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Are These 4 Everyday Habits Slowing You Down In The Studio?
Your body's inner chemist knows exactly what to do to make you a slightly better version of yourself onstage. The excitement of performing gets your adrenal glands to release epinephrine, a hormone that makes your heart work harder and your senses get sharper. It also yields endorphins, boosting your confidence and artistry.
But what if something you did yesterday cancels out that natural bump?
The basics of proper food, rest and exercise seem straightforward, but for dancers, there are biochemical loopholes that come with the irregular schedules and intense demands of the job.
1. You Relax By Drinking After Dancing
On night of binge drinking can decrease athletic performance significantly. Photo via Unsplash
Alcohol can put a dance career in danger. “I've seen how dancers escape through parties and alcohol," says Jorie Janzen, a registered dietician specializing in sports nutrition who has worked with the Royal Winnipeg Ballet. But this habit leads to a downward spiral.
Even one night of binge drinking can decrease subsequent athletic performance by 11 to 30 percent. That's because while metabolizing alcohol, the liver is unable to refuel the muscles with glucose. Additionally, even one drink can interrupt the production of human growth hormone, important to muscle recovery. It can also dehydrate you, impairing balance.
“The next day or week in the studio," says Janzen, “you can see dancers' heart rates are up because their muscles are flagging. They're struggling."
How To Imbibe The Smart Way: If you do have a glass of wine or beer now and then, eat a good meal first and begin rehydrating immediately. A combination of carbohydrates and fats—quinoa or pasta with vegetables and an oily fish like salmon—will aid your muscle recovery from the day's training while slowing the absorption of alcohol to your bloodstream. Natural fruit juices are also better mixers than diet drinks, which can speed the absorption.
Beat The Hangover: If you're struggling the next day, a 2013 study suggests that Sprite speeds the breakdown of alcohol faster than other drinks. Soda water also works. Eating a breakfast that includes eggs, toast, a banana and fruit juice will help stabilize and reenergize you, as would an electrolyte-enhancing drink like coconut water sipped throughout the day.
2. You Never Make Time To Get Outside
Experts recommend taking a D3 supplement. Photo by Jonathan Perez/Unsplash
Trainers at some UK soccer teams hand out monthly vitamin D supplements. And those players train outdoors, where their bodies are exposed to sunlight, the best source of vitamin D available.
Among dancers, who train inside, low blood levels of vitamin D are rampant. A UK-based team of physicians and researchers has shown that elite dancers who supplement their vitamin D in winter months retain greater isometric strength and vertical jump capacity, and lower their risk of soft tissue injury.
Participating researcher Dr. Roger Wolman, a rheumatologist at the Royal National Orthopedic Hospital in London, says, “It could be an indirect effect, with vitamin D helping our muscles use the calcium and phosphates delivered in our foods. Without enough D, these nutrients are partially lost."
What You Should Do: Since it's hard to overdose on D—not a true vitamin, but a hormone—most dancers can safely take 1,000 IUs of D3 a day, especially from September through March.
3. You Dance On Insufficient Calories
Eating hearty meals will give you more power onstage. Photo by Lily Banse/Unsplash
Because of dance's intense athletic demands and lean aesthetic, dancers are at a high risk for “relative energy deficiency," says Janzen. And it's not just women: male athletes diet, overtrain and suffer the consequences in significant numbers.
Performing without adequate energy—in simplest terms, food—comes with serious health dangers. It can mess with your stress response, causing anxiety or depression, and leave you susceptible to illness. It fouls up your appetite and can lead to binge-eating urges when the body cries “starvation" to the brain. The metabolic changes decrease muscle strength and endurance as your glycogen stores—the energy saved in the muscles and liver that fuels movement—remain consistently low. The brain is also affected, causing low concentration and impaired judgment.
The Smart Solution: The International Olympic Committee recommends two ways to treat relative energy deficiency: adding a nutrient-rich liquid meal to daily food intake and building a day of rest into the weekly training. Ideally, dancers struggling with this problem should also turn to an interdisciplinary support team, including a sports dietician, exercise physiologist and psychologist with sports training experience.
