A Dietitian Weighs In On Three Dancers' Rehearsal-Day Diets
Finding the right balance of meals and snacks to get through a dancer's day can take a lot of trial and error. To give you ideas, Dance Magazine asked three professional dancers to share the meals that kept them moving throughout one rehearsal day this season. Registered dietitian Emily Cook Harrison, who runs Nutrition for Great Performances, weighed in with her advice on how they could optimize their fuel even further.
Jacqueline Callahan, Pennsylvania Ballet
Jacqueline Callahan prefers to snack during her hourly rehearsal breaks. Photo by Arian Molina Soca, courtesy Pennsylvania Ballet.
- green tea
- two runny eggs
- •smoothie with spinach, protein powder, cashews, banana and almond milk
"I like a high-protein breakfast. I want to go into class with the energy to really push myself."
Ballet class: 9:30–11 am
Rehearsal: 11 am–2 pm and 3–6 pm
- apple and banana
- Greek yogurt
- "Supreme Green" juice from Sip-N-Glo, a local juicery
- a bottle of water each hour
- Clif Bar
- nuts (pistachios, almonds)
"I don't like to eat a full meal in the middle of the day. Instead, I snack during our hourly five-minute rehearsal breaks, so I'm always prepared for what's next."
- chickpea pasta with red sauce, tomatoes, squash, zucchini and other vegetables
- tea before bed
"I eat a pretty big dinner, because I eat so lightly during the day. I've been a vegetarian (eating a little fish) for a couple years. I used to have bad eczema, and I heard that switching my diet would help; I haven't had any flare-ups since cutting out meat. I'm always careful to get enough protein, which is why I like chickpea pasta."
"I love Jacqueline's dinner. Chickpea and bean-flour pastas are full of key nutrients like protein, iron and zinc. Bonus points for so many veggies in the pasta! Being a vegetarian, Jacqueline is clearly working hard to get protein and a variety of food throughout the day.
"I would suggest adding another carbohydrate at breakfast, because carbs are the body's preferred source of energy—especially for what dancers do. Research shows that eating carbohydrates pre-exercise can actually help maintain or even build muscle.
"I would also recommend adding even a small lunch, in addition to the array of healthy snacks. Six hours of rehearsal can really drain the body's energy stores."
Quincy Ellis, Pilobolus
Quincy Ellis (lifted) with Jacob Michael Warren in Gnomen. Photo by Hibbard Nash Photography, courtesy Pilobolus
Workout with light weights
- black beans with onion and garlic
- roasted broccoli
- roasted chicken
- green apple
"My breakfasts usually include eggs, but right now I'm rehearsing in Connecticut, so I prepped food at home in New York that I wouldn't need to cook here. I do like to have chicken in the morning, to get protein early in the day."
Rehearsal: 9 am–2 pm
- roasted vegetables (squash, bell pepper, onion)
- tortilla chips
- roasted chicken
- roasted vegetables
Rehearsal: 3–5 pm
- hummus and pita
- gnocchi with vodka sauce, peas and mushrooms
- table bread
- white wine (2 glasses)
"The company went out to dinner at a local Italian restaurant. There was a time that I would have felt guilty for going off my diet, but I've learned that it isn't mentally healthy for me to be so strict. I don't like to think of certain foods as 'bad.' Also, working with Pilobolus is so athletic—there's so much partnering involved. I know from experience what will make me feel better and what won't, and I'll make choices knowing what the consequences might be."
"I agree with Quincy that he shouldn't feel guilty for going out occasionally. Dancers expend so much energy, and they deserve to enjoy a night out. This dinner with healthy carbohydrates could be good for replenishing his glycogen for the next day.
"Quincy is getting plenty of protein, and doing a great job with fruits and vegetables, which will help with muscle recovery. I might suggest adding a carbohydrate source in the morning. If that would make him feel too full, he could cut down on his chicken portion, and replace that with a carbohydrate serving like oats, sweet potatoes or whole-grain natural bread."
