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Budget Your Bodywork: When to Splurge & When to Save

It can take a full team of experts to keep a dancer dancing—from masseuses and acupuncturists to yoga teachers and personal trainers. But, that comes at a cost, literally. When do you really need to invest in pricier options, and when can you take the more budget-friendly route? We broke it down for the most popular options.



Gyrotonic

Tony Morales at Circular Power

Using a machine with a seat, arcs attached to handwheels and moving pieces, Gyrotonic promotes circular motion. "That action reveals weaknesses in your range of motion and musculature," says Tony Morales, who owns New York City's Circular Power. "Gyrotonic massages the body internally and balances it."

When to Splurge:

  • When you first start. "There's so much going on, having eyes on you makes progress much faster," Morales says. "And the machine offers resistance and feedback."
  • If you're serious about keeping your body healthy. "Gyrotonic privates are an especially great way to handle an intense rehearsal period or performance mode," Morales says. His clients from American Ballet Theatre book sessions once or twice a week to help prevent injury and improve their dancing.

Budget Option:

  • Gyrokinesis. These group classes follow all of the same concepts as Gyrotonic, but without the machine.


Strength Training

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Core training and stabilization work can strengthen muscles used less often in dance, increasing longevity and improving your technique. "How much better can your arabesque be from a single-leg deadlift, or your stability from bridge work and core training?" asks former professional dancer Emily Cook Harris, who owns EMPOWERED, a personal training and remote coaching business.

When to Splurge:

  • When you want specialized movements for your body, prescribed by a personal trainer.
  • To correct your form. A trainer can offer hands-on adjustments to ensure you're using the exercise to its best effects.
  • At the beginning: "I like the idea of working with a trainer at 'the beginning,' whether that means preseason or at the start of a rehearsal period," says Harris. "If you see a trainer once a month, you can learn the exercises while they correct you, then you can do that program for the rest of the month."

Budget Options:

  • Group fitness classes. "The energy of the room can be motivating, and you still have an instructor. Be careful, though, not to get so wrapped up you forget about form," cautions Harris. "Start slower and with lower weights and advance slowly."
  • Subscription video services like Daily Burn offer motivation and easy access for an ongoing routine.
  • Free videos on YouTube and Instagram. "Look for core exercises like planks and bridges," suggests Harris. "The emphasis should be on stabilization because that's all of dance!"
  • Apps like Nike+ Training Club offer workouts of various lengths and styles.


Acupuncture

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The minimally invasive, holistic process works by inserting needles at key points throughout the body. "Acupuncture is the manipulation of blood and energy," says practitioner Heather Trujillo. "When you insert a needle, it's a micro injury. The body sends blood to the area, instigating the body's healing mechanism."

When to Splurge:

  • After an acute injury. Getting acupuncture as soon as you can hurting yourself can speed up the healing process.
  • When you have a chronic problem that won't go away. "That might be the time to spend on a session," says Trujillo.

Budget Options:

  • Community acupuncture clinics that work on a sliding scale
  • Acupuncture schools usually provide budget-friendly or free services.
  • Acupressure. Instead of the needle, a practitioner will use their hands to place pressure on certain points on the body.


Pilates

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The full-body system strengthens and lengthens through a concentration on the core. "Dancers love the grounded feeling Pilates gives you," says Chloe Brehm, who teaches at Bridge Pilates in Brooklyn. "It's particular in how you articulate your spine and the deepest layer of your abdominal wall. Being able to initiate movement from that layer makes you a stronger dancer."

When to Splurge:

  • To find your personal weaknesses, take a private class so you can have a trained eye on you. "The feedback of the practitioner and equipment together helps things click," says Brehm.
  • Before any reformer class, book a private.
  • To set yourself up for home practice or mat classes.

Budget Options:

  • Duet lessons. Grab a friend who has similar issues and technique to cut your cost.
  • Group mat classes. "It's harder without the feedback from equipment. But this will often satisfy a dancer, and there are modifications and advancements for any level," says Brehm.
  • Online classes like Pilates Anytime or Pilatesology are helpful for travel and tight schedules.
  • Mat work on your own. "Buy a cushy mat, remember to check in on your breathing and alignment, and continue to switch it up," says Brehm. "If you are breathing in for five and out for five in teaser, what about in for three and out for seven?"


Yoga

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Diverse styles from vinyasa to hot bikram and restorative yin yoga offer stretching, strengthening and meditation. "It's like taking dance, slowing it down and breathing in it," says DC- and Maryland-based yoga teacher Kevin Platt. "You get to explore how your body integrates movement. Since dancers are so go-go-go, adding a slow yoga practice into your week creates balance."

When to Splurge:

  • Once a week or once a month, it can be worth it to book a private to get a teacher's eyes on you, says Platt.

