Brace Yourself: Nutcracker Is Coming

November 27, 2016

Now that we’ve all shaken off our Thanksgiving-induced food comas, it’s official: Nutcracker season has arrived. As we all know, getting through what often amounts to a month-long marathon of performances creates a unique cocktail of repetitive movement, long rehearsal days, longer show nights and little to no recovery time that can add up to exhaustion, illness and injury—not to mention the mental stamina required to smile through yet another Party Scene. Here’s a checklist to help you survive.

Get a lot of sleep.
Coming down from a lengthy performance—particularly if you’re dancing one of those second act divertissements—can be difficult, but is more necessary than ever when you have to wake up early for another round of company class, rehearsals and Waltz of the Flowers. Getting adequate rest helps your body recover from the strains caused by the repetitive choreography, and keeps your mind sharp so you can keep your various parts straight. Head straight home after the show and establish a routine to help you wind-down (a hot bath, easy reading or journaling are all good options)—you’ll be grateful for the extra Zs.

Stick to what works.
Routine is the thing that will get you through the tough days—the last thing you want to do is add on to your physical stressors when you’re in the midst of a performance marathon. Hold on to whatever cross-training regimen you already have going—if anything, consider progressively ramping it down as your performance responsibilities intensify. And in the meantime…

Listen to your body.
Take time to cool down, gently stretch and roll out at the end of the day—you’ll thank yourself the next morning for those extra five to ten minutes. Stay on top of your soreness levels, and keep an eye on any weaknesses that might lead to injury: Repetition and fatigue are culprits in both acute and chronic injury.

Stay well-nourished and hydrated.
You won’t get through Nutcracker season without fuel—not to mention the fact that healthy eating and adequate hydration will greatly reduce the chances that you’ll come down sick halfway through. Snack smart and find a show day meal plan that works for you—if you need inspiration, check out our What Dancers Eat column for recipe ideas from the pros.

Remember to have fun.
Build in time for the little things , arrange a sweets exchange with your dressing room and find ways to unwind with your castmates backstage—pre-show playlists, goofy dress-up days or silly pictures can go a long way to helping everyone survive the season. And if you’re feeling really jaded, just remember: Somewhere in that audience is a future ballerina seeing her first Nutcracker.

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