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A ballet instructor shares a laugh with his students who are in the middle of a barre class.

Summer Break vs. Summer Brake

February 08, 20244 min read

Summer brings a highly anticipated break from the mundane tasks of the school year. Rest and recuperation is an important component of this season, but too much downtime can be detrimental to performers. Imagine this:

Remember when you were a child and you would build towers out of wooden blocks? Imagine pouring yourself into building a majestically tall tower. You step away from the tower for a couple of hours to work on other taskseating lunch, playing outside, petting your dog. When you come back, you find that your tower has been toppled over and you've lost all of the progress you'd previously made. You have to start over from the beginning, patiently stacking one block on top of another to re-build your tower. You might be a little faster at stacking it than you were the first time. But wouldn't it be even better if the tower had never been knocked over in the first place?

Training over summer break is how you ensure your tower doesn't topple over, setting back your progress. Summertime training saves you time, money, and energy in the long run by ensuring you don't have to play catch up in the fall. In other words:

Enjoy a Summer Break, but don't let it become Summer Brake by stopping your training.

We interviewed AIM Ballet Co-Director and Oklahoma Youth Ballet Co-Director Joshua Brooksher to learn his tips and tricks for growing as an artist over summer break. While Mr. Josh specializes in ballet, his expertise is applicable to all areas of study. Here's what he had to say:

A ballet instructor shows his student a correction on her port de bras.

"Why is it important for students to continue practicing their art form over summer break?"

There are several reasons to continue taking classes and training over summer vacations for students of school age. One of the most important parts of education for children is the continuity of their development. The rule of three states that for each day in lost training, three days will be required to regain the lost time and return to the previous level.

For students who take weeks or months off over the summer, their training can be set back by an entire quarter or even a semester. After such hard work and financial investment throughout the school year, it can be disheartening for students to go backwards and have to start over on certain skills that they had previously mastered.

For physically challenging or athletic endeavors, the risk of injury is more than double upon returning after a break in which the participant completely abstains from any training. Injuries of this type can set students even farther behind because the break which causes them to relearn concepts is now extended while they heal and care for their injury.

"What’s the best practice schedule and/or kind of practice to maximize improvement over break?"

For students of school age, the summer break from academics can be a boon to their development in other areas.  Students with a passion for subjects that are not ordinarily a part of their academic education have the time and resources to dedicate during the summer months.

A period of full rest is advisable for around a week at the conclusion of the final semester of the academic year for students to recover both physically and mentally. After this short rest, they will yearn to get back to the things they love. 

As students approach graduation from high school, parents should discuss with their child’s teachers what their goals are moving forward and develop a plan to attend the appropriate programs that will help them towards those goals.

"How can students find a balance of rest and practice during break?"

If students are feeling overwhelmed with the amount of training at any time, the first course of action is to make sure they are actually attending enough classes. This may seem counter-intuitive, but students who are attending fewer classes than their peers may feel overwhelmed when they come back to classes and have fallen behind.

If a student is already attending classes but is still feeling depleted, a short break of 2 to 3 days is advised. Long breaks of more than 1 week can actually do more harm than good when a student returns to classes.

Make sure to schedule time for students to continue with their daily lessons without the additional rigor of preparing for a performance with rest periods over the weekend for the best summer results.

"If you had one piece of advice to give young performers heading into summer break, what would it be?"

Take as many classes as you can. The summer is the best time to get a leg up (another pun!?) for next season.

An en pointe ballet dancer and her teacher share a laugh as she completes a tendu exercise.

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Shelby Huckleberry

Shelby Huckleberry is the CEO of Reclaiming Arts, a performing arts center in Edmond, Oklahoma that focuses on Christian values and excellent training in the performing arts.

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