Your Ideal Pre-Show Prep: A Step-By-Step Guide
You know that how you care for your body before curtain can impact your performance. But with so many factors to consider, it can be difficult to nail down an exact routine. How much rest is enough? How close to showtime should you eat? We asked the experts.
The Night Before
Roll out your muscles: Be sure to cool down appropriately from the long rehearsal days that precede a performance, says sports physical therapist Erwin Seguia. The night before a show, he suggests foam rolling major muscle groups like your quads, glutes, hamstrings and calves. "Foam rolling helps flush out the waste products that result from physical activity, which aids in the recovery of the muscle," he says.
Get enough sleep: Prioritize rest. The average adult should get seven to nine hours of sleep per night, but some elite athletes get up to 11 or 12. Figure out how much you need to feel rested. "If you aren't able to get enough sleep because of late rehearsals, take naps of around 20 minutes during the day," says Seguia.
Eat a balanced meal: Ballet dancer turned registered dietitian Ashley Lucas warns that advice you may have heard to "carb-load" before a big event does not actually lead to improved performance in dance. She suggests eating a hearty, balanced dinner the day before a show. She suggests something like steak with asparagus with olive oil and quinoa, plus berries for dessert, or fatty fish or tofu with brown rice and vegetables with olive oil.
The Morning Of
Think through your choreography: "Right when you wake up, keeping your eyes closed, visualize how the performance will go from start to finish. Really concentrate on the details—the arm movements, the direction you are going to focus your eyes onstage and the tilt of your head," says Justin Sherwood, an adjunct professor at Marymount Manhattan College and a Youth America Grand Prix coach.
Don't skimp on hydration or snacks: Lucas says dancers should aim for two cups of water in the morning and sips of water throughout the day, at least every 20 minutes. Begin with a filling, balanced breakfast, and then get strategic about what to eat and when. "Eat smaller meals and snacks throughout the day to avoid stomach distress, but keep satiated and energized," says Lucas. Make sure to eat something within 30 minutes after any rehearsals or classes for proper recovery. Your snacks should always contain protein and fat—a snack of only simple carbohydrates, which are quickly digested, will leave you feeling tired again shortly afterward.
Warm up gently: Seguia suggests starting show day by warming up the areas of your body that will need to be most active for dancing, especially your core, hips and ankles. Planks, bridges and bigger movements like squats and lunges are all good choices, but take it easier than you would if you were doing a full workout. A smart dynamic exercise to warm up your hips in the morning is banded squats: Place a resistance loop around your legs above the knees. With feet hip width apart, squat as low as you can while maintaining a neutral spine and your knees over your toes. Repeat for two sets of five to eight repetitions.
Jayme Thonton for Pointe
Eat early: To stay energized, eat anywhere between one and four hours before a performance, says Lucas. Have enough that you will not be hungry too close to showtime, since eating right before could lead to an upset stomach.
Strategically focus your warm-up: Think about the material you are about to perform: Does it require fast changes of direction? Is it more slow and sustained? Sherwood says this should determine what you focus on in class as you are warming up. He also suggests marking through the performance onstage if possible, to keep up your confidence without wearing yourself out. Before going on, Seguia recommends repeating your warm-up exercises from the morning to keep your body and your brain primed to move
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: