Resolutions Nutritionists Wish You’d Make
1. Set smaller goals.
“We all focus on the finish line, and there’s nothing wrong with that,” says Joy Bauer, official nutritionist for the New York City Ballet. “But it’s all the little checkpoints we pass along the way—choosing the stairs over the elevator, passing on seconds of your favorite dessert—that help us stay motivated.” Whatever your overall target is, setting short-term goals and celebrating each small achievement will help you get there.
2. Pack more snacks.
Bringing homemade food with you to the studio ensures that you’ll be able to fuel up frequently without resorting to the drive-through window. “If you’re not a morning person, prepping your food needs to be a nonnegotiable part of your nightly self-care routine, like brushing your teeth,” says Nikki Estep, a registered dietitian nutritionist who provides on-site nutrition services at Houston Ballet.
It doesn’t have to be culinary greatness, adds Emily Harrison, who counsels dancers from around the world through her business, Dancer Nutrition. “Cut up an apple, throw carrot sticks in a bag or make overnight oats with yogurt, flaxseeds and berries,” she suggests. Eating more throughout the day will also help you cut down on late-night snacking, a red flag that your body isn’t getting enough food during the day.
3. Don’t give 100 percent.
No one is perfect, so instead of following an ironclad meal plan (and punishing yourself for every errant bite), Bauer recommends a more realistic 90/10 approach: Eat healthfully 90 percent of the time and color outside the lines the other 10 percent. “That leaves you some wiggle room to enjoy the indulgent foods that you would normally try to steer clear of.” Adds Estep: “Remind yourself that all foods can fit into the big picture in moderation.”
4. Give your diet a “plant slant.” “Whole foods and plant-based carbs lower inflammation and lead to better physical performance,” says Harrison. Try making your lunch or dinner with mostly plant-based foods a few times a week. Think soup, salad, stir-fry and beyond—Harrison recommends bean-flour noodles with tomato sauce or burritos with black beans, brown rice, peppers, corn, tomatoes, spinach and guacamole. “You’ll significantly change how you feel and improve your ability to build muscle mass,” she says.
5. Rethink carbs and protein.
“The most popular myth I bust is that more protein makes food magically better for you,” says Harrison. “We have become protein-obsessed, while we fear carbohydrates, the preferred source of fuel for anyone who needs short bursts of energy, like dancers.”
Become more flexible in how you think about both wheat and meat. “I respect all the different ways that people want to eat, but I’ve seen some pretty significant nutrient deficiencies stemming from gluten-free and vegan diets,” says Estep. If you’re getting injured often or your hair is falling out, your body could be trying to tell you that your diet is not working. “If you weren’t an athlete, maybe you could pull off a vegan diet with a B-12 supplement and a multivitamin, but while you’re dancing, maybe it’s better to be a vegetarian or a pescatarian to get all the protein sources and nutrients that you need.”
6. Let your body lead you.
Devote your energy to mindfulness, not adhering to a daily calorie count, says Estep. Pay attention to when you’re hungry, and every time you eat, ask yourself how that food made you feel. For example, did it satisfy your hunger? Did it give you the energy you needed to comfortably reach the next meal or snack? If you recognize that cheeseburgers make you sluggish, you’ll be less likely to reach for one when you need solid energy.
7. Educate yourself.
Research how the right nutrients can help you in the studio. But get your information from reputable sources, says Harrison, not friends
in the dressing room or websites devoted to trendy diets. She likes nutritionfacts.org and the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine website (pcrm.org) for up-to-date nutrition information and tasty recipes from qualified professionals.
8. Respect your body.
“So many dancers focus on what’s wrong with their bodies instead of all the amazing things they can do, like run, leap and pirouette,” says Bauer. Appreciate the beauty of your body as it is, and, Estep adds, be realistic about what you’re asking it to do. “Dancers rely on their bodies to handle eight-hour days filled with intense, superhuman activity,” she says. “Give your body enough fuel, and you’ll be that much more powerful.”
On May 18, 1919, Margot "Peggy" Hookham was born. She would grow up to become Dame Margot Fonteyn, England's first homegrown prima ballerina. She joined the Sadler's Wells School in 1934 and was performing principal roles with the precursor to The Royal Ballet the next year. Fonteyn was a company-defining figure, dancing Aurora for the re-opening of the Royal Opera House after World War II, creating numerous roles with Sir Frederick Ashton and forging a legendary partnership with Rudolf Nureyev.
The way we create and consume dance is changing every day. Now more than ever, the field demands that dancers not only be able to perform at the highest level, but also collaborate with choreographers to bring their artistic visions to life. Dancers who miss out on choreographic training may very well find themselves at a disadvantage as they try to launch their careers.
