Working Out With Jacqueline Burnett

October 31, 2015

Hubbard Street Dance Chicago’s Jacqueline Burnett is an injury-prevention pro. After a labral tear in her right hip put her out for six weeks in 2013, Burnett completely reassessed her cross-training routine. Rather than focusing so much on big-muscle groups, she shifted toward exercises that target smaller, deeper muscles. “Now, I’m always working to create a balance between joint mobility and muscle stability so I don’t get injured when I go to extremes in performance,” she says.

Burnett starts each day with simple adductor exercises (such as lying on her side, crossing her top leg in front of her body, and slowly lifting and lowering her bottom leg) to prepare her inner thighs for the wide second positions and quick, sliding transitions that come with the William Forsythe and Alejandro Cerrudo pieces she often rehearses. She also does hip-stabilizing exercises to wake up connections on the back side of her body before class. After that, Burnett caters her focus to the type of repertoire she is rehearsing, but she always squeezes in plank sequences during her five-minute breaks and works on core stabilization on her Pilates ball at the end of the day.

Photo by Nathan Sayers, modeled by Ailey II apprentice Djouliet Amara.

Burnett feels class and rehearsal provide all the cardio she needs—when she bikes, hikes and swims she does it for fun. Instead, she uses cross-training to “constantly reeducate” her muscles, as Hubbard Street’s demanding and diverse repertoire confuses them. “You repeat pieces of choreography so much that your body gets fatigued and the muscles stop engaging at the right time,” she explains. “That’s always when I’ve gotten injured or gone into spasm. So I try to isolate the right muscles so they fire when I need them to.”

Burnett’s Go-To Hip, Core and Leg Strengthener

1. Tie foot-sized loops at each end of an extra-long Thera-Band, and wrap the entire band over the top ballet barre.

2. Lie on your back with your head facing the barre and place a foot in each loop.

3. Pull the Thera-Band straight down with your legs in parallel in a pike position, targeting the hamstrings, while engaging your lower abs. Slowly return, letting the resistance help you as your hips drop down into their sockets. Repeat in turnout.

4. To target additional muscles, pull the Thera-Band diagonally toward the ground to either side or in circles with legs in the same or opposite directions.

Tools of the Trade

Burnett’s workout equipment is light enough to carry to rehearsal and diverse enough to provide whatever her body needs throughout the day.

• Long resistance bands from Franklin Method or Thera-Band can replicate Pilates reformer exercises and add extra resistance.

• Burnett uses golf balls, lacrosse balls and tennis balls for self-massage, and a Pilates ball to add extra challenge to core work.

• Her OPTP foam roller rolls out large muscle groups or intensifies exercises—Burnett places it under her arms or ankles in a plank.

• YogaToes reset the muscles in her feet and calves at the start or end of the day.