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Gymspiration: What Drives Principal Lillian DiPiazza's Workouts
Lillian DiPiazza knows how to prioritize. This May, she graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a degree in urban studies, having squeezed in coursework while dancing full-time as a celebrated principal at Pennsylvania Ballet. But even when college and her career compounded to make her busiest, she still took time to take care of her body by cross-training.
How does she do it?
Motivation #1: The Quest To Be Injury-Free
In David Dawson's The Third Light. Photo by Alexander Iziliaev
Two years ago, DiPiazza got a stress fracture in her lumbar spine. "That was a warning sign that I needed to be doing different types of exercises outside of ballet," she says.
She started practicing a 15-minute series of core stabilizers every morning and night, and during any break in the rehearsal day. "They look like you're doing nothing, but they're actually very effective!" For example: Lying on her back with her feet flat on the floor, she lets one knee slowly fall to the side, then brings it back up without moving her center or hips.
Her favorite new tool is the Parasetter Minis. These blocks, invented by physical therapist Marika Molnar, keep dancers from gripping the floor with their toes. "I do anything from squats to bridges with my feet on these to add an extra challenge."
Motivation #2: A Workout She Loves
The DiPiazza siblings at swim practice
Growing up in a family of swimmers, DiPiazza was on a summer swim team from age 8 to 17. Today, she loves swimming's recovery effects as much as its no-impact, endurance-building benefits: "I always feel stretched-out and lengthened afterwards." She practices all four competitive strokes about twice a week. "When you're learning a new contemporary work, it's good to have challenged your body by doing different things." Her routine:
1. Warm up with 200 meters of freestyle without stopping.
2. Cycle through 50 meters each of freestyle, breaststroke, backstroke and butterfly. Repeat for 25 minutes.
3. If she wants a harder workout, some laps might be sprints.
4. For extra core work, she'll lie on her back with her hands over her head and together (like an arrow) and propel herself with a butterfly kick.
Motivation #3: A Good-Looking Gym Buddy
DiPiazza and her favorite gym buddy. Photo via Instagram
DiPiazza makes a point to visit the gym three or four times a week. "It helps to have a gym buddy," she admits. Her boyfriend—who's a doctor by day and an enthusiastic surfer in his time off—helps motivate her. If she doesn't head to the pool, they'll hit the weight room together. DiPiazza follows celebrity trainers like Kirk Myers on Instagram to find new strength-training exercises, then modifies the resistance to make the movement safe for her body if necessary. "I like to mix it up."
There must be something in the water: Last week, we announced that Madonna is directing Michaela DePrince's upcoming biopic. And yesterday, we got wind of another major dance film: According to The Hollywood Reporter, Fox Searchlight has sealed the deal to make Ailey Ailey's life and work into a movie. Yes, please.
While some movies falter along their way to the big screen, we think this one's got legs (and hopefully a whole lot of lateral T's and hinges and coccyx balances, too). Why?
Back in 2012, after 14 years dancing with Mark Morris Dance Group, choreographer John Heginbotham ventured out on his own. Don't think of it as going solo, though.
Almost from the outset, Heginbotham has embarked on a series of fruitful collaborations with other artists, via his namesake company, Dance Heginbotham, and through a stream of independent projects. His creative partners have covered a range of talents and genres: illustrator Maira Kalman (in 2017's The Principles of Uncertainty), opera director Peter Sellars (for Girls of the Golden West, which debuted at San Francisco Opera in November), and contemporary-music luminaries such as Tyondai Braxton and Alarm Will Sound.
Here's What He Has To Say: About starting his company, his rehearsal process and why he's drawn to creative mash-ups.
Raise your hand if you've ever walked out of the studio with just one thought on your mind: a big, juicy cheeseburger. But raise your other hand if instead of getting that burger, you opted for a hearty salad or stir-fry.
While dancers need to fuel their bodies with nutrient-dense meals and snacks, plenty of foods get an unfair bad rap. "The diet culture in this country vilifies various food groups as being bad while championing others as good," says Kelly Hogan, MS, RD, CDN, clinical nutrition and wellness manager at the Dubin Breast Center at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. "But black-and-white thinking like that has no place when it comes to food."
