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How To Keep Your Body In Top Shape At Summer Intensives
To help you avoid this disappointment, we tapped Daniel Cuttica, D.O., an orthopedic foot and ankle surgeon with The Centers for Advanced Orthopaedics and consultant to The Washington Ballet, for expert advice on how to keep your body healthy, safe and injury-free this summer.
Listen to Your Body
Arguably the most important rule for any dancer is to be your own body's advocate. After all, you're the only one who truly knows how it feels. So don't ignore signs of injury or overuse, and resist the temptation to dance through pain—no matter how minor it may seem.
"Most injuries in dance are overuse injuries," Cuttica says. "Minor pains can turn into more serious injuries if they're not quickly or properly addressed." At the first sign of injury, alert your teacher or an advisor in your program, who will likely refer you to a physical therapist or doctor if they think it's necessary.
Summer intensives usually involve long hours in the studio—sometimes more than what your body is used to. "This increase can put you at higher risk for fatigue or overuse injuries," Cuttica says. "Cross training allows the dancer to build strength and endurance in all parts of the body."
Getting started on a cross-training regimen a few times per week before your intensive starts will prepare your body for long hours and allow it to stand up better to weakness. Cuttica recommends a focus on core strengthening and aerobic training.
During intense training periods, eating a well-balanced diet and taking in adequate fluids to stay hydrated is crucial. "Dancers are often under a particularly high level of stress to maintain a specific body image, which can lead to unhealthy eating habits or calorie restriction," Cuttica says. "This behavior can result in poor nutrition and bone health, thus increasing the risk of injury."
We know one of the best parts of a summer intensive is being social and eating with new friends, but don't take your food cues from them; their bodies may have different needs. Instead, opt for healthy, protein-packed snacks and meals—and don't forget your H2O.
Wear the Right Shoes
Compile a checklist to make sure you have the proper dance shoes for each class, so you're not left wearing socks instead of character shoes in a Broadway rehearsal. And don't overlook your shoe choice when walking between classes—your muscles will thank you for electing tennis shoes or running sneakers over flimsy flip-flops. Taking the time before your program starts to go shoe shopping for the proper fit and style is well worth it to keep your feet and ankles supported.
Always Warm Up and Cool Down
"A dynamic warm up will raise your body temperature and increase blood flow to the muscles, preparing them for the upcoming demands of your class or performance," Cuttica says. He recommends static stretching and jogging in place for 5 to 10 minutes before your first class of the day.
"A cool down is just as important, as it will allow the body to recover and prevent the muscles from tightening up," he adds. Cuttica suggests slowly stretching, concentrating on your breathing and rolling out muscles with a foam roller. He specifically advises focusing on the hamstrings, calves, Achilles tendons, thigh muscles, lower back, torso and neck.
Don't Rely on Painkillers
Occasionally taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like Advil for muscle soreness is fine, since they provide pain relief and help reduce inflammation.
"But their use should be discontinued as soon as possible in order to prevent any potential adverse effects on the healing process," Cuttica says. Don't rely on pain relief medicine for a real injury that would be more effectively treated by a doctor or PT.
Allowing ample downtime is not only crucial for the recuperation of your muscles, but also for your mental state. Utilize your free time at night to do anything you need to take care of your sore muscles and quicken their recovery, like a warm bath with Epsom salts or ice and heat treatments.
And don't forget to practice self-care and give your brain a proper break, too. If you recharge best by being around others, plan a game night with the other dancers on your floor or go see a local show to take your mind off of dance for a couple hours.
Admittedly, it can get a bit overwhelming to be in dormitory-style housing and constantly surrounded by other dancers. If you're the type of person that requires alone time to feel refreshed, don't feel guilty about skipping group activities or choosing to spend an evening alone. Your roommate will likely understand if you explain that you'd prefer to put headphones in and read a book to unwind at the end of the day.
Enjoy Your Experience
If you're having a rough day or feel like you're not making huge strides right away, don't let it put you in a bad state— one off day won't ruin your career. Reflect on how much you're improving, and take the time to appreciate all the valuable insight you're gaining from your instructors and peers. Work hard, but don't forget the most important part of your summer program is to enjoy yourself!
When Rachel Hamrick was in the corps of Universal Ballet in Seoul, her determination to strengthen her flexibility turned into a side hobby that would eventually land her a new career. "I was in La Bayadere for the first time, and I was the first girl out for that arabesque sequence in The Kingdom of the Shades," she says. "I had the flexibility, but I was wobbly because I wasn't stretching in the right way. That's when I first started playing around with the idea of the Flexistretcher. It was tied together then, so it was definitely more makeshift," she says with a laugh, "But I trained with it to help me get the correct alignment so that I would have the strength to sustain the whole act."
Now, Hamrick is running her own business, complete with an ever-growing product line and her FLX training method—all because of her initial need to make it through 38 arabesques.
For the new Broadway season, Ellenore Scott has scored two associate choreographer gigs: For Head Over Heels, which starts previews June 23, Scott is working with choreographer Spencer Liff on an original musical mashing up The Go-Go's punk-rock hits with a narrative based on Sir Philip Sidney's 1590 book, Arcadia. Four days after that show opens, she'll head into rehearsals for this fall's King Kong, collaborating with director/choreographer Drew McOnie and a 20-foot gorilla.