4. Sleep Becomes Your Last Priority On Busy Days
Daytime learning gets converted to memory when we sleep. Photo by Vladislav Muslakov/Unsplash
The quality of your slumber makes a difference onstage. Dr. Michael Grandner, a sleep researcher at the University of Pennsylvania, cites a study in major league baseball players: “The sleepier they were at the beginning of the season, the more likely they were to be demoted to the minor leagues before the next season."
Why does sleep make such a difference? The genes that control the manufacture and transit of macromolecules to our cells are turned on while we sleep. “It's like restocking the shelves in the supermarket at night," says Grandner. These macromolecules—proteins, lipids, carbohydrates and nucleic acids—repair our cells (including muscles and bones) and recharge our immune systems.
The less sleep you get, the longer it takes to recover from minor aches and pains. Inadequate sleep also results in poor regulation of hormones that control appetite, and promotes weight gain. Researchers even compare lack of sleep to the way alcohol impairs coordination, mental acuity and stamina.
And don't forget that the brain converts daytime learning to memory while we sleep. "Those skills that you learned during the day are being refined and improved while you sleep," says Robert Stickgold, PhD, of Harvard Medical School's Division of Sleep Medicine. "That's why you have to get sleep the first night after you learn them."
How Much Do You Need? Seven to eight hours of sleep is considered good for most adults, although 9 to 10 hours is optimal until early adulthood (age 22 to 25). A 2011 study found that extending sleep even by one hour in college basketball players resulted in faster sprints and more accurate shots.
Naps can help, too. Just try to keep them to under an hour, and not too late in the day.
New York City–based dancers know Gibney. It's a performance venue, a dance company, a rehearsal space, an internship possibility—a Rubik's Cube of resources bundled into two sites at 280 and 890 Broadway. And in March of this year, Gibney (having officially dropped "Dance" from its name) announced a major expansion of its space and programming; it now operates a total of 52,000 square feet, 23 studios and five performance spaces across the two locations.
Six of those studios and one performance space are brand-new at the 280 Broadway location, along with several programs. EMERGE will commission new works by emerging choreographic voices for the resident Gibney Dance Company each year; Making Space+ is an extension of Gibney's Making Space commissioning and presenting program, focused on early-career artists. For the next three years, the Joyce Theater Foundation's artist residency programs will be run out of one of the new Gibney studios, helping to fill the gap left by the closing of the Joyce's DANY Studios in 2016.
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.
"I'm sorry, but I just can't possibly give you the amount of money you're asking for."
My heart sinks at my director's final response to my salary proposal. She insists it's not me or my work, there is just no money in the budget. My disappointment grows when handed the calendar for Grand Rapids Ballet's next season with five fewer weeks of work.
"It just...always looks better in my head."
While that might not be something any of us would want to hear from a choreographer, it's a brilliant introduction to "Off Kilter" and the odd, insecure character at its center, Milton Frank. The ballet mockumentary (think "The Office" or "Parks and Recreation," but with pointe shoes) follows Frank (dancer-turned-filmmaker Alejandro Alvarez Cadilla) as he comes back to the studio to try his hand at choreographing for the first time since a plagiarism scandal derailed his fledgling career back in the '90s.
We've been pretty excited about the series for a while, and now the wait is finally over. The first episode of the show, "The Denial," went live earlier today, and it's every bit as awkward, hilarious and relatable as we hoped.
Dancers crossing over into the fitness realm may be increasingly popular, but it was never part of French-born Julie Granger's plan. Though Granger grew up a serious ballet student, taking yoga classes on the side eventually led to a whole new career. Creating her own rules along the way, Granger shares how combining the skills she learned in ballet with certifications in yoga, barre and personal training allowed her to become her own boss (and a rising fitness influencer).
Travis Wall draws inspiration from dancers Tate McCrae, Timmy Blankenship and more.
One often-overlooked relationship that exists in dance is the relationship between choreographer and muse. Recently two-time Emmy Award Winner Travis Wall opened up about his experience working with dancers he considers to be his muses.
