A freelance writer in New York City, Alison Feller contributes to Women's Health, Self, Shape, Allure, Well+Good, and Daily Burn, and is the creator of the blog Ali on the Run and the host of the Ali on the Run Show podcast.
They say your life can change in a moment. For JaQuel Knight, it took precisely three minutes and 18 seconds. That's how long three leotard-and-high-heel-clad women spent on-screen, strutting in perfect unison and becoming an instant video sensation, one that would go on to garner more than 600 million views on YouTube.
In the '90s, low-fat diets were as popular as boy bands. But by the early 2000s, the high-fat, high-protein Atkins and South Beach diets had people stocking up on steak and eggs. Now, avocado toast is arguably trendier than *NSYNC ever was, and fat is no longer thought of as a naughty f-word.
But there's still some skepticism around how necessary fats are in a well-rounded diet, particularly among dancers. Before you reach for that grass-fed double bacon cheeseburger, make sure you know the difference between rumors and reality.
In a perfect world, we would get all the nutrients we need from hearty, healthy (and delicious!) meals. "Food is where vitamins, minerals and antioxidants are in their most natural form and can be best used by the body," says Kelly Hogan, MS, RD, CDN, clinical nutrition and wellness manager at the Dubin Breast Center of the Mount Sinai Hospital.
But for dancers—who are asking so much of their bodies but might be watching calories—even a relatively healthy diet doesn't necessarily mean you're fueling your body for optimal performance. Adding a supplement or vitamin to your regimen could give you the boost you've been missing.
Which should you consider?
Photo by Joe Toreno
Her YouTube channel has more than 1 million subscribers. MTV has hired her to produce and star in her own reality show, "Going Off." More than a hundred and fifty eager dancers will line up just to get into one of her classes.
But why is everyone so obsessed with Tricia Miranda?
The 37-year-old baggy-pants-wearing, giant-hoop-earrings-loving choreographer from Yuma, Arizona, is a master of the viral video.
She uploaded her first class-combination video—to Nicki Minaj's “Anaconda"—in 2014 to promote her upcoming classes at The PULSE On Tour. It "accidentally" got more than 30 million views.
The former Beyoncé and Britney Spears dancer already had serious industry credits to her name, but clips from her classes at Millennium Dance Complex in North Hollywood are what have made her a star. They have even boosted the fame and professional careers of many young dancers in her class, like Jade Chynoweth, Gabe De Guzman, Aidan Prince and Kaycee Rice.
When asked what makes her videos go viral, Miranda lists four things:
- Her students: “The dancers are mind-blowing."
- Her music: She normally teaches to Top 40 songs, which people are searching for online.
- The film quality: The cinematography is professionally done.
- That party vibe: “We're all screaming and telling jokes, laughing, being silly," Miranda says. “I like to create a safe, supportive environment. I want my dancers to feel comfortable enough to ask questions and not feel intimidated. They can mess up, they can be themselves."
A version of this story appears in Dance Magazine's March 2017 issue.
Sometimes, it takes more than dancing to become a better dancer. Whether you struggle with tense shoulders or weak jumps, adding in the right forms of cross-training can fast-track your improvement. We asked the experts for exercises you can do on your own to fix six of the most common technique problems.
Whether you're attending your first convention or your 20th, spending a weekend in a crowded ballroom with hundreds of other dancers can be equal parts exciting, intimidating and overwhelming. Conventions are a chance to learn new styles, take classes from top teachers and network with the people who may someday hire you. So how do you take advantage of this opportunity and stand out from the crowd?
Dress the Part
Convention days are long, and you're likely to transition from jazz to hip hop, then on to tap and ballet. You won't have much time to change between classes, so your outfit should be one that's comfortable and works for multiple disciplines.
Make sure to dress for the atmosphere you'll be dancing in—which likely means a carpeted floor with sections of hardwood for the tap classes. “There are a lot of triangle-top bikinis happening that are not going to help you when you're dancing on carpet," says Jakob Karr, who assists at New York City Dance Alliance. Warm yourself up properly, make sure you've stretched, and don't wear slippery socks if you're doing contemporary on a hardwood floor. If you'll be dancing on carpet, consider forgoing bare feet in favor of socks that'll give you more freedom to turn. You want to look good, but make sure you're able to perform at your best.
