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No, Dancers Don't Need to Swear Off Bread

Despite what you might think, there's no reason for dancers to be afraid of bread.

"It's looked at as this evil food," says New York State–certified dietitian and former dancer Tiffany Mendell. But the truth is, unless you have celiac disease or a gluten intolerance, bread can be a healthy source of carbohydrates—our body's preferred fuel—plus fiber and vitamins.

The key is choosing your loaf wisely.


Scrutinize the label for ingredients, fiber, carbs, calories and sugar.

To pick the healthiest, most nutrient-dense bread, Mendell suggests checking both the nutrition facts and the ingredients:

  1. Make sure the first ingredient is 100 percent whole-grain or whole-wheat, not enriched or refined, flour.
  2. Each slice should have at least 2 grams of fiber.
  3. Slices should have no more than 15 to 20 grams of carbs.
  4. A good portion size is around 80 to 100 calories.
  5. Ideally there should be 0 or only 1 gram of sugar per slice—and watch out for artificial sweeteners like stevia or sucralose, "which just don't belong in bread," says Mendell.
a whole grain loaf sliced up into pieces

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Whole grain will give you a lot more bang for your bun.

A whole grain consists of three parts: the bran, the germ and the endosperm. When a grain is refined into white flour, the bran and the germ are removed—stripping away naturally occurring protein, vitamins, minerals and fiber.

"Food manufacturers are required by law to add back in a few B vitamins and iron, and that's what's called 'enriched flour,' " says Mendell. "It sounds healthy, but it's not."

Buy your bread fresh, if possible.

For fewer preservatives, dietitian Rachel Fine, founder of To the Pointe Nutrition, recommends getting fresh bread from a local baker, or buying the Ezekiel brand in the frozen section of the supermarket.

Incorporate bread into one meal per day.

Mendell recommends including bread in just one meal per day to make sure you're getting enough variety in your diet. For a balanced meal, combine bread's carbohydrates with lean protein and healthy fat.

Breakfast idea: Toast a piece of whole-grain bread and have it with avocado and an egg.

Lunch idea: Eat a turkey sandwich with avocado, baby spinach, tomato and cucumbers.

Mid-performance idea: Fine says a piece of white bread (paired with a bit of protein) can give you a quick boost backstage because it releases sugar into the bloodstream quickly.

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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