"My muses in choreography have evolved over the years," says Wall. "When I'm creating on Shaping Sound, our company members, my friends, are my muses. But at this current stage of my career, I'm definitely inspired by new, fresh talent."
Wall adds, "I'm so inspired by this new generation of dancers. Their teachers have done such incredible jobs, and I've seen these kids grown up. For many of them, I've had a hand in their exposure to choreography."
José Greco popularized Spanish dance in 1950s and '60s America through his work onstage and on screen. Ensemble Español Spanish Dance Theater's American Spanish Dance & Music Festival is honoring the icon in recognition of what would have been his 100th birthday. As part of the tribute, Greco's three dancing children are reuniting to perform together for the first time since their father's death in 2000. Also on the program is the premiere of contemporary flamenco choreographer Carlos Rodriguez's Mar de Fuego (Sea of Fire). June 15–17, North Shore Center for the Performing Arts. ensembleespanol.org.
Dance Theatre of Harlem dancers Christopher McDaniel and Crystal Serrano were working on Nacho Duato's Coming Together in rehearsal when McDaniel's foot hit a slippery spot on the marley. As they attempted a swinging lift, both dancers went tumbling, injuring Serrano as they fell. She ended up being out for a week with a badly bruised knee.
"I immediately felt, This is my fault," says McDaniel. "I broke my friend."
What's on the minds of college students today?
I recently had the honor of adjudicating at the American College Dance Association's National College Dance Festival, along with choreographer Dana Tai Soon Burgess and former National Endowment for the Arts dance specialist Douglas C. Sonntag. We chose three winners—one for Outstanding Choreography and two for Outstanding Performance—from 30 pieces representing schools throughout the country. It was a great opportunity to see what college dance students are up to—from the issues they care about to the kinds movement they're interested in exploring.
Here were the biggest trends and takeaways:
It's summer festival season! If you're feeling overwhelmed by the dizzying array of offerings, never fear: We've combed through the usual suspects to highlight the shows we most want to catch.
Subscription box services have quickly gained a dedicated following among the fashion and fitness set. And while we'd never say no to a box with new jewelry or workout wear to try, we've been waiting for the subscription model to make its way to the dance world.
Enter barre + bag, a new service that sends a curated set of items to your door each season. Created by Faye Morrow Bell and her daughter Tyler, a student in the pre-professional ballet program at University of North Carolina School of the Arts, this just-launched service offers dance, lifestyle and wellness finds in four themed bags each year: Spring Performance, Summer Study, Back-to-Studio and Nutcracker. Since all the products are specifically made for dancers, everything barre + bag sends you is something you'll actually use, (Plus, it all comes in a bag instead of a box—because what dancer can ever have enough bags?).
barre + bag's Summer Collection
Today, American Ballet Theatre announced a new initiative to foster the development of choreography by company members and freelance dancemakers. Aptly titled ABT Incubator, the program, directed by principal David Hallberg, will give selected choreographers the opportunity to spend two weeks workshopping new dances.
"It has always been my vision to establish a process-oriented hub to explore the directions ballet can forge now and in the future," said Hallberg in a press release from the company. Interested? Here's how you can apply to participate.
Back in January, Chase Johnsey grabbed headlines when he resigned from Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo, where his performances had garnered critical acclaim for over a decade, alleging a culture of harassment and discrimination. (An independent investigation launched by the company did not substantiate any legal claims.) Johnsey, who identifies as genderqueer, later told us that he feared his dance career was at an end—where else, as a ballet dancer, would he be allowed to perform traditionally female roles?
But the story didn't end there. After a surprise offer from Tamara Rojo, artistic director of English National Ballet, Johnsey has found a temporary artistic home with the company, joining as a guest at the rank of first artist for its run of The Sleeping Beauty, which continues this week. After weeks of working and rehearsing with the company, last week Johnsey quietly marked a new milestone: He performed with ENB's corps de ballet as one of the ladies in the prince's court.