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.


Be Early

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.

Think Positively

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.

Drink Up

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.

Practice Gratitude

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."

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Luke Isley, Courtesy Ballet West

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But Fonte's husband encouraged him to "just listen and get a visceral reaction." He did. And Bolero turned into one of Fonte's most requested and successful ballets.

Not all dance renditions of similar warhorse scores have worked out so well. Yet the irresistible siren song of pieces like Stravinsky's The Firebird and The Rite of Spring, as well as the perennial Carmina Burana by Carl Orff, seem too magnetic for choreographers to ignore.

And there are reasons for their popularity. Some were commissioned specifically for dance: Rite and Firebird for Diaghilev's Ballets Russes; Boléro for dance diva Ida Rubinstein's post–Ballets Russes troupe. Hypnotic rhythms (Arvo Pärt's Spiegel im Spiegel) and danceable melodies (Bizet's Carmen) make a case for physical eye candy. Audience familiarity can also help box office receipts. Still, many choreographers have been sabotaged by the formidable nature and Muzak-y overuse of these iconic compositions.

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