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Bringing dance to new audiences across the country and around the world is exciting for touring dancers. But whether you’re dancing at a nearby school or as far away as Australia, you’ve traveled there in cramped quarters on a plane, train, or bus. And while you probably won’t leap from the runway directly to the stage, it’s best to arrive at your destination as supple, energized, and ready to move as possible.
But keeping your joints oiled during travel requires some ingenuity. So Dance Magazine spoke to several performers and experts who are pros at fighting touring trauma. Read their tips and stay loose!
Combat Dehydration Virginia Wilmerding, past president of the International Association for Dance Medicine and Science, says that when flying, the altitude creates conditions that can promote dehydration, which puts you at risk for swollen legs and creaky joints. Drinking lots of water, and even electrolyte-carbohydrate beverages like Gatorade, may help keep swelling at bay. And staying away from alcohol, which is dehydrating, is a must. Wearing compression stockings (found in hospital supply stores) may help relieve swelling. So can performing relevés, which are easy to do while standing in narrow aisles.
Tamara Riewe, of the Trisha Brown Dance Company, has her travel routine down to a science, as the company tours an average of two weeks every other month. When flying, she drinks 20 oz. of water every two hours, and orders a vegetarian meal. “It has less fat content and more fiber, so it keeps the system regulated,” she says. She also makes sure to pack fresh fruits and veggies to snack on.
Paul Taylor Dance Company veteran Robert Kleinendorst also says that dehydration is the number one body wrecker. Dancers’ overstressed muscles need water to release lactic acid, so they don’t become stiff. Kleinendorst recommends taking ibuprofen, since it thins the blood and increases circulation, helping to flush out toxins.
Travel Exercises Riewe makes sure to book an aisle seat so she can stand up easily. “I am that dork who’s actually doing a little yoga in the bulkhead space,” she says. And since planes now supply pamphlets and videos that give passengers limited-space exercises, Riewe’s noticed more and more “civilians” working out while flying.
“Even though we try to keep a low profile, on long flights we’ll go to the galley and stretch,” says Kleinendorst. “I loosen my hamstrings and lower back by hanging over, because there’s not a lot of room. You want to stay out of the way of the other passengers and crew.” He’ll also try to work in shoulder circles, contractions, pliés, and quad stretches to keep him from “fusing into solid bone.”
Massage therapist Russ Beasley has worked with many dancers. He says that you should get up and walk the aisle every hour to counterbalance the time you’re seated. He also suggests calf stretches and pulling the knee up to the chest while standing. “Even standing and reaching for the ceiling can provide lengthening movement,” says Beasley. And some trains have larger bathrooms, where Beasley suggests carefully engaging in standing stretches. “Just be aware there can be sudden stops,” he says.
John Michael Schert dances with LINES Ballet and the Trey McIntyre Project (see “On the Rise,” Nov. 2007). “I don’t think air travel is natural. The pressure is brutal on joints. My ankles swell, and when I land they’re not aligned,” he says. He performs lots of ankle rotations and suggests manually manipulating the foot by moving the metatarsal in a circular motion with your hand.
Carry-On Baggage While seated, Riewe uses softball-sized body balls with rubbery spikes to self-massage. “This applies pressure to my back. And rolling balls with my feet keeps them more active than they normally would be while flying,” she says. Lots of her touring buddies use them too.
Beasley says the seats in planes, trains, buses, and cars tend to pitch the pelvis backwards, causing undue stress on dancers’ hypermobile joints. He recommends traveling with inflatable lumbar and cervical (head/neck) support pillows for long trips. These can be found at most luggage shops and some drug stores. If you don’t have time to search them out, rolled up towels can provide support too.
On the Ground As soon as Schert boards a flight of 12 hours or more, he adjusts the time on his computer, cell phone, and watch to mentally prep for his new time zone. Before the meal, he’ll take a sleeping pill prescribed by his doctor. Then he eats, goes to the bathroom, and hits the hay. “I try to get a solid block of sleep on the plane, because it helps my body to behave like it would in the time zone I’ve landed in,” he says.
When traveling by bus or car, use rest stops to stretch and move as much as you can. Try developing a supported stretch routine with another dancer, or walk around and shake out the kinks. Just make sure to dress comfortably so your movement choices aren’t restricted.
Nancy Alfaro lives (and stretches) in New York.
When Rachel Hamrick was in the corps of Universal Ballet in Seoul, her determination to strengthen her flexibility turned into a side hobby that would eventually land her a new career. "I was in La Bayadere for the first time, and I was the first girl out for that arabesque sequence in The Kingdom of the Shades," she says. "I had the flexibility, but I was wobbly because I wasn't stretching in the right way. That's when I first started playing around with the idea of the Flexistretcher. It was tied together then, so it was definitely more makeshift," she says with a laugh, "But I trained with it to help me get the correct alignment so that I would have the strength to sustain the whole act."
Now, Hamrick is running her own business, complete with an ever-growing product line and her FLX training method—all because of her initial need to make it through 38 arabesques.
For the new Broadway season, Ellenore Scott has scored two associate choreographer gigs: For Head Over Heels, which starts previews June 23, Scott is working with choreographer Spencer Liff on an original musical mashing up The Go-Go's punk-rock hits with a narrative based on Sir Philip Sidney's 1590 book, Arcadia. Four days after that show opens, she'll head into rehearsals for this fall's King Kong, collaborating with director/choreographer Drew McOnie and a 20-foot gorilla.
