Budget Your Bodywork: When to Splurge & When to Save
It can take a full team of experts to keep a dancer dancing—from masseuses and acupuncturists to yoga teachers and personal trainers. But, that comes at a cost, literally. When do you really need to invest in pricier options, and when can you take the more budget-friendly route? We broke it down for the most popular options.
Tony Morales at Circular Power
Using a machine with a seat, arcs attached to handwheels and moving pieces, Gyrotonic promotes circular motion. "That action reveals weaknesses in your range of motion and musculature," says Tony Morales, who owns New York City's Circular Power. "Gyrotonic massages the body internally and balances it."
When to Splurge:
- When you first start. "There's so much going on, having eyes on you makes progress much faster," Morales says. "And the machine offers resistance and feedback."
- If you're serious about keeping your body healthy. "Gyrotonic privates are an especially great way to handle an intense rehearsal period or performance mode," Morales says. His clients from American Ballet Theatre book sessions once or twice a week to help prevent injury and improve their dancing.
- Gyrokinesis. These group classes follow all of the same concepts as Gyrotonic, but without the machine.
Core training and stabilization work can strengthen muscles used less often in dance, increasing longevity and improving your technique. "How much better can your arabesque be from a single-leg deadlift, or your stability from bridge work and core training?" asks former professional dancer Emily Cook Harris, who owns EMPOWERED, a personal training and remote coaching business.
When to Splurge:
- When you want specialized movements for your body, prescribed by a personal trainer.
- To correct your form. A trainer can offer hands-on adjustments to ensure you're using the exercise to its best effects.
- At the beginning: "I like the idea of working with a trainer at 'the beginning,' whether that means preseason or at the start of a rehearsal period," says Harris. "If you see a trainer once a month, you can learn the exercises while they correct you, then you can do that program for the rest of the month."
- Group fitness classes. "The energy of the room can be motivating, and you still have an instructor. Be careful, though, not to get so wrapped up you forget about form," cautions Harris. "Start slower and with lower weights and advance slowly."
- Subscription video services like Daily Burn offer motivation and easy access for an ongoing routine.
- Free videos on YouTube and Instagram. "Look for core exercises like planks and bridges," suggests Harris. "The emphasis should be on stabilization because that's all of dance!"
- Apps like Nike+ Training Club offer workouts of various lengths and styles.
The minimally invasive, holistic process works by inserting needles at key points throughout the body. "Acupuncture is the manipulation of blood and energy," says practitioner Heather Trujillo. "When you insert a needle, it's a micro injury. The body sends blood to the area, instigating the body's healing mechanism."
When to Splurge:
- After an acute injury. Getting acupuncture as soon as you can hurting yourself can speed up the healing process.
- When you have a chronic problem that won't go away. "That might be the time to spend on a session," says Trujillo.
- Community acupuncture clinics that work on a sliding scale
- Acupuncture schools usually provide budget-friendly or free services.
- Acupressure. Instead of the needle, a practitioner will use their hands to place pressure on certain points on the body.
The full-body system strengthens and lengthens through a concentration on the core. "Dancers love the grounded feeling Pilates gives you," says Chloe Brehm, who teaches at Bridge Pilates in Brooklyn. "It's particular in how you articulate your spine and the deepest layer of your abdominal wall. Being able to initiate movement from that layer makes you a stronger dancer."
When to Splurge:
- To find your personal weaknesses, take a private class so you can have a trained eye on you. "The feedback of the practitioner and equipment together helps things click," says Brehm.
- Before any reformer class, book a private.
- To set yourself up for home practice or mat classes.
- Duet lessons. Grab a friend who has similar issues and technique to cut your cost.
- Group mat classes. "It's harder without the feedback from equipment. But this will often satisfy a dancer, and there are modifications and advancements for any level," says Brehm.
- Online classes like Pilates Anytime or Pilatesology are helpful for travel and tight schedules.