Scott gave us the inside scoop about Head Over Heels, the craziness of her freelance hustle and the most surprising element of working on Broadway.
Dance in movies is a trend as old as time. Movies like The Red Shoes and Singin' in the Rain paved the way for Black Swan and La La Land; dancing stars like Gene Kelly and Ginger Rogers led the way for Channing Tatum and Julianne Hough.
Lucky for us, some of Hollywood's most incredible dance scenes have been compiled into this amazing montage, featuring close to 300 films in only seven minutes. So grab the popcorn, cozy on up, and watch the moves that made the movies.
Broadway musicals have been on my mind for more than half a century. I discovered them in grade school, not in a theater but electronically. On the radio, every weeknight an otherwise boring local station would play a cast album in its entirety; on television, periodically Ed Sullivan's Sunday night variety show would feature an excerpt from the latest hit—numbers from Bye Bye Birdie, West Side Story, Camelot, Flower Drum Song.
But theater lives in the here and now, and I was in middle school when I attended my first Broadway musical, Gypsy—based, of all things, on the early life of the famed burlesque queen Gypsy Rose Lee. I didn't know who Jerome Robbins was, but I recognized genius when I saw it—kids morphing into adults as a dance number progresses, hilarious stripping routines, a pas de deux giving concrete shape to the romantic yearnings of an ugly duckling. It proved the birth of a lifelong habit, indulged for the last 18 years in the pages of this magazine. But all long runs eventually end, and it's time to say good-bye to the "On Broadway" column. It's not the last of our Broadway coverage—there's too much great work being created and performed, and you can count on hearing from me in print and online.
If you want to know how scary the AIDS epidemic was in the 1980s, come see Ishmael Houston-Jones' piece THEM from 1986. This piece reveals the subterranean fears that crept into gay relationships at the time. Houston-Jones is one of downtown's great improvisers, and his six dancers also improvise in response to his suggestions. With Chris Cochrane's edgy guitar riffs and Dennis Cooper's ominous text, there's an unpredictable, near-creepy but epic quality to THEM.
What is the right flooring system for us?
So many choices, companies, claims, endorsements, and recommendations to consider. The more you look, the more confusing it gets. Here is what you need to do. Here is what you need to know to get the flooring system suited to your needs.
This time last year, Catherine Conley was already living a ballet dancer's dream. After an exchange between her home ballet school in Chicago and the Cuban National Ballet School in Havana, she'd been invited to train in Cuba full-time. It was the opportunity of a lifetime, and one that was nearly unheard of for an American dancer. Now, though, Conley has even more exciting news: She's a full-fledged member of the National Ballet of Cuba's corps de ballet.
"In the school there were other foreigners, but in the company I'm the only foreigner—not just the only American, but the only non-Cuban," Conley says. But she doesn't feel like an outsider, or like a dancer embarking on a historic journey. "Nobody makes me feel different. They treat me as one of them," she says. Conley has become fluent in Spanish, and Cuba has come to feel like home. "The other day I was watching a movie that was dubbed in Spanish, and I understand absolutely everything now," she says.
Chantel Aguirre may call sunny Los Angeles home, but the Shaping Sound company member and NUVO faculty member spends more time in the air, on a tour bus or in a convention ballroom than she does in the City of Angels.
Aguirre, who is married to fellow Shaping Sound member Michael Keefe, generally only spends one week per month at home. "When I'm not working, I'm exploring," Aguirre says. "Michael and I are total travel junkies."
Akram Khan and Florence Welch (of Florence + The Machine) is not a pairing we ever would have dreamt up. But now that the music video for "Big God" has dropped, with choreography attributed to Khan and Welch, it seems that we just weren't dreaming big enough.
In the video, Welch leads a group of women standing in an eerily reflective pool of water. They seem untouchable, until they begin shedding their colorful veils, movements morphing to become animalistic and aggressive as the song progresses.
Savannah Lowery is about as well acquainted with the inner workings of a hospital as she is with the intricate footwork of Dewdrop.
As a child, the former New York City Ballet soloist would roam the hospital where her parents worked, pushing buttons and probably getting into too much trouble, she says. While other girls her age were clad in tutus playing ballerina, she was playing doctor.
"It just felt like home. I think it made me not scared of medicine, not scared of a hospital," she says. "I thought it was fascinating what they did."
It can be hard to focus when Alice Sheppard dances.
Her recent sold-out run of DESCENT at New York Live Arts, for instance, offered a constellation of stimulation. Onstage was a large architectural ramp with an assortment of peaks and planes. There was an intricate lighting and projection design. There was a musical score that unfolded like an epic poem. There was a live score too: the sounds of Sheppard and fellow dancer Laurel Lawson's bodies interacting with the surfaces beneath them.
And there were wheelchairs. But if you think the wheelchairs are the center of this work, you're missing something vital about what Sheppard creates.
A Jellicle Ball is coming to the big screen, with the unlikeliest of dancemakers on tap to choreograph.
We'll give you some hints: His choreography can aptly be described as "animalistic," though Jellicle cats have never come to mind specifically when watching his hyper-physical work. He's worked on movies before—even one about Beasts. And though contemporary ballet is his genre of choice, his choreography is certainly theatrical enough to lend itself to a musical.