Patricia Zhou, L.A. Dance Project
Patricia Zhou saves her biggest meal for dinner. Photo by Jacob Jonas, Courtesy L.A. Dance Project
- plain yogurt
- paleo granola
- black coffee
"I usually make Bircher muesli using plain whole-fat yogurt, shredded apple, oats, raisins and a touch of cinnamon. I'll make a big batch that lasts through the week. But this morning I ran out, so I just had plain yogurt. For the granola, I like to avoid added refined sugars, and picking paleo-friendly foods is a good way to do that."
Class and rehearsal: 10 am–2:15 pm
"If I'm really peckish, I'll snack on nuts or popcorn in addition to the banana. As for water, we have a five-minute break every hour, and I try to drink a bottle each time."
- farro with homemade mango salsa (mango, corn, cilantro, onion, lime)
- half an avocado
Rehearsal: 3:15–6:15 pm
Yoga class: 7:30–9 pm
- butternut squash noodles with curly kale, feta cheese and two fried eggs
- Four Sigmatic mushroom hot cacao with reishi, at bedtime
"I save my biggest meal for dinner, and tend to have my main protein at night. I cook simply: I use olive oil or butter, and season with salt, pepper and crushed pepper flakes. The reishi mushrooms in the hot chocolate are supposed to help with calming down for a better sleep."
"Granola, yogurt and fruit can be a good start to a dancer's day. In general, I suggest choosing a granola or muesli that has a carbohydrate source (like oats), rather than just nuts and seeds. This may not be the case for Patricia, but sometimes paleo products can contribute to dancers' unfounded fears of carbohydrates. We have decades of research that demonstrates the performance-enhancing effects of whole grains, starchy vegetables and carbohydrates from fruit. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends that at least 55 percent of total calories come from carbohydrates. So enjoy those oats and fruit!
"Overall, Patricia's meals are great, but I would suggest a wider variety of snacks. Dancers need adequate fuel to preserve muscle mass, prevent injury and help the brain remember choreography. A banana is a nice choice—potassium, vitamin C and phytonutrients are good for muscle recovery and soreness prevention—but she might benefit from having more than almonds before yoga. Maybe a half-sandwich of almond butter on millet/spelt bread?
"I am a big fan of all of the Four Sigmatic mushroom elixirs. The reishi one is good for calming the nervous system at night, and the ones that contain cordyceps mushrooms are good for an energy boost during the day."
The connections dancers make in college are no joke. For recent alum Gabrielle Hamilton, working with guest choreographer John Heginbotham at Point Park University put her on the fast track to Broadway—not in an ensemble role, but as the lead dancer in one of this season's hottest tickets: Daniel Fish's arresting reboot of Oklahoma!
We caught up with Hamilton about starring in the show's dream ballet and her delightfully bizarre pre-show ritual.
The way we create and consume dance is changing every day. Now more than ever, the field demands that dancers not only be able to perform at the highest level, but also collaborate with choreographers to bring their artistic visions to life. Dancers who miss out on choreographic training may very well find themselves at a disadvantage as they try to launch their careers.
Last Friday, through an appeal to an independent arbitrator, the American Guild of Musical Artists successfully reinstated NYCB principals Amar Ramasar and Zachary Catazaro, previously fired for allegedly circulating sexually explicit texts containing nude photos.
AGMA opposed Ramasar and Catazaro's terminations in order to prevent the setting of a dangerous precedent that would allow dancers to be fired under less understandable consequences. But we cannot allow future cases to dictate the way we handle this situation—particularly a union committed to "doing everything in [its] power to ensure you have a respectful environment in which to work."
But according to the H+ | The Hip-Hop Dance Conservatory, one in every three dancers in New York City lives under the poverty line, and may lack the resources to purchase the ingredients they need to make nutritious meals.
Not to mention the fact that dancers are busy, and often running around from class to rehearsal to performance to side hustle, grabbing whatever they can get to eat on-the-go.
