I Resolve To...
It’s in a dancer’s nature to constantly strive to be better, to grow stronger, to get healthier. So choosing a New Year’s resolution is usually the easy part; harder is putting it into action—and staying consistent about it. The surest road to success is to have more than one strategy. We asked a variety of experts for their advice, because there’s no one right way to make your resolution a reality.
Alison Deleget, MS, ATC, clinical specialist at the Harkness Center for Dance Injuries in New York City
Nadine Kaslow, PhD, past president of the American Psychological Association, psychologist for Atlanta Ballet
Randy Skinner, Broadway director, choreographer and master teacher
Heidi Skolnik, MS, CDN, FACSM, sports nutrition consultant for the School of American Ballet
Katie Lemmon, certified athletic trainer at Athletico Physical Therapy in Chicago
Get More “Toned”
Lemmon: “Try varying the amount, intensity or weight of strength-training exercises so the body is always challenged. One exercise I like for dancers is the airplane, which works the glutes and legs: Start in a parallel passé, bend the standing leg and extend the working leg into an arabesque, then return to passé. You can also extend the arms out to the sides for some shoulder stability and arm work.”
Deleget: “To look toned without bulking up, strength-train with more repetitions but fewer sets. For example, a weight lifter might do seven sets of four reps using a heavy weight, but dancers should do two to three sets of 15 reps with a lighter weight.”
Photo by Nathan Sayers
Tackle My Audition Anxiety
Kaslow: “The best way to master something you’re afraid of is to do it—not to avoid it. Do practice auditions with your teachers. Have other dancers watch and critique you. The more audition-like experiences you have, the easier they’ll get.”
Skinner: “Wake up early enough to do a really good warm-up: If you avoid rushing, you won’t feel discombobulated.”
Deleget: “To calm the anxiety buzz, close your eyes and take 5- to 10-second breaths in through the nose and out through the mouth for two to three minutes. Repeat a positive mantra to yourself, such as, ‘I will be the best I can be and let myself shine.’ ”
Skolnik: “If you’re hungry, you’re going to feel more anxious. But you don’t want to feel weighed down or bloated, either. Pack small, easy to digest snacks like apple sauce, a banana, trail mix or Cheerios. Another great option is a peanut butter and jelly sandwich cut in quarters so that you can eat one quarter at a time throughout a long audition day, which will give you stable energy.”
Photo by Nathan Sayers
Get Higher Jumps
Lemmon: “Studies have shown that dynamic, moving warm-ups instead of static stretches before a performance will improve jump height. I’d recommend a walking lunge in various directions—side to side and back to front—for the length of the studio. Another easy one is standing leg swings, so you’re working through a range of motion at the same time. An entire dynamic warm-up should last between 5 and 10 minutes, doing each exercise for roughly 30 seconds.”
Deleget: “Try a plyometric training program. Harkness offers a progressive six-week program that takes dancers through basic jump training, moving from pedestrian, stable jumps to dance-specific exercises designed to strengthen leg muscles, and improve stamina and explosiveness. For example, they start with two-leg, parallel tuck jumps, then progress to parallel pas de chats, then to turned-out pas de chats. Each exercise is done for 30 seconds, three times per week for two weeks, before progressing to the next version. Dancers have to be strong to undertake this training; it’s important they do it with an athletic trainer.”
Improve My Stamina
Lemmon: “Add cardiovascular exercise, like swimming or the elliptical trainer, for 20 to 40 minutes, three days per week. And although it’s hard to get cardiovascular training during most dance classes, it could help to repeat a few jumping combinations after class. Generally, it takes six to eight weeks to notice results.”
Deleget: “Try interval training, which improves your aerobic and anaerobic capacity at the same time. You’ll want a one-to-one ratio of high-intensity and low-intensity activities—two minutes on the elliptical followed by two minutes of Pilates exercises, for example, for 15 to 20 minutes, three to four times per week. Add this in when you’re in a cross-training time of the year—not during performance season.”
Skolnik: “Carbohydrates are an especially good power source, since muscles use them for energy. That doesn’t necessarily mean loading up on pasta and bread. Go for fruits, vegetables, beans, sweet potatoes, yogurt and milk, which all have carbohydrates.”
