Imagine a sleep-away camp where you dance, morning, noon and night. Where you stage performances, learn from the masters, excerpt the great ballets and learn folk and modern dance too. Ah, to live in the mountains during the hot summer months, on a lake with an outdoor stage, with piles of pointe shoes, costumes and new friends and the cool mountain air. What I wouldn't have given to go to a dance camp like the one in Summer Dance. The pre-teen novel struck a chord for me.
Summer Dance by Lynn Swanson
But all at dance camp was not perfect for 13-year old Sara -- finances were tight at home and a scholarship was needed to come back next year. Dance was Sara's passion, and her dream was to dance professionally some day. Could the training at "Lakewood Dance Camp" hold the key?
"Young dancers should be easily drawn into the passions and frustrations of Sara and her friends and the nicely evoked upper Michigan setting," says Publishers Weekly. I agree.
If you have a young daughter who loves dance, Summer Dance is a perfect choice. The challenges of learning and perfecting your craft, the motivation for scholarship and changing relationships with friends over a memorable summer in the northern Michigan woods create a passionate story filled with surprises.
Lynn Swanson, author of Summer Dance, is a dance educator and member of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. She holds a BFA in dance from the University of Michigan and an MA in Creative Writing from Michigan State University. Here are some excerpts from a recent Q&A:
They always say, "Write what you know" -- why do I have a feeling you spent summers at dance camp?
Yes, it's true! Two summers at Interlochen Summer Arts Camp as a student, and two summers there assisting in the prestigious ballet department.
Summer intensives are commonplace for dance students on the professional track. Do you think a dance camp is an effective alternative?
It depends on what the dancer's technical and emotional needs are at the time. A camp environment is ideal as long as the instructors are top-notch. No sense wasting a summer or developing bad dance habits if you are a serious dancer.
I danced in Sylphides and in Les Patineurs, which is also in the book, so I knew the choreography in detail and the artistic expression required to dance them. I love the music from both ballets. I chose Swan Lake and Romeo & Juliet for their romantic appeal.
Author Lynn Swanson presenting Summer Dance to students last summer at Interlochen Arts Camp in Michigan.
How does a young girl become passionate about dance? Do you think it's learned or innate?
I think all little girls are passionate about some form of movement and do it very naturally if you watch them. Not all sustain the commitment needed to move through every stage of training to become a professional dancer. It's the passion that fuels a dancer to keep going.
A scholarship is necessary for Sara to continue her studies. Financing for arts education is always a struggle. Can you tell me something about the importance of scholarship for young dancers with potential, like Sara?
It is highly important that we financially support our dancers through scholarships, especially in this country where there are no government supported boarding schools for dance. It is sometimes up to individual dance teachers at private studios or at the local community center or YMCA to not only identify gifted and passionate dancers, but to help them find a way to get the financial support they need to pursue their dance training. I honor and praise all those who continue to find ways to keep talented dancers moving!
A version of this post originally appeared on adriaballetbeat.com.