Morning Moves: How 5 Professional Dancers Start Their Day
The way you start your morning can set the tone for the rest of the day. Establishing a productive and mindful morning routine can leave you feeling relaxed, grounded, and ready to take on the day ahead, no matter how busy.
We asked five professional dancers to share what they like to do each morning to prepare themselves for the happiest and healthiest day possible.
Jermel Johnson, principal dancer at Pennsylvania Ballet, makes sure he gets himself to the studio an hour before company class begins. "This is the time I use to work out any kinks and soreness from the day before and give each muscle attention," Johnson says. "I've been doing this for about 15 years now and I really can't imagine not having my body warm and ready to go beforehand." Johnson has a two hour commute from his home to the PA Ballet studios each morning, so strong coffee is a necessity.
Jam It Out
Kim Gingras, a commercial dancer based in L.A., loves waking herself up to fun music. "I'll dance around for a song or two just to get myself in a great mood," she says. Meditation is also a vital part of Gingras' morning routine. "Just a few minutes of it can make a big difference. You owe it to yourself to get centered and set an empowering intention for your day." And she never misses breakfast.
image via STOMP official site
Desmond Howard, a cast member of STOMP in New York City, swears by morning affirmations to get in a positive mindset. "More times than not I wake up happy, but there are those days that I can feel the pressure of those irritating parts of life," Howard says. "To get myself out of that headspace, I pray and speak positive and assuring affirmations to myself to not allow that way of thinking to take over." He sticks to the same food groups each morning: fruit and grains.
Naomi C. Walley, who recently made her Broadway debut in Chicago, prioritizes drinking tons of water. "I try to get down about a liter of water before ingesting anything else to make up for the time overnight when my body was dehydrated," she says. "This gets my system back to a balanced state." Herbal supplements, green tea or coffee, and some type of carb for breakfast are also on Walley's morning roster.
Michael Montgomery, a dancer with Alonzo King LINES Ballet, wakes up with a good cup of coffee and upbeat music. He uses his mornings to express gratitude for his life as a professional dancer. "I remind myself that this is my passion, my career, and that I am so lucky to be where I am," he says. "It helps me have a positive attitude."
In the middle of one of New York City Center's cavernous studios, Misty Copeland takes a measured step backwards. The suggestion of a swan arm ripples before she turns downstage, chest and shoulders unfurling as her legs stretch into an open lunge. She piqués onto pointe, arms echoing the sinuous curve of her back attitude, then walks out of it, pausing to warily look over her shoulder. As the droning of Ryuichi Sakamoto and Alva Noto's mysterious "Attack/Transition" grows more insistent, her feet start to fly with a rapidity that seems to almost startle her.
And then she stops mid-phrase. Copeland's hands fall to her hips as she apologizes. Choreographer Kyle Abraham slides to the sound system to pause the music, giving Copeland a moment to remind herself of a recent change to the sequence.
"It's different when the sound's on!" he reassures her. "And it's a lot of changes."
The day before was the first time Abraham had seen Copeland dance the solo in its entirety, and the first moment they were in the studio together in a month. This is their last rehearsal, save for tech, before the premiere of Ash exactly one week later, as part of the opening night of City Center's Fall for Dance festival.
Back in 2011 when Joe Lanteri first approached Katie Langan, chair of Marymount Manhattan College's dance department, about getting involved with New York City Dance Alliance, she was skeptical about the convention/competition world.
"But I was pleasantly surprised by the enormity of talent that was there," she says. "His goal was to start scholarship opportunities, and I said okay, I'm in."
Today, it's fair to say that Lanteri has far surpassed his goal of creating scholarship opportunities. But NYCDA has done so much more, bridging the gap between the convention world and the professional world by forging a wealth of partnerships with dance institutions from Marymount to The Ailey School to Complexions Contemporary Ballet and many more. There's a reason these companies and schools—some of whom otherwise may not see themselves as aligned with the convention/competition world—keep deepening their relationships with NYCDA.
Now, college scholarships are just one of many ways NYCDA has gone beyond the typical weekend-long convention experience and created life-changing opportunities for students. We rounded up some of the most notable ones:
Dancers are understandably obsessed with food. In both an aesthetic and athletic profession, you know you're judged on your body shape, but you need proper fuel to perform your best. Meanwhile, you're inundated with questionable diet advice.
"My 'favorite' was the ABC diet," says registered dietitian nutritionist Kristin Koskinen, who trained in dance seriously but was convinced her body type wouldn't allow her to pursue it professionally. "On the first day you eat only foods starting with the letter A, on the second day only B, and so on."
"The show must go on" may be a platitude we use to get through everything from costume malfunctions to stormy moods. But when it came to overcoming a literal hurricane, Houston Ballet was buoyed by this mantra to go from devastated to dancing in a matter of weeks—with the help of Harlequin Floors, Houston Ballet's longstanding partner who sprang into action to build new floors in record time.