Career Advice

What It Takes To Warm Up For & Wind Down From Tough Performances

Every dancer has their own pre-performance routine. Photo by Lindsay Thomas

For demanding, vulnerable performances, the mental warm-up and wind-down is unique to each artist. Three dancers share how they get in the zone, and come back to normal life afterward:


Erina Takahashi, English National Ballet Principal

On performance days, Erina Takahashi (here in Akram Khan's Giselle) doesn't think about her character until she's putting on her makeup and costume. Photo by Laurent Liotardo, courtesy ENB

Takahashi prefers not to think about a character too much during the day, otherwise she can get overwhelmed. "I get into the zone when I start hair and makeup, and once the costume goes on, I am Giselle," she says. Listening to music in her dressing room keeps her relaxed.

After a show, she needs to mentally recover: In Giselle's final pas de deux, Takahashi describes her own heart physically aching, and sometimes she feels unable to smile during the curtain call. "It is such a deeply internal show—it takes a while to come back to reality."

Samantha Speis, Urban Bush Women

Spies (left) showers before and after tough performances. Photo by Nathea Lee, courtesy UBW

Spies finds a cleansing power in water. "I take a shower beforehand. It's a refreshing restart," she says. "What we do onstage can be really emotionally taxing, so I have to prepare for that." After bows, she again showers to rinse off the performance, and move into a different state. "If I don't," she says, "I feel a little off, not myself." She also gives herself at least two hours to stretch post-performance.

Tsai-Wei Tien, Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch

Tien is sometimes so exhausted after emotional performances that she can barely walk. Photo via peculiarman.com.

Tien says there is surprisingly little mental transition needed after the extreme sacrifice as the Chosen One in Pina Bausch's epic Rite of Spring. "The moment I fall and die, it is over in my brain," she says. Instead, it's her body that takes a while to recover. "Sometimes I cannot walk properly because my muscles are so exhausted."

Show Comments ()
Breaking Stereotypes
Ka'et Contemporary Dance Ensemble in the studio. Still from IFAF documentary.

Mash-ups aren't uncommon in the dance world: Performers of varying styles have been known to share the stage, from ballerina Tiler Peck and famed clown Bill Irwin to Michelle Dorrance, who's mixed tappers and break-dancers. Likewise, collaborations between choreographers and artists from seemingly mismatched disciplines have produced magical creations, such as Alexei Ratmansky's Whipped Cream, featuring Mark Ryden's whimsical and even grotesque designs and costumes.

But the Israeli troupe Ka'et Contemporary Dance Ensemble has found success in one of the most unlikely partnerships: Secular contemporary choreographer Ronen Itzhaki creates movement for a group of rabbis.

Keep reading... Show less
Style & Beauty
via Instagram

While undoubtedly best known for her dancing, American Ballet Theatre principal Isabella Boylston has also been getting noticed for her style by Allure and Vogue—and with good reason. Her Instagram feed features a mix of on-trend athleisure wear and detailed dresses from runway designers like Valentino and Anna Sui, none of which would be complete without the makeup and hair to match. With a penchant for skin care and an ever-growing lipstick collection, Boylston talked us through some of her beauty must-haves on and off the stage.

Photo by Jayme Thornton

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Training
BalletMet in company class onstage before a show. Photo by Jennifer Zmuda, courtesy BalletMet

Before she became the 20th century's most revered ballet pedagogue, Agrippina Vaganova was a frustrated ballerina. "I was not progressing and that was a terrible thing to realize," she wrote in a rough draft of her memoirs.

She retired from the Imperial Ballet stage in 1916, and for the next 30-plus years, devoted herself to creating a "science of ballet." Her new, dynamic teaching method produced stars like Rudolf Nureyev, Alla Osipenko, and Galina Ulanova and later Natalia Makarova and Mikhail Baryshnikov. And her approach continues to influence how we think about ballet training to this day.

But is the ballet class due for an update? Demands and aesthetics have changed. So should the way dancers train change too?