Become More Fearless Onstage
Skinner: “Take a moment in each class to do something a little bigger than you normally would. Take up more space or take an extra risk. Kick yourself into performance mode. Imagine you’re in front of an audience, and you’ll be better prepared when you actually are.”
Deleget: “Before curtain, visualize yourself completing the show successfully.”
Kaslow: “The more you can be yourself, the more fearless you can be. You’re not going to be perfect—nobody ever is. Strive to be excellent.”
Ask for the Roles I Want
Kaslow: “Don’t catch your director off guard. Schedule a specific time to talk. During your conversation, make just a couple points about your strengths as a dancer and your commitment to working hard, and never put anybody else down. Also, make it clear that you understand that they’ll make the choice they think is best for the company. And be sure to handle it maturely if you don’t get the part. If not, you’ll be less likely to get roles in the future.”
Skinner: “If you don’t ask, you run the risk that people won’t know what you’re thinking. The same thing is true if you’re interested in being a dance captain or assistant. It never hurts to write a nice note to express your interest in a way that’s not pushy or aggressive. The written word will feel less confrontational.”
Have More Energy
Skolnik: “If you feel chronically lackluster, see a doctor to check whether you have an iron deficiency or anemia. You may also be under- or overeating, which a nutritionist can help with. Be careful of drinking caffeine in the afternoon, since it can interfere with sleep. And avoid energy drinks—the mixed stimulants can affect your nerves, blood pressure and heart rate. When you have a coffee, you tend to sip it over time, but with energy drinks you tend to gulp quickly, so it’s a big shock to your system.”
Skinner: “Think about how you’re managing stress. People often think that being busy keeps your energy up, but pacing yourself carefully and having moments of calm are how you truly reenergize.”
Lemmon: “Give yourself a full day off during long rehearsal weeks. If you have proper recovery, your muscles can regenerate.”
Deleget: “Sleep more, eat more and eat better. Sleep is essential for recovery from activity—9 to 10 hours per night is optimal for athletes. And remember that when you’re in a calorie deficit, you’re in an energy deficit, but quality needs to be there, as well: Twinkies aren’t necessarily going to bring your energy level up.”
Rachel Zar is a freelance writer in Chicago.
Make It Stick
According to a study by University of Scranton, only 8 percent of people who make resolutions actually achieve them. How can you keep your New Year’s goals going strong all year long?
Take it one resolution at a time. Dancers are often overachievers, so it’s easy to decide to accomplish 10 goals at once. But according to a study at Stanford University, choosing only one will increase your chances of succeeding.
Concentrate on the process, not the end result. “I like to think of New Year’s goals, instead of resolutions,” says psychologist Nadine Kaslow. “It’s too easy to fail at a ‘resolution,’ but a ‘goal’ is something you can make progress and work toward.”
Write it down. You’ll be more likely to remember to complete your plyometrics routine if it’s written on a to-do list. And studies have shown that the act of writing your resolution out increases your odds of following through.
Make it a habit. If you pack that healthy snack as part of your routine for a few weeks, it will start to feel more natural.
Team up. Adding an extra workout will feel easier with a fellow dancer on the elliptical next to you.
Give yourself a break. A dancer’s schedule isn’t the same every week of the year, so acknowledge that there might be times in the season when you have to let your resolution slide.
Reward yourself. Did you successfully make it through an audition stress-free? Allow yourself a treat, such as frozen yogurt or a massage, and you’ll be more likely to do it again. —RZ
Even if you haven't heard her name, you've almost certainly seen the work of commercial choreographer James Alsop. Though she's made award-winning dances for Beyoncé ("Run the World," anyone?) and worked with stars like Lady GaGa and Janelle Monae, Alsop's most recent project may be her most powerful: A moving music video for Everytown for Gun Safety, directed by Ezra Hurwitz and featuring students from the National Dance Institute.
We caught up with Alsop for our "Spotlight" series:
I want to make an apology because, in my opening speech at the Dance Magazine Awards on Monday, I inadvertently left out one awardee. I said, "Tonight we are honoring four outstanding dance artists who have contributed to the dance field over time." But then I named only three. How could I have forgotten Lourdes Lopez?!?!
