How Houston Ballet Principal Karina González Got Ballet-Ready Again After Giving Birth
Houston Ballet principal Karina González stunned audiences last fall with her emotionally charged Mary Vetsera in Kenneth MacMillan's Mayerling—while 16 weeks pregnant. "I had to be careful because the pas de deux are crazy," says González, who carefully planned her pregnancy so that she could dance in this ballet. "Thankfully, I had the best partner in Connor Walsh."
Taking Class Before & After Birth
Gonzåalez performed in Mayerling at 16 weeks pregnant. Photo by Amitava Sarkar, courtesy Houston Ballet
González took class up until a week before she gave birth to her daughter Julia on March 18 (after a 12-hour drug-free labor). "I loved being pregnant and the changes in my body," says González. "Having a baby is one of the most amazing things a human can do."
She returned to class three weeks post-birth, starting by taking just half of a slower adult class. She was back in company class in five weeks, but didn't start jumping again until week six.
Getting Back Onstage Earlier Than Expected
Getting back onstage for Swan Lake showed González what she needed to work on. Photo from a Routines commercial, by Dinolion (2017)
Her original plan was to wait until the following season to get back onstage, but a chance to dance Spanish Princess in Swan Lake popped up in June. Having done the role before, she decided it was the right-sized challenge. "I wanted to focus on getting stronger and coming back properly," she says.
She would be the first to say that it wasn't easy. It was revealing, though. "I found out what I needed to work on," she says. "My legs lost strength and my stamina was down." Balances, turns and jumps that came naturally to her before suddenly took more time and thought.
A New Approach
González working out in a Routines commercial. Photo by Dinolion (2017)
"I was never much of a cross-training dancer," she admits. "I am now." The Houston Ballet gym is González's new favorite place. She is on a regular regimen with athletic therapist Bené Barrera and Houston Ballet Academy's strength and conditioning coach Akihiro Kawasaki. Three times a week, she does squats with 20- to 30-pound barbells (3 sets of 10), hanging side crunches on the power rack, and jump training over 12-inch hurdles (for 30-second intervals). "It's a whole new world for me."
Eating For Breastfeeding
González has always been a healthy eater, but now that she's breastfeeding she's even more careful to keep her diet rich with nutritious proteins and vegetables. She gained 35 pounds and it's come off at a healthy rate. "It gets trickier when we are in the theater, especially when it comes to sleep because I'm up late at night," says González. "I will consider weaning when the time is right. My baby comes first."
Her Go-To Core Strengthener
Recommended by Akihiro Kawasaki, this exercise strengthens the diaphragm, transverse abdominis, pelvic floor and more. "I started doing it almost every day," says González, "especially because I needed my core to get stronger and the midline to close back again after pregnancy."
- Lie on your back with your arms extended straight up. Keep your hips and knees at 90-degree angles (calves parallel to the floor) with a stability ball placed in between your palms and knees.
- Inhale and expand your abdominals and lower back to stabilize your pelvis. Take 8 counts to reach your right arm and left leg away from the ball.
- Keeping your lower back against the ground, take 8 counts to exhale and bring your right arm and left leg back to the starting position. Without rest, immediately repeat with your opposite arm and leg.
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If "Fosse/Verdon" whet your appetite for the impeccable Gwen Verdon, then Merely Marvelous: The Dancing Genius of Gwen Verdon is the three-course meal you've been craving. The new documentary—available now on Amazon for rental or purchase—dives into the life of the Tony-winning performer and silver-screen star lauded for her charismatic dancing.
Though she's perhaps most well-known today as Bob Fosse's wife and muse, that's not even half of her story. For starters, she'd already won four Tonys before they wed, making her far more famous in the public eye than he was at that point in his career. That's just one of many surprising details we learned during last night's U.S. premiere of Merely Marvelous. Believe us: You're gonna love her even more once you get to know her. Here are eight lesser-known tidbits to get you started.
Every dancer knows that how you fuel your body affects how you feel in the studio. Of course, while breakfast is no more magical than any other meal (despite the enduring myth that it's the most important one of the day), showing up to class hangry is a recipe for unproductive studio time.
So what do your favorite dancers eat in the morning to set themselves up for a busy rehearsal or performance day?
When it comes to dance in the U.S., companies in the South often find themselves overlooked—sometimes even by the presenters in their own backyard. That's where South Arts comes in. This year, the regional nonprofit launched Momentum, an initiative that will provide professional development, mentorship, touring grants and residencies to five Southern dance companies.
You ever just wish that Kenneth MacMillan's iconic production of Romeo and Juliet could have a beautiful love child with the 1968 film starring Olivia Hussey? (No, not Baz Luhrmann's version. We are purists here.)
Wish granted: Today, the trailer for a new film called Romeo and Juliet: Beyond Words was released, featuring MacMillan's choreography and with what looks like all the cinematic glamour we could ever dream of: