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."
It's a cycle familiar to many: First, a striking image of a lithe, impossibly fit dancer executing a gravity-defying développé catches your eye on Instagram. You pause your scrolling to marvel, over and over again, at her textbook physique.
Inevitably, you take a moment to consider your own body, in comparison. Doubt and negative self-talk first creep, and then flood, in. "I'll never look like that," the voice inside your head whispers. You continue scrolling, but the image has done its dirty work—a gnawing sensation has taken hold, continually reminding you that your own body is inferior, less-than, unworthy.
It's no stretch to say that social media has a huge effect on body image. For dancers—most of whom already have a laser-focus on their appearance—the images they see on Instagram can seem to exacerbate ever-present issues. "Social media is just another trigger," says Nadine Kaslow, a psychologist who works with the dancers of Atlanta Ballet. "And dancers don't need another trigger." In the age of Photoshop and filters, how can dancers keep body dysmorphia at bay?
If "Fosse/Verdon" whet your appetite for the impeccable Gwen Verdon, then Merely Marvelous: The Dancing Genius of Gwen Verdon is the three-course meal you've been craving. The new documentary—available now on Amazon for rental or purchase—dives into the life of the Tony-winning performer and silver-screen star lauded for her charismatic dancing.
Though she's perhaps most well-known today as Bob Fosse's wife and muse, that's not even half of her story. For starters, she'd already won four Tonys before they wed, making her far more famous in the public eye than he was at that point in his career. That's just one of many surprising details we learned during last night's U.S. premiere of Merely Marvelous. Believe us: You're gonna love her even more once you get to know her. Here are eight lesser-known tidbits to get you started.
Every dancer knows that how you fuel your body affects how you feel in the studio. Of course, while breakfast is no more magical than any other meal (despite the enduring myth that it's the most important one of the day), showing up to class hangry is a recipe for unproductive studio time.
So what do your favorite dancers eat in the morning to set themselves up for a busy rehearsal or performance day?
When it comes to dance in the U.S., companies in the South often find themselves overlooked—sometimes even by the presenters in their own backyard. That's where South Arts comes in. This year, the regional nonprofit launched Momentum, an initiative that will provide professional development, mentorship, touring grants and residencies to five Southern dance companies.