Working Out With Mathilde Froustey

The San Francisco Ballet principal revamped her body philosophy after leaving France.

PC Erik Tomasson, Courtesy SFB

When Mathilde Froustey joined San Francisco Ballet after 12 years with the Paris Opéra Ballet, she felt like she'd stepped into an entirely new body. “In Paris, I felt a lot of pressure to be really slim and I was afraid to have big muscles," says Froustey, now 31. “At San Francisco Ballet, they don't make you feel guilty about your body. They see that if you have more muscle, you can jump higher and do roles like Kitri. If you have less, you'll be more of a lyrical dancer and that's great, too. I became so much more relaxed about my image."

In San Francisco, Froustey began strength-training with Gyrotonic classes, and soon discovered the technique helped her manage a career-long foot injury that had started as a stress fracture when she was a teenager. “Gyro helps me find the muscles to be stronger throughout my body so there's less pressure on my foot," she says. “I have less pain now—and more turnout!"

Watching the SFB dancers, she's also realized one of the limits of French training: “We didn't stretch at all in the school." To increase her flexibility in her hips and hamstrings, she's started taking Bikram yoga, where the heat helps loosen her muscles. She also stretches regularly, not only at the studio and after shows but also on her day off.

As for her diet, Froustey enjoys all of the healthy, organic options available in California, particularly Asian cuisines like Thai, Japanese and Vietnamese. (Her typical rehearsal-day lunch is bo bun, a Vietnamese noodle dish.) But she's noticed that in San Francisco, people eat for vitamins and healthy nutrients. “In France, we eat because we like it—and for that I'm still French," she says, laughing. After a good show, she still celebrates the way she always has: with red wine and camembert cheese.

Injury Management

To deal with recurring complications from a stress fracture in her foot, Froustey relies on:

• Gyrotonic exercises

• Ice/hot contrasts after shows

• Slowing down whenever she notices inflammation

• Being strategic about footwear. “Whenever I wear heels, I bring sneakers in my bag to put on when no one's looking!"

Pre-Performance Checklist

1. Full ballet class with jumps and pointe shoes. “I need to sweat before a show."

2. Gyrotonic chair sequence on her own backstage.

3. Five minutes to stretch, close her eyes and think through all her coach's notes on the ballet. “Nobody can talk to me right then; I don't care about anything else. It's my own moment."

Cardio Commute

“I bike 20 minutes each way to the ballet every day. It's a little cardio warm-up and a gentle cooldown. Luckily I live in the flat part of the city!"

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