It's not often that a promising choreographer gets to stage work in a world-class theater, on a skillfully-curated program with professional dancers, and with the possibility of winning a substantial cash prize. But at the McCallum Theatre's Palm Desert Choreography Festival, that's been the status quo for over twenty years.
Since Shea New, the festival's artistic director, founded the festival in 1998, she's worked tirelessly with McCallum's director of education and festival producer, Kajsa Thuresson-Frary, and stage manager and festival production manager Joanna Fookes to build a festival that nurtures choreographers, highlights high quality work, powerfully engages the local community and cultivates an audience base for dance in the Coachella Valley. The trio is backed by a strong team of professionals at McCallum and the brilliant volunteers from the local and national level who serve as adjudicators.
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I have a commitment, a romance, a love affair with dance, with the feeling that happens when the music and the steps so perfectly align and I can't help but get chills. That feeling when my partner and I are dancing as one, when everyone onstage feels the same heartbeat, when it's just me alone in my bedroom.
You can see them in "Fosse/Verdon" episode one. Michelle Williams, playing Gwen Verdon, wears them with a cool, retro, forest-green jumpsuit. Tucked beneath a mop top of tousled Gwen Verdon locks, Williams sports a pair of discreet and tasteful onyx drop-earrings—the dancer's favorites. Verdon wore them all her adult life, according to her daughter Nicole Fosse, a co-executive producer of the FX series that puts a spotlight on a great woman of American dance.
"I have very little memory of my mother wearing other earrings. They were her Gwen Verdon earrings," says Fosse, speaking by phone from her home in Vermont. "She's wearing them in 99 percent of the pictures of her performing."
Four years of lectures, exams and classes can feel like a lifetime for college dancers who have their sights set on performing. So when a professional opportunity comes knocking, it can be tempting to step away from your academics. But there are a few things to consider before putting your education on hold.
We've all been there: You see the craziest/most beautiful/oddest/wildest clip of a dance on Facebook and you simply have to see more.
But do you actually get yourself to the theater and sit through a 90-minute performance? The consensus, at this point, typically seems to be: No.
There is no clear correlation between a company's social media campaigns and how many seats they fill in the theater. That doesn't mean social media isn't, of course, vital. It simply means that "social media campaigns operating without other marketing campaigns don't cut it," says Rob Bailis, associate director of Cal Performances at UC Berkeley. "But campaigns without social media are far worse off."
Since the project was first announced toward the end of 2017, we've been extremely curious about Yuli. The film, based on Carlos Acosta's memoir No Way Home, promised as much dancing as biography, with Acosta appearing as himself and dance sequences featuring his eponymous Cuba-based company Acosta Danza. Add in filmmaking power couple Icíar Bollaín (director) and Paul Laverty (screenwriter), and you have a recipe for a dance film unlike anything else we've seen recently.
One of the country's top arbitrators has decided to reinstate Amar Ramasar and Zachary Catazaro to New York City Ballet. The former principals were fired last fall for "inappropriate communications," namely graphic text messages.
The dancers' union, American Guild of Musical Artists, fought the termination, arguing that the firings were unjust since they related entirely to non-work activity. After a careful review of the facts, an independent arbitrator determined that while the company was justified in disciplining the two men, suspension was the appropriate action and termination took it too far.
A woman passes three men in the street. The men pursue her. They thrust their pelvises at her. They continue to pursue her after she slaps one's hand and walks away. They surround her. She glances around at them in alarm. One snatches her purse (to review the Freudian significance of purses, click here) and saunters off with it, mocking her. She tries to take the purse back, and the three men toss it over her head among each other. They make her dance with them. Each time she indicates "No," the men try harder to force her submission to their advances.
This is all within the first 10 minutes of Jerome Robbins's Fancy Free, a 1944 ballet about three sailors frolicking on shore leave during World War II, beloved by many and still regularly performed (especially during the last year, since 2018 was the centennial celebration of Robbins's birth). Critic Edwin Denby, after the premiere with Ballet Theatre, called it "a remarkable comedy piece" and "a direct, manly piece."
