ABT’s National Training Curriculum Department.

The NTC, a recent addition to ABT’s many education initiatives, seeks to spread the values of proper ballet training through a detailed syllabus and knowledge of injury prevention. The main way to broadcast this curriculum is through Teacher Training Sessions and furthermore, Affiliate Exams. The sessions involve multiple lectures, observations, and examinations for committed instructors who hope to come out of the training with a coveted ABT Certification. Once teachers have become certified, they can then move on to the Affiliate Exams, in which they present students taught under the NTC for evaluation.

Throughout my experience, one of my favorite elements was how the teacher trainings were able to connect people from not only the U.S. but also several different countries. Applications came in anywhere from Croatia to Italy, all from teachers eager to grasp the principles of the NTC. Once the sessions actually took place, the diversity I had read on paper appeared in the studios of ABT, and I couldn’t be more excited to contribute to a philosophy that was making its way across the globe.

This internship has also provided me with an incredible work environment over the summer. The staff members have all been tremendously welcoming, and I have learned so much from my mentor Meghan Love. I can’t believe how fortunate I was to be surrounded each day by teachers and stars of the ballet world that I admire so greatly. It’s not everyday you receive a guest lecture from former ABT principal Ethan Stiefel or have a casual chat in the office with Raymond Lukens.

I am extremely grateful to ABT for giving me the administrative experience I’d been dreaming about since I was 15. The company truly has an excellent focus on education, and I can’t wait to see the NTC continue to grow in schools worldwide.

Nicole Luo

National Training Curriculum Intern

Summer 2015

A view from my desk!   A photo gallery of every certified NTC Teacher.

A view from my desk! A photo gallery of every certified NTC Teacher.

“Yes, Sophie, there is a Tooth Fairy.”

5 Aug

As the final two weeks of my internship approached, after eight extremely busy weeks of Summer Intensives, I expected things in the office to wind down—-I thought I might finish some editing projects, file some last bits of student paperwork and make a few more trips to the dry cleaner to drop off or pick up Studio Company costumes. Low-key tasks. But ABT, ever full of surprises, handed me a fantastic one just over two weeks before I was due to leave. “Hey, Sophie,” Heidi said, “we’re one counselor short for YDSW. Could you help us out?”

Thus began what has arguably been the most exciting, and unexpected, part of my internship experience. The Young Dancer Summer Workshop, or YDSW, is the last of three Summer Intensive programs in the NYC studios at 890 Broadway, comprising about 200 students ages 9-12. The students are divided into nine levels, each with a color name and each with its very own counselor, a.k.a. Supervisor-in-Chief. My counselor duties, I learned, would include taking attendance in every class, checking each student into and out of the building, helping teachers demonstrate in the classroom, setting up PT appointments, handling students’ injuries and illnesses in class, overseeing lunch, generally providing each student with a wonderful ABT experience and, most importantly, never leaving the kids unsupervised. This last assignment, though initially daunting, has proven very easy to accomplish, because the students are all so much fun to be with! My group (Green—26 dancers) has made me eager to be at the office at 8:30 every morning, despite my two-hour commute. They don’t have to try to please me; they’re just so thrilled to be there, to talk to me and to one another and to dance dance dance!

Seeing them in and outside of class every day has reminded me why I wanted a job in the Education Department in the first place. There are many exciting aspects of office work in Education, from the clerical (preparing press packets for the Studio Company tour to Colorado) to the artistic (conjuring floral garlands from hula hoops, fake flowers and a hot glue gun—bippity-boppity-boo!), and it was these tasks I anticipated when I applied for the internship. Yet the most rewarding Education experience for me has been that provided by the YDSW kids. Sure, there have been small crises—-only this afternoon a girl I’d never seen before came up to me with a bloody mouth, proudly displaying the baby tooth that had just fallen out and eager to tell me how frequently the Tooth Fairy has been visiting her lately—-but these prove as educational for me as any other aspect of the job.

For a fresh college graduate to whom the future often seems daunting, it is immeasurably helpful to be surrounded by young dancers who are just learning to tie their pointe shoes, anticipating the Tooth Fairy’s magical arrival, still looking at life as one long, not yet choreographed dance in which they are all prima ballerinas. I only wish I could stay longer in their world.

