What Dancers Eat

Redefine Your #RelationshipGoals With Your Body & Your Plate

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

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 Outdated ideas of an "ideal" body type promote pressure to achieve unrealistic perfection in an imperfect art form.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.

Show Comments ()
News
New York City Ballet dancers will be led by the interim leadership team for at least several more months. Here, the company in Justin Peck's The Times Are Racing. Photo by Paul Kolnik, Courtesy NYCB.

Since December an interim artistic leadership team has been guiding New York City Ballet, and in January, Peter Martins officially resigned. But only now has the search for Martins' permanent replacement begun. Here's what we know about how the process will unfold.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance As Activism
Rebecca Warthen teaching at a public school in Dominica. Photo courtesy Peace Corps

Rebecca Warthen was on a year-long assignment with the Peace Corps in Dominica last fall when a storm started brewing. A former dancer with North Carolina Dance Theatre (now Charlotte Ballet) and Columbia City Ballet, she'd been sent to the Caribbean island nation to teach ballet at the Dominica Institute of the Arts and in outreach classes at public schools.

But nine and a half months into her assignment, a tropical storm grew into what would become Hurricane Maria—the worst national disaster in Dominica's history.

Keep reading... Show less
News
The inimitable Alicia Alonso, now 97, remains at the helm of Ballet Nacional de Cuba. Photo by Leysis Quesada, Courtesy BNC

On the occasion of its 70th anniversary, the Ballet Nacional de Cuba tours the U.S. this spring with the resolute Cuban prima ballerina assoluta Alicia Alonso a the helm. Named a National Hero of Labor in Cuba, Alonso, 97, has weathered strained international relations and devastating fiscal challenges to have BNC emerge as a world-class dance company. Her dancers are some of ballet's best. On offer this time are Alonso's Giselle and Don Quixote. The profoundly Cuban company performs in Chicago May 18–20, Tampa May 23, Washington, D.C., May 29–June 3 and Saratoga, New York June 6–8.

Health & Body
The baby swan can help strengthen your serratus anterior. Modeled by Marimba Gold-Watts, photographed by Jayme Thornton

Ever wonder why some dancers' port de bras appears to be disconnected from their body? It typically comes down to how they stabilize their shoulder blades, says Marimba Gold-Watts, Pilates instructor to dancers like Robert Fairchild.

"Dancers often hear the cue to pull down on their latissimus,"—the biggest muscle in the back—"which doesn't allow the shoulder blades to lie flat," she says. "It makes the bottom tips of the shoulder blades wing, or flare out, off the rib cage."

Keep reading... Show less
In The Studio
Choreographer Sidra Bell, Photo courtesy David Flores Productions

Sidra Bell is one of those choreographers whose movement dancers are drawn to. Exploring the juxtaposition of fierce athleticism and pure honesty in something as simple as stillness, her work brings her dancers to the depths of their abilities and the audience to the edge of their seats.

We stepped into the studio with Sidra Bell Dance New York as they prepare for their upcoming season at New York Live Arts.

Keep reading... Show less
Rant & Rave
Jessica Lang's Her Notes, one of ABT's few recent commissions from women. Photo by Rosalie O'Connor

A few weeks ago, American Ballet Theatre announced the A.B.T. Women's Movement, a new program that will support three women choreographers per season, one of whom will make work on the main company.

"The ABT Women's Movement takes inspiration from the groundbreaking female choreographers who have left a lasting impact on ABT's legacy, including Agnes de Mille and Twyla Tharp," said artistic director Kevin McKenzie in a press release.

Hypothetically, this is a great idea. We're all for more ballet commissions for women. But the way ABT has promoted the initiative is problematic.

Keep reading... Show less
Dancers Trending
Cloud in Beth Gill's Catacomb. Photo by Brian Rogers, Courtesy Gill

Some dancers move to New York City with their sights set on a dream job: that one choreographer or company they have to dance for. But when Maggie Cloud graduated from Florida State University in 2010, she envisioned herself on a less straightforward path.

"I always had in mind that I would be dancing for different people," she says. "I knew I had some kind of range that I wanted to tap into."

Keep reading... Show less
What Wendy's Watching
PC Paul Kolnik

New York City Ballet is celebrating the Jerome Robbins Centennial with twenty (20!) ballets. The great American choreographer died in 1998, so very few of today's dancers have actually worked with him. There are plenty of stories about how demanding (at times brutally so) he could be in rehearsal. But Peter Boal has written about Robbins in a more balanced, loving way. In this post he writes about how Robbins' crystal clear imagery helped him approach a role with clarity and purpose.


Keep reading... Show less
Career Advice
92Y Harkness Dance Center is hosting the first festival dedicated to dance films captured on mobile devices. Photo by Adam Grannick, Courtesy 92Y

Who says you need fancy equipment to make a festival-worthy dance film? Right now, two New York City–based dance film festivals are calling for aspiring filmmakers to show their stuff—and you don't need anything more cumbersome than a smartphone to get in on the action.

Here's everything you need to know about how to submit:

Keep reading... Show less
Dancers Trending
Lisset Santander is adding more contemporary works to her repertoire. Here with Jarrett Reimers in Christopher Wheeldon's Fools Paradise. Photo by Jennifer Zmuda, Courtesy BalletMet.

When Lisset Santander bourréed onstage as Myrtha in BalletMet's Giselle this past February, her consummate portrayal of the Queen of the Wilis was marked by steely grace and litheness. The former Cuban National Ballet dancer had defected to the U.S. at 21, and after two years with the Ohio company, she's now closer to the dance career she says she always wanted: one of limitless possibilities.

Keep reading... Show less

Sponsored

Viral Videos

Sponsored

mailbox

Get Dance Magazine in your inbox

Sponsored

Giveaways