Some foods have less nutrition than others, admits Hogan, but if you're eating what you crave and honoring your hunger and fullness cues, she says you'll probably get the variety of nutrients your body needs. Here are seven foods that can have a place on your plate—guilt-free.
When you spend as much time on the road as The Royal Ballet's Steven McRae, getting access to a proper gym can be a hassle. To stay fit, the Australian-born principal turns to calisthenics—the old-school art of developing aerobic ability and strength with little to no equipment.
"It's basically just using your own body weight," McRae explains. "In terms of partnering, I'm not going to dance with a ballerina who is bigger than me, so if I can sustain my own body weight, then in my head I should be fine."
Ten years is a long time for a dance production to run, but Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui's Sutra, an athletic, meditative spectacle featuring 19 Shaolin monks and a malleable set of 21 wooden boxes (designed by Antony Gormley) is still striking a chord with audiences worldwide. To celebrate the milestone, Sutra is returning to Sadler's Wells, where it all began. March 26–28. sadlerswells.com.
Whether playing a saucy soubrette or an imperious swan, Irina Dvorovenko was always a formidable presence on the American Ballet Theatre stage. Since her 2013 retirement at 39, after 16 seasons, she's been bringing that intensity to an acting career in roles ranging from, well, Russian ballerinas to the Soviet-era newcomer she plays in the FX spy series "The Americans."
We caught up with her after tech rehearsal for the Encores! presentation of the musical Grand Hotel, directed and choreographed by Josh Rhodes and running March 21–25 at New York City Center. It's another tempestuous ballerina role for Dvorovenko—Elizaveta Grushinskaya, on her seventh farewell tour, resentfully checks into the Berlin hostelry of the title with her entourage, only to fall for a handsome young baron and sing "Bonjour, Amour."
When Andrew Montgomery first saw the Las Vegas hit Le Rêve - The Dream 10 years ago, he knew he had to be a part of the show one day. Eight years later, he auditioned, and made it to the last round of cuts. On his way home, still waiting to hear whether he'd been cast, he was in a motorcycle accident that ended up costing him half his leg.
But Montgomery's story doesn't end the way you might think. Today, he's a cast member of Le Rêve, where he does acrobatics and aerial work, swims (yes, the show takes places in and around a large pool) and dances, all with his prosthetic leg.
Camille A. Brown is on an impressive streak: In October, the Ford Foundation named her an Art of Change fellow. In November, she won an AUDELCO ("Viv") Award for her choreography in the musical Bella: An American Tall Tale. On December 1, her Camille A. Brown & Dancers made its debut at the Kennedy Center, and two days later she was back in New York City to see her choreography in the opening of Broadway's Once on This Island. Weeks later, it was announced that she was choreographing NBC's live television musical Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert, to air on April 1.
An extraordinarily private person, few knew that during this time Brown was in the midst of a health crisis. It started with an upset stomach while performing with her company on tour last summer.
"I was drinking ginger ale, thinking that I would feel better," she says. Finally, the pain became so acute that she went to the emergency room in Mississippi. Her appendix had burst. "Until then, I didn't know it was serious," she says. "I'm a dancer—aches and pains don't keep you from work."
A flock of polyamorous princes, a chorus of queer dying swans, a dominatrix witch: These are a few of the characters that populate the works of Katy Pyle, who, with her Brooklyn-based company Ballez, has been uprooting ballet's gender conventions since 2011.
Historically, ballet has not allowed for the expression of lesbian, transgender or gender-nonconforming identities. With Ballez, Pyle is reinventing the classical canon on more inclusive terms. Her work stems from a deep love of ballet and, at the same time, a frustration with its limits on acceptable body types and on the stories it traditionally tells.
The latest fitness fad has us literally buzzing. Vibrating tools—and exercise classes—promise added benefits to your typical workout and recovery routine, and they're only growing more popular.
Warning: These good vibrations don't come cheap.