Be Smart About Space
Everyone seems to think standing front-row center is a must-do at conventions because you're most likely to be spotted by the instructors. But no one likes—or wants to hire—a pushy dancer. Instead, try moving around the room. “I find that dancers who stay front and center the entire class don't use their space well," says NYCDA faculty member Joey Dowling-Fakhrieh. “Learn the combination in one spot, then change it up."
When the instructor breaks dancers into small groups to perform the choreography, stick to your assigned group, and while you're waiting for your turn, move all the way to the side so the dancers performing have enough room.
Yes, it's crowded. No, you don't want to whack your neighbor in the face with an overeager battement. Spatial awareness is absolutely necessary. Many instructors will keep this in mind with their choreography, but, if needed, move to another spot where you have more freedom. Consider learning the combination in the back, where there's more space, then really go full-out when you're broken into groups.
Resist the Selfie
The instructors' convention schedules are just as jam-packed as yours, which means they probably don't have time to pose for 100 photos after class. “We're typically running from room to room," says NUVO Dance Convention director Ray Leeper. “Photos with the instructor can be taken during a break or if you see the instructor outside of class. And a respectful 'thank you' at the end of class is always appropriate." Feel free to say your name and where you dance, too; just keep it brief.
Focus on Presence
Dowling-Fakhrieh says the biggest mistake she sees dancers making at conventions is obsessing over whether or not the teacher is watching. “It's uncomfortable for the teacher, and it makes it seem like you're there for the wrong reasons," she says. While validation is nice, make sure you have goals beyond getting noticed each weekend. “Talent and hard work speak for themselves," says Dowling-Fakhrieh. “Think about what you really want out of the convention. Remember you're there to get better—not to socialize or get onstage. If the teacher happens to pull you up there, great! But if not, work just as hard on the floor."
Ultimately, your presence matters as much as your ability. “There are times during class when I'll see a dancer so connected to what I'm saying—so present, so eager and so willing to work harder to be better," says Leeper. “I'm most drawn to dancers whose conduct in class is respectful, no matter their age or ability level."
It's two hours until showtime, and you want a quick bite to give you a boost. So you run into your local smoothie shop and order the Strawberry Surprise. Perfect plan, right? Not necessarily. The word “smoothie" doesn't automatically translate to superfood. But done right, it can be a dancer's secret weapon, leaving you satisfied without the bloat, and energized without the sugar crash. The trick is to avoid these six common mistakes.
Mistake: Overdoing Fruit
Fruit is healthy—in moderation. “You don't need three servings of it to start your day," says dietitian Lauren Slayton, founder of Foodtrainers in New York City. Keep your drink heavy on the veggies, and stick to just one serving of fruit. Vegetables have very little to no sugar, and pack a greater nutritional punch.
Mistake: Adding Juice
“One of the great things about blended smoothies (as opposed to juicing) is that you retain the fiber and other nutrients in the skins of the fruit," says Emily C. Harrison, dietitian at the Centre for Dance Nutrition at Atlanta Ballet. “Adding juice is more like adding sweetener." Instead, Harrison recommends using almond or soy milk for a boost in calcium and vitamin D, or simply water.
Mistake: Over Sweetening
It may be tempting to add a sweetener, but you really don't need it. “Smoothies are naturally sweet," says Harrison. Try your favorite smoothie without extra sweetener and see if you can taste the difference. If you insist on adding something, Slayton suggests just a few drops of liquid stevia or other natural sweeteners. “Agave, maple syrup or honey are okay if you truly stick to a few drops," she says. “But never go for Splenda. That puts the 'ugly' in the good, bad and ugly of smoothies." The chlorinated artificial sweetener is made primarily of sucralose, which comes with a whole host of negative side effects.
