As the days get colder and your schedule gets more stressful, it's only natural to crave comfort foods. Instead of depriving yourself of the flavors you love, try healthier, more nutrient-dense alternatives. You might find that they are just as satisfying but make you feel better in the studio and onstage.

Pasta

Lentil or bean-flour pastas have a similar taste as traditional versions, but pack a bigger nutritional punch. All have energy-producing carbohydrates, but for the same portion size, lentil and bean-flour pastas have twice the protein and significantly more iron, zinc and fiber. Or, use a spiralizer to make zucchini noodles. Skip the cream sauce in favor of a fresh tomato sauce loaded with veggies and greens.

Cheese

Cashew cheese is a delicious, satisfying alternative for your favorite cheesy comfort foods. Both dairy cheese and cashew cheese have protein and minerals, but cashews have zero cholesterol and more heart-healthy monounsaturated fats instead of saturated fats. You can find different varieties in stores or make your own (see sidebar at right).

Potatoes

Potatoes aren't bad—it's the cream, butter and sugar that we add that's the problem. A medium baked potato has 4 grams of protein, good carbohydrates, fiber, iron, zinc and vitamin C. Sweet potatoes are packed with immune-system–boosting vitamin A. Avoid gooey marshmallow-topped sweet potatoes by roasting them in olive oil and herbs instead, or baking the purple Japanese sweet potato, which doesn't need extra sugar.

Milkshakes

The average milkshake can have as much sugar as 70 jellybeans and more fat than a quarter-stick of butter. Instead of having an ice-cream–based milkshake, indulge in a shake made with raw cacao powder, ice and a plant-based milk, like fortified soy milk (which has the same amount of protein and calcium as cow's milk). Add a spoonful of blended flax- or chia seeds for a sorbet-like consistency and inflammation-lowering omega-3s.

Pancakes

Pancakes can be excellent energy food. Swap refined white flour for a homemade blend of almond flour, oats, flaxseeds, hemp seeds and buckwheat flour. You'll get more protein, iron, omega-3s and fiber.


Josh Reynolds makes potato pancakes to give him energy during long days at the theater. PC Réjean Brandt Photography, Courtesy Royal Winnipeg Ballet.

Potato Pancakes

Royal Winnipeg Ballet soloist Josh Reynolds brings these potato pancakes with him on harder days at the theater.

In a large bowl, mix 2 cups potatoes (mashed), 1/4 minced onion, 1 tsp. minced herbs, 1/4 cup flour, and salt and pepper to taste.

Using a little spray oil on a skillet, drop large spoonfuls of the mixture and brown on each side.

Cashew Cheese

Soak 1 cup cashews for 1 hour or more.

Drain and blend with 2 tbsp. nutritional yeast, 1 tbsp. lemon juice, a pinch of sea salt and enough water to create desired creaminess.

Alternative: You can also grind up almost any raw nuts with nutritional yeast, salt, herbs and garlic for the perfect “parmesan" seasoning.

More recipes can be found in the Nutrition for Great Performances Resource Book by Emily C. Harrison, MS, RD, LD. Find her book and DVDs at dancernutrition.com.

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Brandt in Giselle. Rosalie O'Connor, Courtesy ABT

Skylar Brandt's Taste in Music Is as Delightful as Her Dancing

American Ballet Theatre soloist Skylar Brandt's dancing is clean, precise and streamlined. It's surprising, then, to learn that her taste in music is "all over the place," she says. (Even more surprising is that Brandt, who has an Instagram following of over 80k, is "in the dark ages" when it comes to her music, and was buying individual songs on iTunes up until a year ago, when her family intervened with an Apple Music plan.)

Though what she's listening to at any given time can vary dramatically, the through-line for Brandt is nostalgia: songs that take her back, whether to childhood, a favorite movie or a piece she's recently performed. Brandt told us about her eclectic taste, and made us a playlist that will keep you guessing:

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Ailey II artistic director Troy Powell teaching an Ailey Workshop at NYCDA. Courtesy NYCDA

NYCDA Is Redefining the Convention Scene Through Life-Changing Opportunities

Back in 2011 when Joe Lanteri first approached Katie Langan, chair of Marymount Manhattan College's dance department, about getting involved with New York City Dance Alliance, she was skeptical about the convention/competition world.

"But I was pleasantly surprised by the enormity of talent that was there," she says. "His goal was to start scholarship opportunities, and I said okay, I'm in."

Today, it's fair to say that Lanteri has far surpassed his goal of creating scholarship opportunities. But NYCDA has done so much more, bridging the gap between the convention world and the professional world by forging a wealth of partnerships with dance institutions from Marymount to The Ailey School to Complexions Contemporary Ballet and many more. There's a reason these companies and schools—some of whom otherwise may not see themselves as aligned with the convention/competition world—keep deepening their relationships with NYCDA.

Now, college scholarships are just one of many ways NYCDA has gone beyond the typical weekend-long convention experience and created life-changing opportunities for students. We rounded up some of the most notable ones:

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Courtesy The Joyce

Dance Magazine Chairman's Award Honoree: Linda Shelton

In an industry that has been clamoring for more female leadership, Linda Shelton, executive director of New York City's The Joyce Theater Foundation since 1993, has been setting an example for decades. As a former general manager of The Joffrey Ballet, U.S. tour manager for the Bolshoi Ballet, National Endowment for the Arts panelist, Dance/NYC board member and Benois de la Danse judge, as well as a current Dance/USA board member, Shelton has served as a global leader in dance. In her tenure at The Joyce, she has not only increased the venue's commissioned programming, but also started presenting beyond The Joyce's walls in locations such as Lincoln Center.

What brought you to The Joyce?

That was many years ago, but it's still the same today: It's a belief in and passion for the mission of the theater, which is to support dance in all of its forms and varieties—every kind of dance that you could imagine.

Diversity is so important in dance leadership today. How do you approach this at The Joyce?

Darren Walker said something interesting at a Dance/NYC Symposium, which was that The Joyce is a disruptor. It was nice to hear in that context, because we don't think of it as something new. We didn't have to change our mission statement to be more diverse. We've been doing this since day one.

Is drawing in new audiences and maintaining longtime supporters ever in conflict?

Of course. I call it the blessing and the curse of our mission. We do present more experimental companies that may attract a younger audience. But it's very tricky. You're not going to tell your long-term audience, "Don't come and see this because you're not going to like the music." We've had people walk out of the theater before, but it's a response. It's important to spark those conversations.

What experimenting have you done?

We've tried a "pay what you decide" ticket the past couple of seasons with some of our more adventurous programming. You would reserve your seat for a dollar and after seeing the show pay what you decide is right for you.

Do you have advice for other dance presenters?

Find opportunities to sit with colleagues from around the country. At Dance/USA there's a presenters' council where we come together and talk about what we're putting in our seasons and what we're passionate about. Maybe there are enough presenters to collaborate and make it possible to bring a company to New York or to do a tour around the country.

Also, remember what it's all about: making that connection between what's onstage and the audience. If we can do that, despite every visa issue and missed flight and injury and changed program and whatever else comes our way, then we should feel good about the job we're doing.

To purchase tickets to the Dance Magazine Awards or become a sponsor, visit dancemediafoundation.org.

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