Memorial Day is notoriously one of Chicago's bloodiest weekends. Last year, 36 people were shot and seven died that weekend. In 2017 and 2016, the number of shootings was even higher.
When Garley "GiGi Tonyé" Briggs, a dance teacher and Chicago native, started noticing this pattern, she was preparing her second annual Memorial Day workshop for local youth.
The event's original aim was simple: "I wanted the youth of Chicago to have somewhere they could come and learn from different dancers and be off the streets on the South Side on this hot holiday," she says.
A recent trip I took to Nashville coincided with the NFL draft. As we drove into town, my Uber driver was a fount of information on the subject.
I learned that there are 32 NFL teams and that the draft takes place over seven rounds. That the team that did the poorest during the previous season gets first pick. That during an earlier event called the scouting combine, the teams assess college football players and figure out who they want.
There is also the veteran combine for "free agents"—players who have been released from their contracts or whose contracts have expired. They might be very good players, but their team needs younger members or ones with a certain skill set. All year round, experienced NFL scouts scan games across the country, checking out players and feeding that information back to the teams. Players' agents keep their eyes on opportunities for their clients which might be more rewarding.
While I sat in the traffic of 600,000 NFL fans I got thinking, is there something ballet could learn from football? Could a draft system improve young dancers' prospects and overall company caliber and contentment?
It's not often that a promising choreographer gets to stage work in a world-class theater, on a skillfully-curated program with professional dancers, and with the possibility of winning a substantial cash prize. But at the McCallum Theatre's Palm Desert Choreography Festival, that's been the status quo for over twenty years.
Since Shea New, the festival's artistic director, founded the festival in 1998, she's worked tirelessly with McCallum's director of education and festival producer, Kajsa Thuresson-Frary, and stage manager and festival production manager Joanna Fookes to build a festival that nurtures choreographers, highlights high quality work, powerfully engages the local community and cultivates an audience base for dance in the Coachella Valley. The trio is backed by a strong team of professionals at McCallum and the brilliant volunteers from the local and national level who serve as adjudicators.
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Despite what you might think, there's no reason for dancers to be afraid of bread.
"It's looked at as this evil food," says New York State–certified dietitian and former dancer Tiffany Mendell. But the truth is, unless you have celiac disease or a gluten intolerance, bread can be a healthy source of carbohydrates—our body's preferred fuel—plus fiber and vitamins.
The key is choosing your loaf wisely.
It can be hard to imagine life without—or just after—dance. Perhaps that's why we find it so fascinating to hear what our favorite dancers think they'd be doing if they weren't performing for a living.
We've been asking stars about the alternate career they'd like to try in our "Spotlight" Q&A series, and their answers—from the unexpected to the predictable—do not disappoint:
"New York City Ballet star appears in a Keanu Reeves action movie" is not a sentence we ever thought we'd write. But moviegoers seeing John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum will be treated to two scenes featuring soloist Unity Phelan dancing choreography by colleague Tiler Peck. The guns-blazing popcorn flick cast Phelan as a ballerina who also happens to be training to become an elite assassin. Opens in theaters May 17.
The Brooklyn-based choreographer Gillian Walsh is both obsessed with and deeply conflicted about dance. With her latest work, Fame Notions, May 17–19 at Performance Space New York, she seeks to understand what she calls the "fundamentally pessimistic or alienating pursuit" of being a dancer. Noting that the piece is "quiet and introverted," like much of her other work, she sees Fame Notions as one step in a larger project examining why dancers dance.
What does Mikhail Baryshnikov have to say to dancers starting their careers today? On Friday, he gave the keynote speech during the graduation ceremony for the inaugural class of the USC Glorya Kaufman School of Dance.
The heart of his message: Be generous.
Launching a dancewear line seems like a great way for professional dancers to flex new artistic muscles and make side money. Several direct-to-consumer brands founded by current or former professional dancers, like Elevé and Luckleo, currently compete with bigger retailers, like Capezio.
But turning your brand into the next Yumiko is more challenging than some budding designers may realize.
When I first came to dance criticism in the 1970s, the professional critics were predominantly much older than me. I didn't know them personally and, as the wide-eyed new kid on the block, I assumed most had little or no physical training in the art.
As slightly intimidated as I felt at the time—you try sitting around a conference room table with Dance Magazine heavy hitters like Tobi Tobias and David Vaughan—I smugly gave myself props for at least having had recent brushes with ballet, Graham, Duncan and Ailey and more substantial engagement with jazz and belly dance. Watching dancers onstage, I enjoyed memories of steps and moves I knew in my own bones. If the music was right, my shoulders would wriggle. I wasn't just coolly judging things from my neck up.