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.
Have you ever seen a performance and thought, "Wow, this was so good. Dance Magazine should really be writing about this!"? You're in luck.
We're collecting nominations for our annual Readers' Choice feature, and we need your help! We'll compile our favorite nominations, and then you'll vote on what should make it into our December issue. But for now, we want to hear about the most memorable dance you've seen so far in 2017.
When I saw Kele Roberson dancing at New York City Dance Alliance Foundation's college scholarship audition, I only had to watch a deep plié before writing down a 10 out of 10 on his score sheet and scribbling a giant star next to his name. Before he even had a chance to show off his incredible lines, I was mesmerized by his nuanced grace in even the simplest of movements.
He walked away from that audition with NYCDA Foundation's Dance Magazine College Scholarship worth $25,000 to the college of his choice, which happened to be Juilliard, where he was planning to attend this fall.
But shortly after winning, it turns out, his plans changed. I caught up with him earlier today to find out what happened.
Yep, you read that right.
Alpaca dance classes are a thing, thanks to 313 Farms in Manitoba, Canada. Students can take classes like "Barn Barre," "Mommy, The Alpacas, & Me" and "Poppin' Pacas" while the animals roam—and you're welcome to stop and pet them mid-class.
"Having worked in a dance studio, I had quite a few students visit the alpacas and they loved being around them," says owner Ann Patman. "Most studios have no windows and even though the class might be great, you don't get any fresh air or see what's going on outside."
Nominations for our Readers' Choice Awards are underway, and you've been sending in tons of exciting ones.
As a reminder, we're compiling nominations in seven categories:
- Best Viral Video
- Most Moving Performance
- Biggest Choreographic Breakthrough
- Coolest Collaboration
- Best Dance Documentary
- Most Inventive New Work
- Funniest Performance
We'll choose our favorites, then ask you to vote on what will make it into our December issue.
Here are some of our favs so far:
Last month, New York City mayor Bill de Blasio unveiled Create NYC: A Cultural Plan for All New Yorkers. Stemming from two years of research into arts organizations throughout the five boroughs and feedback from over 200,000 New Yorkers, the plan seeks to diversify cultural institutions and increase funding within underserved communities.
So what does this entail for dance artists? While there is nothing specifically dance-related in the plan, many dance companies and artists within marginalized and lower-income communities stand to benefit from increased funding.
Performance Spaces for the 21st Century (aka PS21) is possibly the best-kept secret on the route from New York City to Jacob's Pillow. In Chatham, New York, PS21 has quietly built an annual dance festival with a diverse array of excellent groups. A small but adventurous center dedicated to presenting dance, theater, music and film, it is currently in the midst of its 12th annual Chatham Dance Festival.
My orthopedist says I need hip arthroscopy to repair a torn labrum from doing an upside-down split in a contemporary piece. He says I'll most likely be able to dance again, but I'm worried. My best friend had the same surgery and wasn't able to perform ballet afterwards. How risky is this operation? I'm only 28!
—Katie, New York, NY