We had all been hearing about Lourdes's taking the helm at Miami City Ballet with grace, intelligence, compassion and new ideas. I was planning to say, "Lourdes Lopez, who has brought new life to Miami City Ballet" because I thought that would cover a lot of ground. (My only quibble with myself was whether to say "brought new life" or "gave new life.")
Each year, The New York Times Magazine shines a spotlight on who they deem to be the best actors of the year in its Great Performers series. But, what we're wondering is, can they dance? Thankfully, the NYT Mag recruited none other than Justin Peck to put them to the test.
Peck choreographed and directed a series of 10 short dance films, placing megastars in everyday situations: riding the subway, getting out of bed in the morning, waiting at a doctor's office.
Today, we are thrilled to announce the honorees of the 2018 Dance Magazine Awards. A tradition dating back to 1954, the Dance Magazine Awards celebrate the living legends who have made a lasting impact on dance. This year's honorees include:
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On busy performance days, international guest artist Joy Womack always makes time for one activity after class and rehearsals: a nap. "I like to feel well-rested when I need to be in the spotlight at night, not dragging at the end of the day," she says. "It helps me recover and refocus."
With her earbuds tuned to a guided meditation app, she can squeeze in a nap wherever she needs to. "One time I even took a nap on the floor of the tour bus in Siberia," she says. "Dancers can sleep anywhere."
Joy Womack prioritizes napping before a show. Photo by Quinn Wharton for Pointe magazine.
As research has revealed the benefits of short daytime naps, power-napping advice has proliferated, and more dancers are choosing to include a nap in their pre-performance routines. Approaching napping strategically will help you get the most out of an afternoon snooze.
On Monday night, a memorial was held at Riverside Church to honor the life and achievements of Dance Theatre of Harlem co-founder Arthur Mitchell. With nearly three months to process and grieve (Mitchell passed away on September 19) the atmosphere was not that of mourning as much as reflection, reverence and admiration for who he was, what he built and what remains. (Watch the full livestream here.)
The church filled with family, artistic friends, fans and admirers. What was most gratifying was the volume of DTH alumni from the school, company and organization who traveled across the globe to pay their respects, from founding members to present dancers and students. The house of worship was filled with the sentiment of a family reunion. As Mitchell was sent home, it was a homecoming for many who have not shared air together in decades. What was palpable was the authentic bonds that Dance Theatre of Harlem and Mitchell fostered in all.
Fans of the sublime English National Ballet first artist Precious Adams were probably excited to see her image splashed across the company's website in a promotional image for an upcoming production of Swan Lake.
But those who took a closer look were met with a disappointing reality: Adams, who is the only black woman in the company, is not listed on the principal casting sheet for the production.
Gennadi Nedvigin is not the only early tenure director breaking out a new production of The Nutcracker this season.
We love The Nutcracker as much as the next person, but that perennial holiday classic isn't the only thing making its way onstage this month. Here are five alternatives that piqued our editors' curiosity.
The Nutcracker is synonymous with American ballet. So when Gennadi Nedvigin took the helm at Atlanta Ballet in 2016, a new version of the holiday classic was one of his top priorities. This month, evidence of two years' worth of changes will appear when the company unwraps its latest version at Atlanta's Fox Theatre Dec. 8–24. Choreographed by Yuri Possokhov and produced on a larger-than-ever scale for Atlanta, the new ballet represents Nedvigin's big ambitions.
Ballet Hispánico returns to the famed Apollo Theater in Harlem with its full-length ballet, CARMEN.maquia. Spanish choreographer Gustavo Ramirez Sansano has reenvisioned the story of Carmen to emphasize Don José, the man who falls in love with Carmen, suffers because of her infidelity, then murders her in a "fit of passion." Their duets are filled with all the sensuality, jealousy and violence you could wish for—in a totally contemporary dance language.
Sansano's previous piece for Ballet Hispánico, El Beso, bloomed with a thousand playful and witty ways of expressing desire. He has a knack for splicing humor into romance.