If you're ordering a premade smoothie, beware: “Most are full of sugar," warns Harrison. For example, even Smoothie King's small Hulk Vanilla drink packs a whopping 88 grams of sugar—about as much as two bags of Skittles. According to the American Heart Association, women shouldn't be consuming more than 25 grams per day of added sugar (not including the naturally occurring sugars in fruit).
Mistake: Adding Protein
Mixing in protein powder is usually unnecessary. “Most dancers get enough protein through their diets," says Harrison. “So adding extra protein is basically just adding extra calories—and it doesn't magically make your muscles bigger." If you do want to pump up your protein intake, Harrison suggests sticking to pea or hemp protein: “They come from plant-based sources, which have been shown to be healthier in the long term."
Mistake: Skipping Fat
Repeat after us: Fat is not a dirty word! “Fat provides staying power," says Slayton. Adding a tablespoon of healthy fats is an easy way to keep yourself satisfied through long performances. Slayton's favorites are coconut oil (“great for burning fat," she says), hemp seeds and almond butter.
Mistake: Creating A Calorie Bomb
That aforementioned Hulk Vanilla smoothie boasts 801 calories—essentially making it a glorified milkshake. Harrison suggests keeping your smoothie to 8 to 16 ounces, depending on whether you're drinking it as a snack or a meal.
The contemporary queen is taking on the most famous kickline in the world.
Michaels working with the Rockettes. Photo by Rebecca Taylor, Courtesy MSG Photos.
When you’ve launched your own company, become a three-time Emmy Award winner from your work on “So You Think You Can Dance” and choreographed a hit Broadway musical, what would you pursue next? Most people would think “A vacation.” But this summer, Mia Michaels will make her directorial debut as the director and choreographer of the New York Spectacular starring the Radio City Rockettes, a revamped version of last year’s New York Spring Spectacular.The show runs June 15–August 7 at Radio City Music Hall.
You choreographed the opening number of the Spring Spectacular. Now you’re running the whole show.
I’m getting my first official director credit—it’s really exciting! I’ve wanted to direct for a long time, and it’s happening. This show is huge. It’s a beast. But that’s perfect for me. I don’t start small, apparently.
What is your vision for this show?
The Rockettes have been around for more than 85 years and now they’re putting themselves into my hands. That’s golden. We’re creating this spectacle and making beautiful eye candy for the viewers. There will absolutely still be kicklines—that will never go away! But I’m excited to breathe fresh energy into it. My goal is to bring a Mia vocabulary into the Rockette world, and really marry the two. When a brand is this iconic, you don’t want to change it—it’s iconic for a reason. I’m protecting this little nugget while playing around with all the gravy that surrounds it.
What is the new story about?
It’s a magical journey through New York City, told through the eyes of a child, so it brings that fantastical quality of what New York can be. There’s a lot of dance, a lot of leg and a lot of original music. I’m bringing on a group of male ensemble dancers, so that’s a big change. The movement is all over the map, from the classic Rockette rep to more contemporary flavors. Not only do the dancers have to do Rockette material, they also have to do the physical and technical Mia work.
What are some of the challenges you’re facing as a director?
It’s so different from just choreographing because you have your eye on every team and every department. You’re looking at everything from the colors to the lights to the videos to the music. As a choreographer, you’re in your own pocket. As a director, you’re in every pocket.
Do you have any other projects in the works?
I wrote a book—an instructional inspirational memoir, if that makes any sense—called A Unicorn in a World of Donkeys. Everyone is always trying to look the same, be the same. This is about challenging yourself to stand out and celebrate it. It has a lot of stories from my life and career, but it’s not just for dancers. I’m also working on “Mia Michaels Live,” which is an online mentorship program for artists, dancers, choreographers and teachers. As I get older, I realize how much I needed a mentor when I was younger. Now it’s my turn to be a mentor—to be Mama Mia.
Any chance we’ll be seeing you on this season of “So You Think You Can Dance”?
Oh, I don’t know! I have no idea! But never say never. That brand is a big part of my life, so if Nigel [Lythgoe] wanted me to come back, I would definitely do it if the time was right.