Xenos, Akram Khan's final full-length solo, is an ode to the soldiers of World War I. Photo by Nicol Vizioli, Courtesy Sadler's Wells
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Pilates prepares this Nederlands Dans Theater dancer for any style.
Danielle Rowe can conquer any kind of movement. This season alone, the Nederlands Dans Theater member juggled Jirí Kylián’s intensely emotional Heart’s Labyrinth with Marco Goecke’s quirky new Hello Earth, and this month she performs in an evening of work by hard-hitting Israeli-born choreographer Hofesh Shechter. It’s not exactly the kind of rep she made her name in at the Australian and Houston Ballets. Yet since joining NDT in 2012, Rowe has quickly increased her versatility. One of the keys has been constantly changing up her conditioning routine.
Right: Rowe in rehearsal. Photo by Casey Herd, Courtesy Pointe.
A Varied Workout
Rather than sticking to a set cross-training regimen, Rowe makes little adjustments daily. “If you always do the same exercises, the muscles start to get lazy,” she says. “You need to fire them up in different ways.”
After a morning bike ride, Rowe typically incorporates Pilates exercises throughout her rehearsal day. She originally built up her repertoire of exercises while training with a Pilates instructor at The Australian Ballet for 10 years. “Now, my routine depends on how my body’s feeling that day,” she says. “Whether I need to strengthen certain muscles or relax certain muscles, or just give myself a workout.”
Rowe sneaks in a Pilates mat series whenever she has downtime on tour, as well. But what’s most essential on the road is taking the first company class offered in order to start adjusting to the new location. “I don’t do it as a rigorous workout, but just to go into my body and figure out what needs strengthening, what needs attention, and to move in a way that’s familiar to me,” Rowe says, “because class has been part of my routine, well, since as long as I can remember.”
However, when she’s on break, Rowe switches from Pilates to Gyrotonic. “It incorporates the breath, which is vital for any type of dance, but especially contemporary dance,” she explains. The expansive movements help keep her body in dancing shape even without daily classes and rehearsals.
Rowe says that working on Goecke’s creation this season was “extremely taxing” and left her with especially sore muscles. How did she work out the knots? “I have a rubber dog ball,” she says. “It’s super-hard, so it works really well.”
Rowe’s Foot Reformer
While rehearsing Kylián’s Heart’s Labyrinth this season, Rowe needed to work on the strength, articulation and endurance of her lower legs. To prepare, she practiced this relevé series using the jump board attachment for the Pilates reformer, increasing the load or repetitions each time she returned to the exercise to keep challenging her muscles. This series can also be done standing up without the reformer.
Starting position: Lie on your back on the carriage of the reformer, With feet in parallel on the jump board.
• Do 10 slow relevés on both feet.
• 10 fast relevés on both feet.
• 20 pulses at the top of the relevé with both feet.
• 10 slow relevés on the right foot.
• 10 fast relevés on the right foot.
• 20 relevé pulses on the right foot.
• Repeat relevés and pulses on the left foot.
• Finish with 1 minute of prances (alternating one foot, then the other).