Not being able to attend the in-person audition at your top college can feel like the end of the world. But while it's true that going to the live audition is ideal, you can still make the best out of sending a video. Here are some of the perks:
It's become a colloquialism—or, we admit, a cliche—to say that dance can heal.
But with a new initiative launched by British Health Secretary Matt Hancock, doctors in the U.K. will soon be able to prescribe dance classes—along with art, music, sports, gardening and more—for patients suffering from conditions as various as dementia, lung problems and mental health issues.
We always figured that stretching made us more flexible by loosening up our muscles and joints. Some of us, ahem, might have even tried to fall asleep in our middle splits to get our stubbornly stiff inner thighs to let go.
But it turns out that might not actually be how stretching works.
A new review published in the Scandinavian Journal of Science & Medicine in Sports suggests that increased flexibility actually comes from your brain growing more used to the tension.
New York City Ballet fired principal dancers Amar Ramasar and Zachary Catazaro on Saturday. Both had initially been suspended until 2019 for engaging in "inappropriate communications," while principal Chase Finlay, who was the instigator of those communications, resigned. (Although, in a statement on Saturday, NYCB made it clear they had decided to terminate Finlay prior to his resignation.)
The New York Times reports that NYCB says the change from suspension to termination resulted from hearing the concerns of dancers, staff members and others in the NYCB community. Yet it's hard to ignore the fact that a lawsuit against NYCB had been filed in the meantime. A statement from NYCB executive director Katherine Brown and interim artistic team leader Jonathan Stafford stated:
"We have no higher obligation than to ensure that our dancers and staff have a workplace where they feel respected and valued, and we are committed to providing that environment for all employees of New York City Ballet."
Since the news was announced, both Catazaro and Ramasar have spoken out publicly about being fired.
What does it mean to be human? Well, many things. But if you were at the Dance Magazine Awards last night, you could argue that to be human is to dance. Speeches about the powerful humanity of our art form were backed up with performances by incredible dancers hailing from everywhere from Hubbard Street Dance Chicago to Miami City Ballet.
Misty Copeland started off the celebration. A self-professed "Dance Magazine connoisseur from the age of 13," she not only spoke about how excited she was to be in a room full of dancers, but also—having just come from Dance Theatre of Harlem's memorial for Arthur Mitchell—what she saw as their duty: "We all in this room hold a responsibility to use this art for good," she said. "Dance unifies, so let's get to work."
That sentiment was repeated throughout the night.
Choreographer Val Caniparoli started his ballet career by performing in Lew Christensen's The Nutcracker with San Francisco Ballet in 1971. Today, he still performs with SFB as Drosselmeir, in the company's current version by Helgi Tomasson.
It takes Caniparoli a lot of concentration to stick to the choreography.
"I have the four versions that I choreographed of the role in my head, plus the original I danced for years by Lew," he says. "That's a lot of versions to keep straight."
A list of Clara alumnae from Radio City's Christmas Spectacular reads like a star-studded, international gala program: Tiler Peck and Brittany Pollack of New York City Ballet (and Broadway), Meaghan Grace Hinkis of The Royal Ballet, Whitney Jensen of Norwegian National Ballet and more. Madison Square Garden's casting requirements for the role are simple: The dancer should be 4' 10" and under, appear to be 14 years old or younger and have strong ballet technique and pointework.
The unspoken requisite? They need abundant tenacity at a very young age.
When I read last month that Jessica Lang Dance had announced its farewell, I'm sure I wasn't the only dancer surprised. In the same way that many of us, when reading an obituary, instinctively look for the cause of death, I searched for a reason for the company's unexpected folding. It was buried in the fifth paragraph of The New York Times article:
Her manager, Margaret Selby, said in an interview that Jessica Lang Dance's closing showed how difficult it is to keep a small dance company running these days. "You have to raise so much money, the smaller companies don't have enough staff, and Jessica was running the company for the last seven years without a day off," she said. "She wants to focus on creative work."
Whereas the announcement itself may have come as a shock, the root cause certainly doesn't. All of us in the field are familiar with the conditions to which Selby refers. But that these problems can topple the success of a company like Lang's, which boasts seven years of national and international touring that include commissions from Jacob's Pillow and The Joyce, among others, is sobering.