Noelani Pantastico making avocado toast

Lindsay Thomas

What Your Favorite Dancers Eat for "The Most Important" Meal of the Day

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?


Hubbard Street's Kevin J. Shannon and Craig D. Black Jr.

Kevin J. Shannon and Craig D. Black Jr. chop beets and onions on a kitchen table filled with vegetables and mixing bowls.

Greg Birman

The Chicago couple starts their day either with an egg and cheese on an English muffin, or whole-grain cereal plus a smoothie, sometimes packed with veggies from their backyard garden. "Craig puts kale in without telling me!" says Shannon.

The Royal Ballet's Beatriz Stix-Brunell

Beatriz Stix-Brunell in a bright purple dress lies on her stomach, legs stretched out to either side, with her torso squeezing through a miniature door frame.

Stix-Brunell in Christopher Wheeldon's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

Johan Persson, Courtesy Royal Opera House

Though she's originally from New York, Beatriz Stix-Brunell has adopted a very British diet since moving to London. On her way to the opera house in the morning, she'll stop off at a coffee shop for two bags of chai tea in steaming soy milk and a large bowl of porridge.

Pilobolus dancer Quincy Ellis

To prepare for intense days of lifting dancers in shape-shifting formations, Quincy Ellis likes to start his day with an unusual breakfast choice: Chicken. "I like to have chicken in the morning to get protein early in the day," he explains. After a light morning workout, his breakfast often looks more like your typical lunch or dinner: In addition to chicken, he might have black beans with onion and garlic, and roasted broccoli, plus an apple, coffee and water. And probably some eggs, too.

Taylor Swift dancer Stephanie Mincone

Stephanie Mincone in an Asian supermarket grins directly at the camera with her arms full of snacks.

Courtesy Bloc Talent Agency

When she's on the road during a Taylor Swift tour, Stephanie Mincone, a pescatarian, makes sure to give herself enough energy so that she never feels sluggish onstage. Breakfast might be avocado toast, scrambled eggs or dairy-free yogurt with granola and berries.

Broadway dancer Kamille Upshaw

For Kamille Upshaw, nutrition and satisfaction go hand in hand. At home, she likes waking up to a bowl of oatmeal with raspberries and blueberries, sweetened with agave. She'll also have two scrambled eggs and bacon to make sure she gets enough protein. (Her fridge is always stocked with eggs for breakfast or a hard-boiled snack anytime.)

Trisha Brown Dance Company's Leah Ives

Leah Ives lunges foward with Marc Crousillat at her feet, his leg reaching up in between hers.

Leah Ives with Marc Crousillat

Stephanie Berger, Courtesy TBDC

Leah Ives, a member of the Trisha Brown Dance Company, eats a lot of eggs—it's her go-to form of fuel. "I look for eggs that are omega-enhanced, cage-free and from a small farm, preferably," she says. Her favorite dish to use them in? Strata. Here's her recipe:

Ingredients

  • 12 eggs
  • 2 cups milk
  • salt and pepper (to taste)
  • basil and other herbs (to taste)
  • dried-out bread, torn in pieces (enough to line the bottom of the pan)
  • precooked chicken breast, torn in pieces
  • feta cheese, in chunks
  • cherry tomatoes, halved
  • spinach, sautéed

Directions

  1. Spray the bottom of a 9"x13" baking dish with cooking spray, then line the bottom with the bread.
  2. In a separate container, beat the eggs and milk, adding salt, pepper, basil and other herbs (or Dijon mustard) to your liking.
  3. Evenly place the feta, tomatoes, spinach and chicken on top of the bread.
  4. Pour the egg mixture over the fillings and bread. Some pieces might float up—push them down.
  5. Cover with Saran wrap and leave in the fridge overnight.
  6. In the morning, bake at 350° F for 45 minutes or until set.

Mark Morris Dance Group's Lauren Grant

Lauren Grant stands in second position relev\u00e9 downstage left in front of a row of dancers lying on the floor in a diagonal behind her.

Lauren Grant in Mark Morris's Gloria

Stephanie Berger, Courtesy MMDG

Show days start in the kitchen for Lauren Grant. Specifically, with steel-cut oats to give her sustained energy all morning long. "The night before, I'll boil the oats, then turn the heat off and let everything steep overnight," she says. "In the morning, I'll reheat them and add coconut oil, bananas, cinnamon and high-quality cultured butter or grass-fed whole milk."

Pacific Northwest Ballet star Noelani Pantastico

Noelani Pantastico sitting at a wooden counter at home with a fork poking into a container of cut-up papaya, with a cup of coffee in front of her and a propped-up iPad

Lindsay Thomas

Longtime principal Noelani Pantastico needs to eat breakfast every single day. "Or else by class I feel loopy," she says. She loves having fruit like bananas, mangoes and Hawaiian papayas, if she can find them. She also typically works in something starchy, like toast or oatmeal. Other times she'll go on a yogurt or smoothie kick. "I just listen to what my body wants."

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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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"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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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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