As the temperatures drop and sweater weather begins, most of us groan at the thought of chilly muscles and achy bones. Dancers know that a cold winter can make our bodies feel "off." Dance Magazine tapped Dr. Thomas Sanders, a board-certified foot and ankle specialist at The Centers for Advanced Orthopaedics, to find out how to deal with the most common health issues dancers face in frigid temps.
According to Sanders, one of the biggest problems during the winter is decreased sunlight exposure, which can lead to a lack of necessary nutrients like vitamin D and calcium. This is especially true for those of us who live in northern climates. According to the National Institutes of Health, bone pain and muscle weakness can indicate inadequate vitamin D levels in adults, but such symptoms can be subtle and go undetected in the initial stages.
Whether it's Nutcracker season, holiday galas or winter showcases, this time of year can leave dancers with packed schedules.
The most important thing you can do is listen to your body and give it time to rest. But keep up with your regular cross-training routine when you have the energy (and time). Sanders recommends low-intensity cardio, like the stationary bike. "When you get tired, your form breaks down and that's when injuries are more likely," he says. "Maintaining a regular fitness schedule allows you to stay in top shape and peaks endurance."
Be sure to keep your body, specifically your feet and ankles, warm and rested between performances. Cold skin leads to decreased blood flow in the exposed areas, which can lead to muscle strains and injuries, Sanders says.
To counteract this, he recommends spending more time than usual warming up and stretching before dancing, specifically the Achilles tendons, feet and calves. Practicing a low-intensity cardio warm up to start your day can also help.
While outside, always wear closed shoes and consider investing in waterproof winter boots and wool socks to keep your feet protected. Sanders also recommends wearing tights and compression socks, which will help direct blood flow to your feet and keep them warm.
Tony Testa leads a rehearsal during his USC New Movement Residency. Photo by Mary Mallaney/Courtesy USC
The massive scale of choreographing an Olympic opening ceremony really has no equivalent. The hundreds of performers, the deeply historic rituals and the worldwide audience and significance make it a project like no other.
Just consider the timeline: For most live TV events like award shows, choreographers usually take a month or two to put everything together. For the Olympics, the process can take up to four years.
But this kind of challenge is exactly what Los Angeles choreographer Tony Testa is looking for. He's currently creating a submission to throw his hat in the ring to choreograph for Beijing's 2022 Winter Games.
In a studio high above Lincoln Center, Taylor Stanley is rehearsing a solo from Jerome Robbins' Opus 19/The Dreamer. As the pianist plays Prokofiev's plangent melody, Stanley begins to move, his arms forming crisp, clean lines while his upper body twists and melts from one position to the next.
All you see is intention and arrival, without a residue of superfluous movement. The ballet seems to depict a man searching for something, struggling against forces within himself. Stanley doesn't oversell the struggle—in fact he's quite low-key—but the clarity with which he executes the choreography draws you in.