Working Out With Christine Rocas
The Joffrey Ballet dancer resets before performances by napping in her sleeping bag.
Rocas with Rory Hohenstein in Romeo & Juliet. Photo by Cheryl Mann, Courtesy Joffrey.
It’s been a challenging year for Joffrey Ballet dancer Christine Rocas. She starred in the company premiere of Krzysztof Pastor’s Romeo & Juliet, danced The Siren in Balanchine’s The Prodigal Son and Odette/Odile in Christopher Wheeldon’s Swan Lake, then alternated as the Sugar Plum Fairy and Snow Queen in The Nutcracker. Now she is learning Wheeldon’s Liturgy pas de deux as well as works by Stanton Welch and Val Caniparoli.
“I really push myself in class and rehearsal and performance, so I don’t do a lot of cross-training,” says Rocas, the willowy 28-year-old who joined the company in 2005. “And it’s weird, I really don’t like walking—even three blocks is hard for me—or running. So I’ll take a yoga or Pilates class from time to time. But on performance days I mostly try to go home to rest for a couple of hours. Or, if there’s no time, I reset my body by taking a nap in my sleeping bag, under a counter in the dressing room.”
Rocas describes herself as “pretty healthy, but never pain-free.” When she first came to the Joffrey she had ankle problems and had to learn how to engage and strengthen her calves so her feet were supported. She says her hamstrings are a bit weak, too, so when she’s on pointe she needs to be “very conscious of the connection between them and my butt.”
Recently, Rocas has been focusing on her back. “I tend to over-arch it and it gets sore and achy,” she says. To counteract this habit, she engages her abdominals by holding a plank before class. “I rest on my forearms, with my legs together, and make sure I make a straight line from the tip of my head to the back of my heels,” she says. “I hold that for a minute until it burns.”
Rocas also goes to the pool regularly to take a water workout class. “There’s no fatigue while I’m in the pool,” says Rocas. “I only realize how tired I am when I get out of the water.”
Her Water Workout
1. Start in the shallow end. Push your kickboard down into the water and place both feet on it. (This takes some practice.)
2. Keeping your balance, paddle with your arms so that you start to move. You can bend your knees as needed. This exercise stabilizes your core and upper body.
3. Once you’re in the deep end, you can extend your legs more. If the kickboard pops up, just reset it.
4. Then, take the kickboard and hold it parallel to your face as you paddle with your legs. This strengthens your arms and your core.
“I’ve learned that I have to eat in the morning. I bake scrambled eggs, turkey sausage and cheese in muffin pans over the weekend, freeze and then heat them up in the microwave during the week.”