- Mat work on your own. "Buy a cushy mat, remember to check in on your breathing and alignment, and continue to switch it up," says Brehm. "If you are breathing in for five and out for five in teaser, what about in for three and out for seven?"
Diverse styles from vinyasa to hot bikram and restorative yin yoga offer stretching, strengthening and meditation. "It's like taking dance, slowing it down and breathing in it," says DC- and Maryland-based yoga teacher Kevin Platt. "You get to explore how your body integrates movement. Since dancers are so go-go-go, adding a slow yoga practice into your week creates balance."
When to Splurge:
- Once a week or once a month, it can be worth it to book a private to get a teacher's eyes on you, says Platt.
- Group classes. Look for affordable introductory offers, or consider finding a nonprofit studio or a "dharma studio," where you can pay for classes with simple work.
- Online resources and books. Yoga Journal and Light on Yoga by B.K.S. Iyengar are two of Platt's favorites.
- YouTube videos are beneficial if used with discretion, but be careful with doing inversions alone, Platt cautions.
- At-home DIY practice remains "a great part of any dancer's normal upkeep," says Platt.
After putting so much strain on muscles, releasing them through massage is a must for most performers. "A practitioner can release your body in a way you can't do yourself," says Platt, who is also a licensed massage therapist. "It helps integrate all of the muscular work you're doing while keeping inflammation at bay."
When to Splurge:
- After big events, like a major performance
- To facilitate continued healing you might have started with a PT or doctor. "Massage can open up circulation around a minor injury, like a muscle pull," he says.
- After trying a new technique, massage can be helpful in clearing up inflammation and decreasing recovery time.
- Self-release with foam rollers, tennis balls and other tools. "Rolling helps induce circulation and realign fascia, the Saran wrap around all of your muscles," says Platt.
- Yin and restorative yoga offer deeper connective-tissue release, in turn affecting trigger points and releasing deeper layers of muscle.
The ever-so-busy Kyle Abraham is back in New York City for a brief visit with his company Abraham.In.Motion as they prepare for an exciting spring season of new endeavors with some surprising guests. The company will be debuting a new program at The Joyce Theater on May 1, that will include two new pieces from Abraham, restaged works by Doug Varone and Bebe Miller, and a world premiere from Andrea Miller. Talk about an exciting line-up!
We caught up with Abraham during a recent rehearsal where he revealed what he is tired of hearing in the dance community.
Choreographer Tero Saarinen has a proclivity for the peculiar—and for epic orchestral music. That he should be commissioned by the Los Angeles Philharmonic to create a new dance work to accompany the U.S. premiere of Bernd Alois Zimmermann's Cello Concerto en forme de pas de trois only makes sense. Zimmermann's eerie, difficult-to-classify composition falls squarely in Saarinen's wheelhouse. Walt Disney Concert Hall, Jan. 19–21. laphil.com.
Growing up in inner city Rochester, NY, Aesha Ash was just one of the neighborhood kids. She'd imagine people driving by, judging her by her black skin.
"They'd never know that I was dreaming of becoming a professional ballet dancer. No one would think, Some day she's going to make it into New York City Ballet," says Ash.
After an inspiring career at NYCB, Béjart's Ballet Lausanne and LINES, the January 2006 Dance Magazine cover star—one of our 25 to Watch that year—is no longer performing. But she's determined to use her dance background to change the stereotypes and misconceptions that people—including black people—have about women of color. "I want to show it's okay to embrace our softer side, and let the world know we're multidimensional," says Ash.
Aesha Ash in Richmond, CA. PC Renee Scott via swandreamsproject.org
In 2011, she launched the Swan Dreams Project to inspire kids in the community she grew up in. The original idea was to post images of herself in a tutu all over Rochester. "I remember growing up and in the bodega you'd see images of girls in bikinis on motorbikes," says Ash. "I wanted to replace those with photos that show women of color in a different light."
She knew the power imagery can have: She still remembers what it felt like as a student at the School of American Ballet to see a photo of black ballet dancer Andrea Long. "That image was everything on days when I was feeling disenchanted. I'd see that picture of her, and know that the struggles I was going through, she went through them, too."
