Prepping for class at the Spectrum Dance Theater studios
Photo by Nate Watters for DM.
Space is at a premium in the Spectrum Dance Theater studios in Seattle, but this doesn’t stop 24-year-old Shadou Mintrone from rehearsing in any available corner. She’s running her six-minute quirky, energetic solo in artistic director Donald Byrd’s Soapbox, bounding through the room with her explosive jumps and lengthy extensions.
The 5' 2" dancer accepts the challenge of being “a short, muscular girl in a world that idolizes thin, long limbs.” Nevertheless, she moves in an extraordinary way, with both steady determination and high drama. Her focus gives a strong directionality to Byrd’s ferocious choreography.
The intense work packs an emotional and physical wallop. “But that makes the choreography genuine, immediate,” says Mintrone, who is starting her third season with the company. “And then it’s all the more necessary to listen to my body.
“Emotionally, I’ve totally shifted how I think of myself as a dancer,” she continues. “All of a sudden, I feel I’m only competing with myself. Dance is about me, not about what I should be.” Still, the challenges of dancing and teaching 8 to 10 hours a day can take its toll. Dance Magazine spoke to Mintrone to find out how she stays fully charged through it all.
Waking up at least three hours before class, Mintrone prepares a big breakfast: eggs and toast with coffee and cold lemon water, oatmeal, or yogurt with fruit. She makes time to read in the morning and then dress glamorously, even when her destination is only rehearsal.
Mintrone wears makeup every day—red lipstick and plenty of mascara to open up her naturally large eyes. It wears off in rehearsal, but she doesn’t care. “I grew up idolizing Marilyn Monroe, Jean Harlow, Ginger Rogers, and those women always had makeup on,” she says. “It makes me feel ready for the day, able to perform, able to act a character. It adds sass to my already wild style.”
At the Studio
Mintrone typically gets to the studio early to do Pilates and abdominal work before class. “It fires up my energy and gets my blood circulating,” she says. Next come isolation exercises for her head, neck, spine, and torso. She takes a daily 90-minute ballet class at Spectrum, and that’s followed by four to five hours of rehearsal.
Though she’s not one to frequent the gym—her daily activity is enough to keep her body in shape—she may tweak her regimen. “Depending on the show, I may stretch less and do more push-ups—I need biceps!” she says. “Or, maybe I need to be in runner shape, like for Byrd’s A Cruel New World/the new normal. Then I need stamina and calves!”
Over the years Mintrone developed a neuroma (a swollen nerve) in her left foot. “It’s painful in relevé, so arnica and ibuprofen are pretty regimented in my diet,” she says. “Most often I give 100 percent to my day of dancing—but other times I might sit out and stretch during grand allégro, or only do pirouettes on one side, and just relevé in passé on the other.”
Mintrone cooks at home whenever she has the time, only going out to eat for special occasions or if she’s on tour. She believes that the most nutritious foods—essential for a healthy body—are fresh, whole, and seasonal. “My weaknesses with food are absolutely genetic! I love my mother’s Italian dishes, and will always prefer a plate of pasta over anything else.” Her staples? “Tofu and mixed veggie dish for my roommate and me,” she says, “or I’ll make a really big salad with some rice dish on the side.”
Mintrone teaches ballet, jazz, and tap three to four nights a week at a nearby studio. That can mean going until 9:30 at night after a full day of dancing, which is tough on the body.
In class she wears sneakers, which gives extra support to her ankles and feet. (She removes her shoes to demonstrate specific foot actions when necessary.) She’ll occasionally join in, too: “I stretch with my classes, do relevés, and crunches,” she says. “It helps my body wind down from the intensity of rehearsal. I think if I didn’t teach at night, my muscles would be tense and achy.” And there’s another perk, too. For her, being around young dancers is a “fresh reminder that what I do is so precious and unique.”
Shadou's Stretches for Leg Length
-- Move gently into a low runner’s lunge (bending your right knee at 90-degrees and extending your left leg to the back to stretch the hip flexors).
-- Lower your left knee, and grab your left foot with your right hand.
-- Hold the stretch for at least 30 seconds.
-- Repeat on other side.
-- Return to a low runner’s lunge, right leg bent, left leg straight back.
-- Staying low to the ground, rotate to the left to open your hips. Make sure to keep your right bent knee over your toes and your left leg straight. Your left foot will flex.
-- Gently slide into a center split.
-- To complete the exercise, return to the lunge position, straighten your right leg, and return to standing. Repeat on other side.
Gigi Berardi is a Dance Magazine contributing editor.