When you're bouncing between hotel rooms without access to a kitchen, eating a pescatarian diet can be challenging. Stephanie Mincone, who most recently traveled the globe with Taylor Swift's Reputation Stadium Tour, told Dance Magazine how she does it—while fueling herself with enough energy to perform for thousands of Taylor fans.
The entrancing power of Instagram can't be denied. I've lost hours of my life scrolling the platform looking at other people documenting theirs. What starts as a "quick" fill-the-moment check-in can easily lead to a good 10-15 minute session, especially if I enter the nebulous realm of "suggested videos."
My algorithm usually shows me professional ballet dancers in performances, rehearsals, class, backstage and on tour, which I quite enjoy. But there are the other dance feeds that I find myself simultaneously intrigued and horrified by: the hyper-elastic, hyper-extended, gumby-footed girls always at the barre doing developpés to six o'clock. There are the multiple turners, the avid stretchers and we can't forget the endless balancers.
This parade of tricksters always makes me wonder, What else can they do? Can they actually dance?
The pleasure of watching prodigies perform technical feats on Instagram can be tinged with a sense of trepidation. Impressive tricks, you think, but do they have what it takes for an actual career?
Just look at 18-year-old Maria Khoreva, who has more followers than most seasoned principals; in videos, her lines and attention to detail suggested a precocious talent, and led to a Nike ambassador contract before she even graduated from the Vaganova Ballet Academy. Still, when she joined the Mariinsky Ballet last summer, there was no guarantee any of it would translate to stage prowess.
What's next for the dance world? Our annual list of the dancers, choreographers and companies that are on the verge of skyrocketing has a pretty excellent track record of answering that question.
Here they are: the 25 up-and-coming artists we believe represent the future of our field.
Choosing music for your first-ever choreography commission can feel daunting enough. But when you're asked to create a ballet using the vast discography of the Rolling Stones—and you happen to be dating Stones frontman Mick Jagger—the stakes are even higher.
So it's understandable that as of Monday, American Ballet Theatre corps de ballet dancer Melanie Hamrick, whose Port Rouge will have its U.S. premiere tonight at the Youth America Grand Prix gala, was still torn about which songs to include.
What is an acceptable request from a choreographer in terms of nudity? On the first day of shooting All That Jazz in the 1970s, Bob Fosse asked us men to remove everything but our jock straps and the women to remove their tops. His rationale was to shock us in order to build character, and it felt disloyal to refuse. Would this behavior be considered okay today?
As much as audiences might flock to Swan Lake or The Nutcracker, ballet can't only rely on old war horses if it wants to remain relevant. But building new full-lengths from scratch isn't exactly cheap.
So where can companies find the money?
Today—April 16, 2019—marks what would have been Merce Cunningham's 100th birthday. As dancers from Los Angeles to New York City to London gear up for Night of 100 Solos (the marathon performance event being livestreamed today), and as companies and presenters worldwide continue to celebrate the Cunningham Centennial through their programming, we searched through the Dance Magazine Archives to unearth our favorite images of the groundbreaking dancemaker.
A bright disposition with a dab of astringent charm is how I remember Brock Hayhoe, a National Ballet School of Canada schoolmate. Because we were a couple years apart, we barely brushed shoulders, except at the odd Toronto dance party where we could dance all night with mutual friends letting our inhibitions subside through the music. Dancing always allows a deeper look.
But, as my late great ballet teacher Pyotr Pestov told me when I interviewed him for Dance Magazine in 2009, "You never know what a flower is going to look like until it opens up."
One night. Three cities. Seventy-five dancers. And three unique sets of 100 solos, all choreographed by Merce Cunningham.
This incredible evening of dance will honor Cunningham's 100th birthday on April 16. The Merce Cunningham Trust has teamed up with The Barbican in London, the Brooklyn Academy of Music in New York City and the Center for the Art of Performance in Los Angeles for a tri-city celebration.
The best part? You don't have to be in those cities to watch—Night of 100 Solos is being live-streamed in its entirety for free.