It's hour three of an intense rehearsal, you're feeling mentally foggy and exhausted, and your stomach hurts. Did you know the culprit could be something as simple as dehydration?
Proper hydration helps maintain physical and mental function while you're dancing, and keeps your energy levels high. But with so many products on the market promising to help you rehydrate more effectively, how do you know when it's time to reach for more than water?
Today, dancers are cross-training more than ever. And though there are some recommendations about what types of cross-training might be best for dancers' bodies, ultimately it comes down to what works for you.
We asked 13 pros about their go-to cross-training routines as part of our "Spotlight" series—and each one of them has a totally different approach:
We all know that dancers are typically perfectionistic, highly-motivated, driven and capable of enduring physical pain. These same qualities that lead to success can also drive stress that eventually leads to burnout.
But did you know that diet can play a role in taking care of your mental health?
It's a cycle familiar to many: First, a striking image of a lithe, impossibly fit dancer executing a gravity-defying développé catches your eye on Instagram. You pause your scrolling to marvel, over and over again, at her textbook physique.
Inevitably, you take a moment to consider your own body, in comparison. Doubt and negative self-talk first creep, and then flood, in. "I'll never look like that," the voice inside your head whispers. You continue scrolling, but the image has done its dirty work—a gnawing sensation has taken hold, continually reminding you that your own body is inferior, less-than, unworthy.
It's no stretch to say that social media has a huge effect on body image. For dancers—most of whom already have a laser-focus on their appearance—the images they see on Instagram can seem to exacerbate ever-present issues. "Social media is just another trigger," says Nadine Kaslow, a psychologist who works with the dancers of Atlanta Ballet. "And dancers don't need another trigger." In the age of Photoshop and filters, how can dancers keep body dysmorphia at bay?
For busy dancers on the go, it's easy to grab a premade salad on the way to class or scroll through delivery options as rehearsal comes to a close. But bringing homemade meals and snacks to the studio or theater has real payoffs. And making it happen doesn't have to be as difficult as you might think.
Snap, crackle, pop, crack, thunk, click.
Dancer hips can make an impressive variety of noises. Sometime these are painful, sometimes not; sometimes they're intentional, sometimes they just happen when dancing, cross-training or walking.
But what's actually making those noises—and should you be worried about them?
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When it comes to our bodies, dancers have a bad habit of focusing on the negative. We often wish we were taller, or shorter, or stronger, or slimmer.
But as dancers our bodies give us so much, and negative body talk doesn't do anything to help us become better artists.
So we thought it'd be a nice change of pace to instead ask dancers what they love about their bodies:
If you forget about that lasagna you just reheated for even 10 minutes, it may get too cold for your liking. Your body isn't much different. After class, we lose most of our warmth within 15 minutes. So we need to warm up again if we have a longer break before rehearsal or performance. But do we have to repeat an entire class? Not necessarily.
The definition of "warm" in dance goes beyond heat. According to the International Association for Dance Medicine & Science, it's not only an increase in body temperature, but also an increase in the flow of synovial fluid (which helps joints move freely), faster breathing and focused concentration. All these changes get us ready to dance.
Ah, stretching. It seems so simple, and is yet so complicated.
For example: You don't want to overstretch, but you're not going to see results if you don't stretch enough. You want to focus on areas where you're tight, but you also can't neglect other areas or else you'll be imbalanced. You were taught to hold static stretches growing up, but now everyone is telling you never to hold a stretch longer than a few seconds?
Considering how important stretching correctly is for dancers, it's easy to get confused or overwhelmed. So we came up with 10 common stretching scenarios, and gave you the expert low-down.
The Australian Ballet's artistic health team has become a reference worldwide, and not just because they got David Hallberg back onstage after his two-year struggle with injuries. Their results speak for themselves: While foot stress fractures and hip arthroscopies are common elsewhere in the ballet world, The Australian Ballet hasn't had any in over a decade.
Dr. Sue Mayes, the company's principal physiotherapist since 1997 and director of the team, has developed a research-based approach that is now being emulated by other companies. In The Australian Ballet's state-of-the-art Melbourne health and fitness facility, she shared some of her best tips.
Chiara Valle is just one of many dancers heading back to the studio this fall as companies ramp up for the season. But her journey back has been far more difficult than most.