Budget Options:

  • Group classes. Look for affordable introductory offers, or consider finding a nonprofit studio or a "dharma studio," where you can pay for classes with simple work.
  • Online resources and books. Yoga Journal and Light on Yoga by B.K.S. Iyengar are two of Platt's favorites.
  • YouTube videos are beneficial if used with discretion, but be careful with doing inversions alone, Platt cautions.
  • At-home DIY practice remains "a great part of any dancer's normal upkeep," says Platt.


Massage

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After putting so much strain on muscles, releasing them through massage is a must for most performers. "A practitioner can release your body in a way you can't do yourself," says Platt, who is also a licensed massage therapist. "It helps integrate all of the muscular work you're doing while keeping inflammation at bay."

When to Splurge:

  • After big events, like a major performance
  • To facilitate continued healing you might have started with a PT or doctor. "Massage can open up circulation around a minor injury, like a muscle pull," he says.
  • After trying a new technique, massage can be helpful in clearing up inflammation and decreasing recovery time.

Budget Options:

  • Self-release with foam rollers, tennis balls and other tools. "Rolling helps induce circulation and realign fascia, the Saran wrap around all of your muscles," says Platt.
  • Yin and restorative yoga offer deeper connective-tissue release, in turn affecting trigger points and releasing deeper layers of muscle.

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Courtesy Harlequin

What Does It Take to Make a Safe Outdoor Stage for Dance?

Warmer weather is just around the corner, and with it comes a light at the end of a hibernation tunnel for many dance organizations: a chance to perform again. While social distancing and mask-wearing remain essential to gathering safely, the great outdoors has become an often-preferred performance venue.

But, of course, nature likes to throw its curveballs. What does it take to successfully pull off an alfresco show?

Marisa Grywalski and Alejandro Diaz in Dwight Rhodens "Ave Maria," part of PBT's Open Air Series last fall.

Kelly Perkovich, Courtesy Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre

Keeping dancers safe outside requires the same intentional flooring as you have in the studio—but it also needs to be hearty enough to withstand the weather. With so many factors to consider, two ballet companies consulted with Harlequin Floors to find the perfect floor for their unique circumstances.

Last fall, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre invested in a mobile stage that allowed the dancers to perform live for socially distanced audiences. "But we didn't have an outdoor resilient floor, so we quickly realized that if we had any rain, we were going to be in big trouble—it would have rotted," says artistic director Susan Jaffe.

The company purchased the lightweight, waterproof Harlequin's AeroDeck® sprung floor panels and the heavy-duty Harlequin Cascade™ vinyl, which is manufactured with BioCote® Antimicrobial Protection to help with the prevention of bacteria and mold. After an indoor test run while filming Nutcracker ("It felt exactly like our regular floor," says Jaffe), the company will debut the new setup this May in Pittsburgh's Schenley Park during a two-week series of performances shared with other local arts organizations.

Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre's Open Air Series last fall. The company plans to roll out their new Harlequin AeroDeck® sprung floor panels and Harlequin Cascade™ vinyl floor for more outdoor performances this spring.

Harris Ferris, Courtesy Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre

In addition to the possibility of rain, a range of temperatures also has to be taken into account. When the State Ballet of Rhode Island received a grant from the state to upgrade its 15-year-old stage, executive director Ana Fox chose the Harlequin Cascade vinyl floor in the lighter gray color "so that it would be cooler if it's reflecting sunlight during daytime performances," she says.

However, for the civic ballet company's first performance on its new 24-by-48–foot stage on November 22, heat was less of a concern than the Northeastern cold. Fortunately, Fox says the surface never got icy or too stiff. "It felt warm to the feel," she says. "You could see the dancers didn't hesitate to run or step into arabesque." (The Harlequin Cascade floor is known for providing a good grip.)

"To have a safe floor for dancers not to worry about shin splints or something of that nature, that's everything," she says. "The dancers have to feel secure."

State Ballet of Rhode Island first rolled out their new Harlequin Cascade™ flooring for an outdoor performance last November.

Courtesy of Harlequin

Of course, the elements need to be considered even when dancers aren't actively performing. Although Harlequin's AeroDeck is waterproof, both PBT and SBRI have tarps to cover their stages to keep any water out. SBRI also does damp mopping before performances to get pollen off the surface. Additionally, the company is building a shed to safely store the floor long-term when it's not in use. "Of course, it's heavy, but laying down the floor and putting it away was not an issue at all," says Fox, adding that both were easy to accomplish with a crew of four people.

Since the Harlequin Cascade surface is versatile enough to support a wide range of dance styles—and even opera and theater sets—both PBT and SBRI are partnering with other local arts organizations to put their outdoor stages to use as much as possible. Because audiences are hungry for art right now.

"In September, I made our outdoor performance shorter so we wouldn't have to worry about intermission or bathrooms, but when it was over, they just sat there," says Jaffe, with a laugh. "People were so grateful and so happy to see us perform. We just got an overwhelming response of love and gratitude."

Marisa Grywalski and Alejandro Diaz in Susan Jaffes "Carmina Terra," part of PBT's Open Air Series last fall.

Kelly Perkovich, courtesy Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre

February 2021