Just a Drink?
How alcohol can affect your dancing the next day—and over time.
After a long week of rehearsal and performances, sometimes all you want is to blow off steam with a few drinks. You may even feel like you’ve earned a night out after all of the hard work you’ve put in. As long as you’re not dealing with an obvious hangover in class the next day (and are of legal age), it’s a guilty pleasure that seems relatively harmless.
But you might want to think twice before you reach for that bottle. Obviously, an excessive habit is going to have negative consequences, and an alcohol addiction could lead to serious problems like cancer, cirrhosis and pancreatitis. But even moderate drinking after a day in the studio takes a toll on your body, affecting your dancing in a variety of ways—and, if you’re not careful, possibly hurting your success in the long run.
Less Sleep, Less Energy
After having a few drinks, you’ll be more likely to feel sluggish in the studio the next day. That’s because alcohol consumption may reduce sleep time and quality, explains Rachel Fine, a dietitian who founded To The Pointe Nutrition. Although a nightcap might increase deep sleep in the first part of the night, once you metabolize the alcohol several hours later, your body switches to a lighter stage and is easily woken up. Without adequate rest, your energy levels and mental clarity will be lower, hampering your ability to pick up and perform movement. Fine also points out that excessive alcohol consumption can displace muscle-building protein, muscle-repairing unsaturated fats and certain micronutrients (mainly B vitamins) from your diet. One study suggests this nutrient displacement causes overall energy stores to be as much as 50 percent lower than normal even eight hours after drinking.
Since alcohol is a diuretic, it can cause dehydration, which can last into the next day. And by the time you start to feel thirsty, athletic performance can decrease by up to 10 to 20 percent, according to sports dietitian Dawn Weatherwax. “Hydration is critical to preventing injuries, creating an optimal environment for building muscle, maximizing energy levels and absorbing nutrients,”she says. Keep yourself hydrated by having at least one glass of water for every alcoholic beverage you consume.
Drinking also affects how your body bounces back after a challenging day of dancing. Research published in PLoS One last year found that when you have several drinks after exercising, the signals that would normally tell your muscles to grow stronger are suppressed. And an earlier study from Massey University in New Zealand showed that excessive drinking delays recovery from muscles soreness. That means you’ll be negating the strength gains you could have been making in class—and hurting from it for longer.
Time off due to injury doesn’t give you a free pass. In fact, it’s even more reason to avoid drinking. “Alcohol can cause increased swelling of an injury because it causes the blood vessels to dilate,” Weatherwax says. The more swelling in an injured area, the longer it could take to heal.
Regular drinking can also take a toll on a healthy diet. A gram of alcohol provides 7 calories while offering few nutrients. In comparison, the 4 calories per gram of carbohydrate or protein or 9 calories per gram of fat can be used by the body to fuel a dancer’s active lifestyle. “This is where I argue a calorie is not just a calorie!” says Fine. Some dancers try to avoid excess calories before a night out by cutting back on food, but this habit can mean they don’t refuel properly.
Even if you do eat a healthy meal, alcohol makes it harder to reap the benefits. “Alcohol can irritate our stomach lining, reducing our capacity to absorb nutrients from foods, many of which play a large role in energy metabolism,” Fine says. While drinking, your body also prioritizes metabolizing alcohol over fat or carbs, and stores amino acids from protein as fat.
Benefits in Moderation
Alcohol can be helpful in reducing stress levels. But the key is moderation. “If you’re really feeling the need, I suggest wine,” says Fine, “especially red for the added heart-healthy benefits from antioxidants and resveratrol. While research remains limited, resveratrol might help to prevent damage to blood vessels, reducing LDL (or ‘bad’) cholesterol and preventing blood clots.” Beer is also relatively rich in B vitamins, and has silicon, which can help strengthen your bones by increasing bone-mineral density. In general, if you stick to the recommended guidelines (no more than one drink—5 ounces of wine, 12 ounces of beer or 1.5 ounces of liquor—per day for women and two for men), the negative effects of drinking are unlikely to get in the way of your dance goals.
When Miami City Ballet artistic director Lourdes Lopez was a principal dancer at New York City Ballet, she missed her opportunity to honor Jerome Robbins onstage. "Every time there was a celebration for Jerry, I was either injured or had just retired," says Lopez. "I was never able to publicly thank him onstage for all that he taught us and the beauty he left us."
But when Lopez was planning MCB's Jerome Robbins Celebration for the 100th anniversary of the legend's birth, she saw an opportunity. She asked the Robbins Trust to allow her to perform the Ringmaster in Robbins' Circus Polka, a role the choreographer originated himself.
From coast to coast, choreographers have spent the first year of Donald Trump's presidency responding to the impact of his election and what it means for them as artists.
New York City's Dante Brown used rubber Trump masks in his work Package (revamped), which examines the monstrosities of power.
A video titled "Dancers vs. Trump Quotes" went viral last summer, showing dancers taking Trump's "locker-room" talk to task.
Alexis Convento, lead curator of the New York City–based Current Sessions, dedicated a whole program to the concept of resistance, while educator and interdisciplinary artist Jill Sigman has initiated a workshop called "Body Politic, Somatic Selves," as a space for movement research around questions of support, activism and solidarity.
In San Francisco, choreographer Margaret Jenkins facilitated a panel of artists about the role of activism within their work.
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.
When London-based perfume company The Beautiful Mind Series was looking for a collaborator for their next scent, they skipped the usual celebrity set and brought in prima ballerina Polina Semionova instead. "I was fascinated by what goes on in the mind of a great dancer," perfumer Geza Schoen said in a press release. Semionova's ballet-inspired scent, Precision & Grace, celebrates the intelligence and beauty behind her craft.
Courtesy of The Beautiful Mind Series
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.
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: