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By Jennifer Stahl
The weirdest “diet advice” I ever heard in a dance studio was to eat Kleenex. According to a certain 17-year-old, tissues were supposed to fill up your stomach without calories. I never tried the trick (thank goodness). But it comes to mind whenever I think about the desperately complicated relationships dancers have with their bodies.
For many, their passion for dance starts in the body: They crave that gleeful sensation of twirling, of defying gravity, of feeling an orchestra inside their limbs. But the body is so essential to this career that any physical imperfections feel like betrayal. Maybe an ankle develops chronic tendonitis that makes every relevé and tendu hurt. Or maybe genes pass down five extra pounds or two too few inches. It’s no surprise that dancers end up wanting to believe wild myths and taking unhealthy shortcuts.
Right: “I looked around and saw men and women who were all different: shapes and sizes galore. It was like I had walked into my dream world.” —Sarah Hay on finding her place at Dresden Semperoper Ballet. Photo by Costin Radu, Courtesy Dresden Semperoper Ballet.
Our cover dancer, Les Ballets Jazz de Montréal’s Céline Cassone, has struggled with weaknesses, injuries and anorexia throughout her career. Yet the incredible awareness she’s gained through overcoming those challenges is part of what makes her movement so extraordinary. She’s had to work so hard that she understands her body on an exceptionally intimate, intelligent level—and the result is spellbinding.
She was the perfect choice for our Better Body Issue. This year, we dig even deeper into how to dance healthy. We share which aesthetics actually matter onstage, and which habits can safely build a body that’s stronger, more flexible and less prone to injury. Top choreographers open up about the surprising physical features that inspire them to create work. Experts outline a schedule for your summer layoff that will increase your fitness—by resting. And Sarah Hay, star of the upcoming TV series “Flesh and Bone,” shares her manifesto on why the ballet world gets the definition of the “ideal body” wrong. It’s time we stop fighting against our bodies, and instead focus on what they need to perform at their best.
Editor in Cheif