Ash soon realized she didn't have the budget to fund her original plan ("I never realized how expensive a bus stop advertisement is!"). But she's made the images available through an online store, and often simply gives away prints at her own expense to schools and students in need of some inspiration.
Any proceeds she makes from the sales go directly to other organizations that are working to expand ballet in diverse communities. One large donation even led to a pointe shoe fund at dancer Robyn Gardenhire's City Ballet of Los Angeles school—and it helped one dancer who had quit ballet because of the expense come back to class.
Now a mother of two in San Jose, CA, Ash will also start teaching a free after-school ballet class at her daughter's public school next month. "I recently taught at Girls Inc. in Oakland, and one of the little black girls said, 'Are you the ballet teacher?' She just stood there, staring at me with her mouth open, like a unicorn had just walked into the room," Ash says. "You never know the impact you can have just by being a presence."
Ever find yourself lusting after that six o'clock penché, or a développé that will reach your nose? You're not alone. The eye is naturally drawn to the end points of a movement, and, in dance, that often translates to the highest extension.
But what if you're born without extreme, Instagram-worthy lines? It's a matter of developing a laser focus on alignment as well as strengthening and stretching with better body mechanics in mind.
Two competition routines are equal in technical proficiency, artistry and choreography. One consists of all girls, the other includes a boy. Guess which takes home first prize?
If you guessed the one with the boy, you may be privy to an unspoken and much-debated phenomenon in the competition dance world: The Boy Factor. According to The Boy Factor, a competitive piece is more likely to win if there's a boy in it.
"If it's all technically equal and one group is all girls and the other group has a boy, the one with the boy will win," says Rysa Childress, owner of All Star Studios in Forest Hills, New York. "Boy soloists are sometimes scored higher than more technically proficient girls because if a boy has good stage presence, we let him slide," says an anonymous competition judge. "And most of the feedback will be for the boy."
I'll never forget something Roberto Bolle once told me when I was interviewing him about his workout regimen: Talking about how much he loved to swim, he said, "I would love to go in the Italian sea, but I am too well-known there to show up in my suit."
It always amused and kinda shocked me that a ballet dancer could reach that level of fame. But it's true: In his native Italy, Bolle is a bonafide celerity.
Everyone knows that community college is an affordable option if a four-year school isn't in the cards. But it can also be a solid foundation for a career in the dance field. Whether students want an associate in arts degree as a precursor to obtaining a bachelor's, or to go straight into the performing world, the right two-year dance program can be a uniquely supportive place to train. Don't let negative stereotypes prevent you from attending a program that could be right for you:
Conscientious theatergoers may be familiar with The School for Scandal, The School for Wives and School of Rock. But how many are also aware of the school of Fosse?
The 1999 musical, a posthumous exploration of the choreographic career of Bob Fosse, ran for 1,093 performances, winning four Tonys and 10 nominations; employing 32 dancers; and, completely unintentionally, nurturing a generation of Broadway choreographers. You may have heard of them: Andy Blankenbuehler and Sergio Trujillo danced in the original cast, Josh Rhodes was a swing, and Christopher Gattelli replaced Trujillo when he landed choreography jobs in Massachusetts and Canada. Blankenbuehler remembers that when Trujillo left, "It was as if he was graduating."
January 16 might as well be a Broadway holiday. Three gigantic names were born on this day, in 1908, 1950 and 1980, and they represent three distinct eras of powerhouse musicals. Without them, there'd be no belting Reno Sweeney, no "Fame"-ous Lydia Grant and no rapping Alexander Hamilton. Happy birthday to these indelible superstars.
In the midst of its 20th-anniversary season, BodyVox is taking a moment to look back. The Portland, Oregon–based company presents Urban Meadow, an amalgamation of some of its most popular works, at Philadelphia's Prince Theater, Jan. 18–21. Expect whimsy, and the unexpected. bodyvox.com.