Keep reading... Show less
Health & Body
How do you warmup? Photo by Jim Lafferty

For many dancers, a "warmup" consists of sitting on the floor stretching their legs in various positions. But this strategy only reduces your muscles' ability to work properly—it negatively affects your strength, endurance, balance and speed for up to an hour.

Save your flexibility training for the end of the day. Instead, follow a warmup that will actually help prevent injury and improve your body's performance.

According to the International Association of Dance Medicine and Science, a smart warmup has four parts: "a gentle pulse-raising section, a joint mobilization section, a muscle lengthening section and a strength/balance building section."

Keep reading... Show less
Charlie Sutton's "Baby, You Knock Me Out." Photo by Steven Rosen, Courtesy DanceBreak.

DanceBreak came roaring back to life on Monday after seven years on hiatus, and six choreographers now have the opportunity to be the next Andy Blankenbuehler. Or Joshua Bergasse, Kelly Devine, Casey Nicholaw, Josh Prince or Josh Rhodes. These stellar Broadway choreographers all got their first big shows after Melinda Atwood's musical-theater launching pad let them show the industry what they could do.

Since 2002, DanceBreak has been a sort of "So You Think You Can Choreograph" for Broadway. Although not everyone goes straight there—Mandy Moore and Mia Michaels are alumni, too—the program is meant to funnel talented choreographers to the Broadway stage by providing a platform for their work. Prince, who introduced Atwood to the cheering crowd, has paid DanceBreak the ultimate compliment, creating his own non-profit incubator for theater choreographers, Broadway Dance Lab. On Monday, he recalled the story of how he was offered the role of choreographer on Broadway's Shrek just days after its director saw the 2007 edition.

Keep reading... Show less
Stretching feet the wrong way will only lead to injury. Photo by Thinkstock

When caring for your feet or trying to make them look good, it's tempting to seek shortcuts. Bad ideas—like dangerous stretches that promise perfect lines or ointments that were never meant to go on your toes—catch on all too easily backstage.

We asked podiatrists who've seen their dance clients try it all share the habits they'd like to see gone for good.

Keep reading... Show less
Advice for Dancers
Only you can truly decide if you're ready to start your career. Photo by Thinkstock.

My dance coach wants my word that I'll keep competing under his school's name for the next year and not audition. I'm 18 years old and already doing lead roles and winning medals. I love his teaching, but shouldn't I be ready to go out and get a job?

—Gil, Las Vegas, NV

Keep reading... Show less
News
Ballet of Difference is now home to a number of Cedar Lake alumni, such as Matthew Min Rich and Ebony Williams, here in Richard Siegal's Pop HD. Photo by Ray Demski, Courtesy Siegal

How do we make ballet, a traditionally homogeneous art form, relevant to and reflective of an increasingly diverse and globalized era? While established companies are shifting slowly, Richard Siegal/Ballet of Difference, though less than 2 years old, has something of a head start. The guiding force of the company, which is based in Germany, is bringing differences together in the same room and, ultimately, on the same stage.

Keep reading... Show less
News
Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui's Harbor Me. Photo by Laurence Phillipe, Courtesy Joyce Theater

Claude Debussy's only completed opera, Pelléas et Mélisande, emphasizes clarity and subtlety over high-flung drama as a deadly love triangle unfolds. Opera Vlaanderen and Royal Ballet of Flanders are commemorating the 100th anniversary of the composer's death with a new production of the landmark opera that is sure to be anything but traditional: Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui and Damien Jalet are choreographing and directing, while boundary-pushing performance artist Marina Abramović collaborates on the design. Antwerp, Feb. 2–13. Ghent, Feb. 23–March 4. operaballet.be/en.

Dancers Trending
Jumatatu Poe's Let 'im Move You. PC Theo Cote, via 18th Street Arts Center

Black History Month offers a time to reflect on the artists who have shaped the dance field as we know it today. But equally important is celebrating the black artists who represent the next generation. These seven up-and-comers are making waves across all kinds of styles and across the country:

Keep reading... Show less

Sponsored

Viral Videos

Sponsored

mailbox

Get Dance Magazine in your inbox

Sponsored

Giveaways