Scott gave us the inside scoop about Head Over Heels, the craziness of her freelance hustle and the most surprising element of working on Broadway.
Dance in movies is a trend as old as time. Movies like The Red Shoes and Singin' in the Rain paved the way for Black Swan and La La Land; dancing stars like Gene Kelly and Ginger Rogers led the way for Channing Tatum and Julianne Hough.
Lucky for us, some of Hollywood's most incredible dance scenes have been compiled into this amazing montage, featuring close to 300 films in only seven minutes. So grab the popcorn, cozy on up, and watch the moves that made the movies.
Broadway musicals have been on my mind for more than half a century. I discovered them in grade school, not in a theater but electronically. On the radio, every weeknight an otherwise boring local station would play a cast album in its entirety; on television, periodically Ed Sullivan's Sunday night variety show would feature an excerpt from the latest hit—numbers from Bye Bye Birdie, West Side Story, Camelot, Flower Drum Song.
But theater lives in the here and now, and I was in middle school when I attended my first Broadway musical, Gypsy—based, of all things, on the early life of the famed burlesque queen Gypsy Rose Lee. I didn't know who Jerome Robbins was, but I recognized genius when I saw it—kids morphing into adults as a dance number progresses, hilarious stripping routines, a pas de deux giving concrete shape to the romantic yearnings of an ugly duckling. It proved the birth of a lifelong habit, indulged for the last 18 years in the pages of this magazine. But all long runs eventually end, and it's time to say good-bye to the "On Broadway" column. It's not the last of our Broadway coverage—there's too much great work being created and performed, and you can count on hearing from me in print and online.
If you want to know how scary the AIDS epidemic was in the 1980s, come see Ishmael Houston-Jones' piece THEM from 1986. This piece reveals the subterranean fears that crept into gay relationships at the time. Houston-Jones is one of downtown's great improvisers, and his six dancers also improvise in response to his suggestions. With Chris Cochrane's edgy guitar riffs and Dennis Cooper's ominous text, there's an unpredictable, near-creepy but epic quality to THEM.
What is the right flooring system for us?
So many choices, companies, claims, endorsements, and recommendations to consider. The more you look, the more confusing it gets. Here is what you need to do. Here is what you need to know to get the flooring system suited to your needs.
This time last year, Catherine Conley was already living a ballet dancer's dream. After an exchange between her home ballet school in Chicago and the Cuban National Ballet School in Havana, she'd been invited to train in Cuba full-time. It was the opportunity of a lifetime, and one that was nearly unheard of for an American dancer. Now, though, Conley has even more exciting news: She's a full-fledged member of the National Ballet of Cuba's corps de ballet.
"In the school there were other foreigners, but in the company I'm the only foreigner—not just the only American, but the only non-Cuban," Conley says. But she doesn't feel like an outsider, or like a dancer embarking on a historic journey. "Nobody makes me feel different. They treat me as one of them," she says. Conley has become fluent in Spanish, and Cuba has come to feel like home. "The other day I was watching a movie that was dubbed in Spanish, and I understand absolutely everything now," she says.
Chantel Aguirre may call sunny Los Angeles home, but the Shaping Sound company member and NUVO faculty member spends more time in the air, on a tour bus or in a convention ballroom than she does in the City of Angels.
Aguirre, who is married to fellow Shaping Sound member Michael Keefe, generally only spends one week per month at home. "When I'm not working, I'm exploring," Aguirre says. "Michael and I are total travel junkies."
Akram Khan and Florence Welch (of Florence + The Machine) is not a pairing we ever would have dreamt up. But now that the music video for "Big God" has dropped, with choreography attributed to Khan and Welch, it seems that we just weren't dreaming big enough.
In the video, Welch leads a group of women standing in an eerily reflective pool of water. They seem untouchable, until they begin shedding their colorful veils, movements morphing to become animalistic and aggressive as the song progresses.
Savannah Lowery is about as well acquainted with the inner workings of a hospital as she is with the intricate footwork of Dewdrop.
As a child, the former New York City Ballet soloist would roam the hospital where her parents worked, pushing buttons and probably getting into too much trouble, she says. While other girls her age were clad in tutus playing ballerina, she was playing doctor.
"It just felt like home. I think it made me not scared of medicine, not scared of a hospital," she says. "I thought it was fascinating what they did."
It can be hard to focus when Alice Sheppard dances.
Her recent sold-out run of DESCENT at New York Live Arts, for instance, offered a constellation of stimulation. Onstage was a large architectural ramp with an assortment of peaks and planes. There was an intricate lighting and projection design. There was a musical score that unfolded like an epic poem. There was a live score too: the sounds of Sheppard and fellow dancer Laurel Lawson's bodies interacting with the surfaces beneath them.
And there were wheelchairs. But if you think the wheelchairs are the center of this work, you're missing something vital about what Sheppard creates.
A Jellicle Ball is coming to the big screen, with the unlikeliest of dancemakers on tap to choreograph.
We'll give you some hints: His choreography can aptly be described as "animalistic," though Jellicle cats have never come to mind specifically when watching his hyper-physical work. He's worked on movies before—even one about Beasts. And though contemporary ballet is his genre of choice, his choreography is certainly theatrical enough to lend itself to a musical.