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The Case for Bringing Your Own Snacks to the Studio

For busy dancers on the go, it's easy to grab a premade salad on the way to class or scroll through delivery options as rehearsal comes to a close. But bringing homemade meals and snacks to the studio or theater has real payoffs. And making it happen doesn't have to be as difficult as you might think.


Why Do It?

Reason 1: It's ready when you want it

Bringing your own food can be a lot more dependable, points out Kelly Hogan, a registered dietitian in New York City. "If hunger strikes, you have something on hand and don't have to go searching for a meal or snack, which may take a while and result in crazy hunger."

Reason 2: It's more reliable

Making your food keeps you in control. Eating out can be tricky if you have a sensitive stomach or dietary restrictions. Homemade meals ensure you're eating what you know agrees with your body when you're dancing.

Reason 3: It's cheaper

A quinoa bowl at a grab-and-go café in New York City will run you at least $10. Make an entire batch at home and you can get an entire week's worth of lunches for not much more.

Reason 4: It's healthier

At home, you can make your dishes as nutritious as you want, says Hogan. "Restaurants often add in lots more salt, butter and oils to make their foods taste so good, but it's usually more than is necessary."

Reason 5: It's the right size

Restaurant portions are usually massive. You're more likely to eat mindlessly just because there's more food in front of you, or let it go to waste if you can't finish it.

Close up of a peanut butter and strawberry jelly sandwich

Don't underestimate the nutritional power of a good PB&J

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How to Actually Make It Happen

"The name of the game is planning," says Hogan. "Take a look at the week ahead and plan out what you think you'll need. Prep accordingly, both with your meal prep and your grocery lists."

Cook in batches: Get into the habit of making recipes that will last you a few days. "Try dedicating a few hours on the weekend to making a big dish," she says. And remember that not everything has to be fresh: The frozen foods selection at Trader Joe's has loads of healthy, quick options, like vegetable and grain mixes.

Roast your veggies: Chop a bunch of your favorite vegetables, like broccoli, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower, drizzle them with olive oil, top with salt and pepper, and roast them all together on a big sheet pan. Throughout the week, you can add them to quinoa, bean-based pasta (a good source of protein) or eggs.

Splurge on a lunch bag: Relive the childlike joy of picking out your favorite lunch box. Having a bag or box you genuinely want to carry will make you more likely to pack meals and snacks to-go.

Vegetable Salad

Roasted veggies are easy to make and mix in with other foods to boost a meal's nutritional punch.

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Fast (But Homemade) Food Ideas

Overwhelmed? Here are a few of Hogan's favorite DIY foods that pack a nutritional punch, won't cost a fortune, and are easy to make and transport.

  • A nut butter and jelly sandwich (for extra nutrients, swap the jelly for banana or berries)
  • Mini Babybel or string cheese paired with fruit
  • A portable peanut butter packet with crackers
  • Greek yogurt with fruit and granola
  • Eggs and veggies, in scrambled or omelet form
  • Overnight oats
  • Farro or quinoa bowls topped with vegetables and your favorite dressing
  • Soups or stews
  • Chicken (a store-bought cooked rotisserie chicken is a great option) paired with quick-cooking rice and veggies

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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