Dancing can be exhausting—on your body and brain. Neuroscientist Agnieszka Burzynska, from Colorado State University, understands this. "I did some modern dancing myself back in high school. I remember how hard it was to remember a sequence, and then our teacher would say, 'Now let's flip it to the other leg!'"
But does this mental work lead to long-term changes in the brain? In a recent study, Burzynska and her team looked at 40 female college students: half highly trained in modern dance, and half non-dancers. They had the subjects do various tasks—from watching dance videos to remembering the location of dots on a screen—and used scanners to look at their brain structure and activity. Here's what they found:
Rachel Fallon's first year with the Hofesh Shechter Company has been spent largely on the road. The company performs frequently, and almost always on tour. "Because we are constantly out of our home setting, I like to have some sort of routine that I can count on," says Fallon. She shares how she stays centered despite the nearly-constant traveling.
As Nutcracker season winds down (and our energy with it), we're turning to the best of the best to give us a boost. Whether you've resolved to improve your strength, flexibility, balance or a combo of all three in the new year, these pros' cross-training routines are all the motivation you need to put in the work.
Ahead, check out some of the most mind-blowing moves to pump you up for your best year yet.
Svetlana Lunkina, National Ballet of Canada
When Alonzo King LINES Ballet dancer James Gowan started meditating in early 2017, he was seeking a more mindful approach to his dancing. "I was trying to be more aware of what I was doing inside the studio, so that it could help me be more positive with myself and my work," he says. He found it so helpful that he now does breathing exercises and visualizations for 45 minutes a few mornings a week. On rehearsal breaks, he'll take five minutes to do a body scan or calm his mind.
But he finds the benefits go far beyond the studio. "Meditation has provided me a new perspective," he says. "It really does bring a heightened awareness of what's going on around you."
Science shows that meditation's myriad benefits range from physical health to emotional well-being. Meditation's popularity has risen to trend level, and savvy entrepreneurs have caught on, capitalizing on the wave of interest with subscription-based meditation apps, exotic retreats and $29-a-pop classes. But what are the benefits for dancers specifically?
A newcomer to Batsheva's main company, 23-year-old Amalia Smith is quickly learning how to keep her body safe and supple during Ohad Naharin's rigorous rehearsals and world tours. Fatigue has become both a hurdle and a teacher.
"Decadance is pretty much a marathon, and the new piece Venezuela is such crazy cardio I nearly had an asthma attack!" says Smith. Fortunately, the new discoveries she's made through Gaga have helped her handle its intense demands.
Soreness is a fact of life for dancers. But rather than relying on over-the-counter pills, try managing your pain by sprinkling some turmeric on your food instead. Multiple scientific studies have proven that curcumin, the active substance in turmeric, has powerful anti-inflammatory properties.
How To Do It:
To help your body absorb turmeric's benefits, have a small amount (just one-fourth of a teaspoon) three times a day, along with a meal or snack that includes some fat and some fiber.
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.
Nutcracker season starts today at many ballet companies, including New York City Ballet. For corps members like Claire Kretzschmar, that means an always demanding schedule reaches a whole new level of busy. Here's how she keeps herself going.
Kretzschmar in the Coffee variation. Photo by Paul Kolnik, courtesy NYCB.