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Just a Drink?
How alcohol can affect your dancing the next day—and over time.
After a long week of rehearsal and performances, sometimes all you want is to blow off steam with a few drinks. You may even feel like you’ve earned a night out after all of the hard work you’ve put in. As long as you’re not dealing with an obvious hangover in class the next day (and are of legal age), it’s a guilty pleasure that seems relatively harmless.
But you might want to think twice before you reach for that bottle. Obviously, an excessive habit is going to have negative consequences, and an alcohol addiction could lead to serious problems like cancer, cirrhosis and pancreatitis. But even moderate drinking after a day in the studio takes a toll on your body, affecting your dancing in a variety of ways—and, if you’re not careful, possibly hurting your success in the long run.
Less Sleep, Less Energy
After having a few drinks, you’ll be more likely to feel sluggish in the studio the next day. That’s because alcohol consumption may reduce sleep time and quality, explains Rachel Fine, a dietitian who founded To The Pointe Nutrition. Although a nightcap might increase deep sleep in the first part of the night, once you metabolize the alcohol several hours later, your body switches to a lighter stage and is easily woken up. Without adequate rest, your energy levels and mental clarity will be lower, hampering your ability to pick up and perform movement. Fine also points out that excessive alcohol consumption can displace muscle-building protein, muscle-repairing unsaturated fats and certain micronutrients (mainly B vitamins) from your diet. One study suggests this nutrient displacement causes overall energy stores to be as much as 50 percent lower than normal even eight hours after drinking.
Since alcohol is a diuretic, it can cause dehydration, which can last into the next day. And by the time you start to feel thirsty, athletic performance can decrease by up to 10 to 20 percent, according to sports dietitian Dawn Weatherwax. “Hydration is critical to preventing injuries, creating an optimal environment for building muscle, maximizing energy levels and absorbing nutrients,”she says. Keep yourself hydrated by having at least one glass of water for every alcoholic beverage you consume.
Drinking also affects how your body bounces back after a challenging day of dancing. Research published in PLoS One last year found that when you have several drinks after exercising, the signals that would normally tell your muscles to grow stronger are suppressed. And an earlier study from Massey University in New Zealand showed that excessive drinking delays recovery from muscles soreness. That means you’ll be negating the strength gains you could have been making in class—and hurting from it for longer.
Time off due to injury doesn’t give you a free pass. In fact, it’s even more reason to avoid drinking. “Alcohol can cause increased swelling of an injury because it causes the blood vessels to dilate,” Weatherwax says. The more swelling in an injured area, the longer it could take to heal.
Regular drinking can also take a toll on a healthy diet. A gram of alcohol provides 7 calories while offering few nutrients. In comparison, the 4 calories per gram of carbohydrate or protein or 9 calories per gram of fat can be used by the body to fuel a dancer’s active lifestyle. “This is where I argue a calorie is not just a calorie!” says Fine. Some dancers try to avoid excess calories before a night out by cutting back on food, but this habit can mean they don’t refuel properly.
Even if you do eat a healthy meal, alcohol makes it harder to reap the benefits. “Alcohol can irritate our stomach lining, reducing our capacity to absorb nutrients from foods, many of which play a large role in energy metabolism,” Fine says. While drinking, your body also prioritizes metabolizing alcohol over fat or carbs, and stores amino acids from protein as fat.
Benefits in Moderation
Alcohol can be helpful in reducing stress levels. But the key is moderation. “If you’re really feeling the need, I suggest wine,” says Fine, “especially red for the added heart-healthy benefits from antioxidants and resveratrol. While research remains limited, resveratrol might help to prevent damage to blood vessels, reducing LDL (or ‘bad’) cholesterol and preventing blood clots.” Beer is also relatively rich in B vitamins, and has silicon, which can help strengthen your bones by increasing bone-mineral density. In general, if you stick to the recommended guidelines (no more than one drink—5 ounces of wine, 12 ounces of beer or 1.5 ounces of liquor—per day for women and two for men), the negative effects of drinking are unlikely to get in the way of your dance goals.