Valle has been a trainee at The Washington Ballet since 2016, starting at the same time as artistic director Julie Kent. But only a few months into her first season there, she started experiencing excruciating pain high up in her femur. "It felt like someone was stabbing me 24/7," she says. Sometimes at night, the pain got so bad that her roommates would bring her dinner to the bathtub.
What does cycling have to do with dancing?
For Purelements: An Evolution in Dance co-founder Kevin Joseph, it's all about freedom: "That freedom of moving through space on a bike is the same freedom I feel when I'm dancing," he says. And that sense of freedom—whether it's in the studio or in the streets—is something that Purelements is determined to give to its East Brooklyn community.
We all know that personal trainers can help dancers condition their bodies more effectively. But trainers who are also dancers themselves? Now that's a uniquely valuable perspective.
Take Kathyrn Boren, an American Ballet Theatre corps member who got certified by the National Academy of Sports Medicine last summer, following in the footsteps of her colleagues Thomas Forster and Roman Zhurbin. Her weekly Conditioning for Dancers classes in New York City are filled with everyone from athletic men to older women (including one ABT donor who's attended every single time). But those who might get the most out of her workouts are the dance students who attend. They walk away with exercises and advice tailored for their particular challenges—coming from someone who knows those challenges intimately.
Boren recently spoke with Dance Magazine to share her best cross-training advice for dancers looking to improve their fitness.
Sometimes after a long day of dancing, it can feel like your entire body could use an ice bath. Delayed onset muscle soreness, or DOMS, is muscle pain that sets in 24 to 72 hours after strenuous exercise, due to the breakdown of muscle fibers. Usually, it happens after trying something brand-new or a movement you haven't done in a while.
But if you're getting DOMS from steps you do often, that's a sign that you should look at how you're fueling your body, says Val Schonberg, a licensed dietitian in Georgia who frequently works with dancers. It might mean your diet is due for a rethink.
Staying hydrated and eating the right mix of nutrients can help you reduce soreness. "Inflammation is a natural way for the body to heal, so we don't want to stop the process," says Schonberg. "But you can eat to deal with inflammatory factors, and to preserve the integrity of your muscles."
By the Sunday evening of a long convention weekend, you can expect to be thoroughly exhausted and a little sore. But you shouldn't leave the hotel ballroom actually hurt. Although conventions can be filled with magical opportunities, the potential for injury is higher than usual.
Keep your body safe: Watch out for these four common hazards.
Perfect turnout may be the Holy Grail of ballet technique: It's that forever elusive treasure we all seek but never seem to find.
No matter how much rotation you currently have, you could likely find more—if you use the right strategies. We dug into the Dance Magazine archives to round up our best tips from master teachers and dance medicine experts to help you reach your maximum turnout potential.
I am a dancer in a successful West End show and a year ago I nearly quit.
My anxiety came suddenly and without warning. We were in the middle of a stressful cast change and tensions were high as everyone wanted to prove their value to the production.
I felt as though someone flipped a switch in my brain. I started to feel pressure about perfecting my performances and suddenly felt unworthy of being there. My mind became consumed with negative images about what I was doing wrong, or what could go wrong.
Along with the rewards of a dance career come numerous sources of stress, from the demands of a busy schedule to challenges in the studio.
"We want to be perfect," says Shuaib Elhassan, a dancer with Alonzo King LINES Ballet, "and we want to reach for the best we can do."
While occasional acute stress—like pre-audition anxiety—is a normal part of life, long-term problems like financial strain, an injury or an abusive work environment can contribute to chronic stress. "When demands exceed coping resources, stress results," says Dr. Jennifer Carter, a sports psychologist at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.
But pre-show routines are also highly individual, and involve artists preparing their heads for performance just as much as their bodies. That could mean anything from listening to a favorite song, bonding with cast members or meditating.
Feeling like your pre-show ritual could use a bit of inspiration? These 12 pros shared their tried-and-true routines with us:
I'd been a professional dancer for five years when I realized the pain I'd been feeling in my hip and down my sciatic nerve was not going away. I had been treating it for two years as we dancers do—with regular visits to my masseuse, physical therapy, baths, ice and lots of Aleve—but I never stopped dancing. It finally dawned on me that if I kept going at the speed I was going (which was, well, speedy), the pain would only get more severe and unrelenting, and I might never dance again.
I told myself I'd take two months off, and all would be better.
That first morning when I woke up at 10 am, I had no idea what to do with myself. My life until that moment had been dictated by class and rehearsal, every hour accounted for. How should I fill the huge swath of time ahead of me?