How would you rate your relationship with food? Photo by Peter Secan/Unsplash

Redefine Your #RelationshipGoals With Your Body & Your Plate

Trendy media outlets boast that "fit" is the new "skinny." Instagram bloggers encourage us to #eatclean. As our feeds populate with matcha-filled mornings and the deep hues of acai bowls, awareness of "healthy eating" seems to be at an all-time high.

Yet my experience as a registered dietitian in the dance industry shows me otherwise.


As a clinician, I've more recently found myself counseling less about "healthy eating" and more about how to fix broken relationships with body image and food. As a dancer, I get it.

Dancers continue to struggle with self-inflicted burdens surrounding their diet. Outdated ideas of an "ideal" body type promote pressure to achieve unrealistic perfection in an imperfect art form. We're burned out.

How do we find balance? Aside from day-to-day training, increased physical demands during peak times (think audition season and summer intensives) require dancers to adequately fuel their bodies. Here's the deal: The problem doesn't solely involve what we eat. Rather, it's buried in the confusion of how we should eat on a day-to-day basis.

Here are four ways to build a healthier relationship with food:

Maintain an Active Metabolism

Healthy Eating Keep your metabolism revved by eating frequently. Photo by Brooke Lark/Unsplash

Our body's metabolic flame is meant to continuously burn, providing us with the energy needed to perform at our best. The most effective way to maintain this revved metabolism is simply to provide it with functional (and delicious) foods regularly. Minimally processed, high-fiber meals and snacks should be eaten every two to three hours. Stretching the time between meals will cause this metabolic flame to dim, resulting in that worn-out feeling around 5 pm.

Focus on Foods to Include, Rather Than Foods to Avoid

Healthy Eating Focus each meal on getting protein, carbs and fat. Photo by Julien Sister/Stocksnap

Providing your body with all three macronutrients (complex carbohydrates, lean proteins and healthy fats) at multiple times throughout your day is essential. Don't be scared of carbs—they fuel your movement. Healthy fats like chia seeds, ground flax seeds, nuts and avocados heal your body and reduce the stress from your active lifestyle.

But Don't be Scared of All Packaged Foods

Healthy Eating The first place to look on any packaged food is the ingredient list. Photo by Lluis Domingo/Unsplash

As dancers, we're busy! Prepping smoothie bowls is not always realistic. Luckily, many food companies are now playing a role in combining trusted quality with convenience. "Healthy" food is out there, as supermarket shelves are lined with packages shouting claims like "high fiber," "gluten-free" and "low fat." Just read ingredient lists before front-of-the-box claims and even before the nutrition facts label. Ask yourself: Where is the fiber coming from? Choose foods high in wholesome ingredients like whole grains—quinoa, barley, oats, amaranth, to name a few. Is the sugar natural sugar from fruit or added sugar from refined sources (think malt and syrup)? These don't have to be eliminated, but should be monitored throughout your day. What are the sources of protein and fat? Look for nourishing additions like nuts, eggs and beans.

Admit to Your Love of Food

Healthy Eating Allow yourself to enjoy what you love! Photo by Igor Ovsyannykov/Unsplash

Food is culture. Food is fun. Food is social. Food is life. Don't fight cravings—embrace them! Whether you crave sweets, salty snacks or both, accept it and let yourself enjoy. This doesn't mean that we should create unnecessary temptations. Rather, decide on what you love and allow yourself to enjoy the best versions of these foods in moderation rather than restrict them. This attitude will help you balance indulgences without going overboard.

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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