Is it any surprise a world premiere by choreographer Uri Sands and musician Justin Vernon, both renowned for the profound beauty and gorgeous musicality of their work, immediately sold out? We're hungry for creative collaborations that take reflective deep dives into what constitutes our humanity—and then there's the undeniable cool factor. Nine members of TU Dance will perform alongside Bon Iver (Vernon's band) during the evening-length piece. Presented as part of the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra's Liquid Music Series. April 19–21. The work will also appear at the Hollywood Bowl Aug. 5. tudance.org.
Ah, the quest for the perfect, foot-flattering, technique-enhancing pointe shoe: It can feel like a never-ending saga. Still on the hunt for that ideal pair? Then you won't want to miss The School at Steps' annual Pointe Shoe Workshop and Fair, happening this Sunday, April 22nd, at 6:30 pm in NYC.
As always, the event—which is sponsored by our friends at Pointe—will feature an impressive panel of experts. This year's lineup includes orthopedist Dr. Andrew Price, professional fitter Mary Carpenter, master teacher Linda Gelinas, Pointe style editor Marissa DeSantis, and New York City Ballet star Sara Mearns (eee!).
Jennifer Nichols was rehearsing barefoot this winter when she got a split in the bottom of her foot. An independent choreographer, she was preparing a self-made solo to be performed as part of a new music show in Toronto, and the studio's Marley floor was usually used by winter boot–wearing musicians.
A split may not seem like a big deal. But this one led to a serious infection that would land Nichols in hospital and almost end her performing career.
You might feel like the second choice when you look at the casting sheet, but understudies are necessary, valued team members who are regularly called off the bench to perform—even with very little prep time. "It is like the ultimate trust exercise with your director," says Mia J. Chong, who understudied many roles in ODC/Dance's The Velveteen Rabbit as an apprentice before becoming a company dancer this year. "Often, you do a lot of the homework on your own to make sure you can produce a quality performance, even if you don't have the chance to demonstrate it right away."
Here's what to expect when you're learning from the back of the room and—when you're needed—how to step into the part with confidence.
In his final bow at New York City Ballet, during what should have been a heroic conclusion to a celebrated ballet career, Robert Fairchild slipped and fell. His reaction? To lie down flat on his back like he meant to do it. Then start cracking up at himself.
"He's such a ham," says his sister Megan Fairchild, with a laugh. "He's really good at selling whatever his body is doing that day. He'll turn a moment that I would totally go home and cry about into something where the audience is like, 'That's the most amazing thing ever!' "
I found a great boyfriend in my ballet company. I love how he understands my life as a professional dancer. The problem is we've started fighting whenever one of us gives the other a correction during partnering. Is dating him a bad idea?
—Lovesick, Toronto, Ontario
The #MeToo movement has made its way to France's biggest ballet company.
An anonymous survey recently leaked to the French press revealed major turbulence at the Paris Opéra Ballet. The Straits Times reports that the survey was conducted by an internal group representing POB's dancers. In it, there are numerous claims of bullying, sexual harassment and management issues.
Nearly all of the dancers (132 out of 154) answered the questionnaire, but they didn't know it would be made public. (Around 100 of them later signed a statement saying they didn't consent to its release.)
Merce Cunningham would have been 99 years old today, and, as a present to the dance world, the Merce Cunningham Trust has announced a dizzying array of celebrations to unfold over the next year in honor of the groundbreaking choreographer's 2019 centennial.
"Merce liked saying he didn't want to celebrate his birthday, and yet he always enjoyed when we threw parties for him," Trevor Carlson, producer of the Merce Cunningham Centennial, said in a press release. Though the Merce Cunningham Dance Company shuttered in 2011 (two years after the choreographer's death, per his wishes), plans to celebrate his legacy range from performances to film screenings to workshops to education programs to dinner parties.