Thank you, ABT, for giving me such a wonderful gift.

Sophie Johnson

Education Training Programs Intern

Summer 2014

My ABT Journey: From Counselor to Intern to Staff Member

10 Dec

If you love ballet and children, then there is no greater place to intern than the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School at American Ballet Theatre. I spent this past summer as one of the Summer Intensive counselors at ABT and absolutely loved it, so I was thrilled to be accepted into the ABT internship program and be back at the school for another semester. I spent my time from September through the beginning of November as the Training Programs Intern in the Education department. Among other things, my responsibilities included re-doing the bulletin boards for the Pre-Professional and Children’s Divisions, organizing inventory for uniform sales, and making sure every dancer’s forms and information was up to date. Most exciting for me, was getting to be the teacher’s assistant for the three and four year old pre-primary classes on Wednesday’s, taught by Meghan Love. There is truly nothing cuter (or more exhausting!) than those classes of little dancers dressed all in white learning all of their ballet vocabulary and working through their plies, tendus, and foot progressions.

Assisting the JKO class on Halloween

Assisting the JKO class on Halloween

Things got particularly exciting for me at the beginning of November when I was offered a full time position with the Education department as the JKO School Assistant. The ABT internship program has a great track record of hiring former interns, but for it to happen to me was such a dream come true. So, now I spend my Tuesdays-Saturdays with the JKO School. My tasks are generally the same, although on a greater scale and with much more responsibility. I am able to sit in on meetings with parents and see how the school functions on a much deeper level, and I find that I am learning so many new things every day. Talk about a very steep learning curve! I was also still able to participate in some of the other intern activities, such as the Roundabout Exchange and the weekly meetings, so I was able to take advantage of the whole intern experience.

Elizabeth Owens Skidmore

Training Program Intern

Fall 2013

The ABT Summer Intensive

25 Jun

By Amelia Bielen, Summer Intensive Intern

Most large ballet companies hold summer intensive programs at their own facilities, but American Ballet Theatre offers 7 programs at sites across the country.   Holding so many programs allows ABT to make their training available to many more students and also enables ABT to find talented students for the JKO School. Programs in California, North Carolina (a recent addition from the former Detroit site), Alabama, Texas, and New York’s 3-week Collegiate intensive, 5-week New York intensive, and Young Dancer program are each geared for specific types of dancers ensuring each student will get the training and experience they need.

In order to fill these sites, ABT holds open auditions in approximately 25 cities across the U.S. and Canada.  Teachers from schools in audition regions as well as faculty from ABT are present at each audition to register and teach the audition classes.  Each student is scored on class presentation and placed in the program best suited for their ability.  By the end of this process about 3,500 students audition and about a 1,000 of those students accepted will enroll.

This process requires a lot of preparation. Following the auditions more work is needed to enter student profiles and audition results into ABT’s database, at a rate of about 750 students a week.  The audition process normally takes 5 weeks, with auditions happening simultaneously in different cities.  Once the auditions are finished and results entered, the acceptance letters are sent to the students.

Once the dancers are identified for each program, the next step is to update and upload student handbooks for each site, housing information, student contracts, a physical, JKO audition, and Indemnification forms for students to download and return.  Each site uses different local housing situations and those places handle their own housing tuition and paperwork.  The New York City programs don’t offer housing so alternative options for families to consider on their own are prepared.

The New York students get discounted tickets to see ABT performances in New York, these dates need to be determined and posted for students to see.

Each program site has different schedules, faculty members, counselors, and accompanists that all need to be coordinated in preparation for the excited students that will arrive for the summer.

Having a website that allows for providing information and the uploading of forms has made the audition and enrollment process a lot more efficient.  There are still many details to consider for a programs to run smoothly but as a previous student of numerous summer intensives I have found it very enlightening and rewarding to be on the administration side of the process.  Now, in less than a month the programs will begin and the real work will start!


Photo: Summer Intensive Instructor Harriet Clark with Students
Credit: Rosalie O’Connor