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Your Ideal Pre-Show Prep: A Step-By-Step Guide
You know that how you care for your body before curtain can impact your performance. But with so many factors to consider, it can be difficult to nail down an exact routine. How much rest is enough? How close to showtime should you eat? We asked the experts.
The Night Before
Roll out your muscles: Be sure to cool down appropriately from the long rehearsal days that precede a performance, says sports physical therapist Erwin Seguia. The night before a show, he suggests foam rolling major muscle groups like your quads, glutes, hamstrings and calves. "Foam rolling helps flush out the waste products that result from physical activity, which aids in the recovery of the muscle," he says.
Get enough sleep: Prioritize rest. The average adult should get seven to nine hours of sleep per night, but some elite athletes get up to 11 or 12. Figure out how much you need to feel rested. "If you aren't able to get enough sleep because of late rehearsals, take naps of around 20 minutes during the day," says Seguia.
Eat a balanced meal: Ballet dancer turned registered dietitian Ashley Lucas warns that advice you may have heard to "carb-load" before a big event does not actually lead to improved performance in dance. She suggests eating a hearty, balanced dinner the day before a show. She suggests something like steak with asparagus with olive oil and quinoa, plus berries for dessert, or fatty fish or tofu with brown rice and vegetables with olive oil.
The Morning Of
Think through your choreography: "Right when you wake up, keeping your eyes closed, visualize how the performance will go from start to finish. Really concentrate on the details—the arm movements, the direction you are going to focus your eyes onstage and the tilt of your head," says Justin Sherwood, an adjunct professor at Marymount Manhattan College and a Youth America Grand Prix coach.
Don't skimp on hydration or snacks: Lucas says dancers should aim for two cups of water in the morning and sips of water throughout the day, at least every 20 minutes. Begin with a filling, balanced breakfast, and then get strategic about what to eat and when. "Eat smaller meals and snacks throughout the day to avoid stomach distress, but keep satiated and energized," says Lucas. Make sure to eat something within 30 minutes after any rehearsals or classes for proper recovery. Your snacks should always contain protein and fat—a snack of only simple carbohydrates, which are quickly digested, will leave you feeling tired again shortly afterward.
Warm up gently: Seguia suggests starting show day by warming up the areas of your body that will need to be most active for dancing, especially your core, hips and ankles. Planks, bridges and bigger movements like squats and lunges are all good choices, but take it easier than you would if you were doing a full workout. A smart dynamic exercise to warm up your hips in the morning is banded squats: Place a resistance loop around your legs above the knees. With feet hip width apart, squat as low as you can while maintaining a neutral spine and your knees over your toes. Repeat for two sets of five to eight repetitions.
Jayme Thonton for Pointe
Eat early: To stay energized, eat anywhere between one and four hours before a performance, says Lucas. Have enough that you will not be hungry too close to showtime, since eating right before could lead to an upset stomach.
Strategically focus your warm-up: Think about the material you are about to perform: Does it require fast changes of direction? Is it more slow and sustained? Sherwood says this should determine what you focus on in class as you are warming up. He also suggests marking through the performance onstage if possible, to keep up your confidence without wearing yourself out. Before going on, Seguia recommends repeating your warm-up exercises from the morning to keep your body and your brain primed to move
One of the biggest myths about ballet dancers is that they don't eat. While we all know that, yes, there are those who do struggle with body image issues and eating disorders, most healthy dancers love food—and eat plenty of it to fuel their busy schedules.
Luckily for us, they're not afraid to show it:
Looking for your next audition shoe? Shot at and in collaboration with Broadway Dance Center, Só Dança has launched a new collection of shoes working with some pretty famous faces of the musical theater world! Offered in two different styles and either 2.5" or 3" heels, top industry professionals are loving how versatile and supportive these shoes are! Pro tip: The heel is centered under the body so you can feel confident and stable!
When I wrote about my struggle with depression, and eventual departure from dance because of it, I expected criticism. I was prepared to be challenged. But much to my relief, and horror, dancers from all over the world responded with support and stories of solidarity. The most critical response I saw was this one:
"Dance isn't for everyone."
This may as well be a mantra in the dance world. We have become entrenched in the Darwinian notion that the emotionally weak will be weeded out. There is no room for them anyway.
Growing up in a family-owned dance studio in Missouri had its perks for tap dancer Anthony Russo. But it also earned him constant taunting, especially in high school.
"There was a junior in my sophomore year health class who was absolutely relentless," he says. "I'd get tripped on my way to the front of the classroom and he'd say, 'Watch out, twinkle toes.' If I raised my hand and answered a question incorrectly, I'd hear a patronizing 'Nice one, Bojangles.' "
What does a superstar like Carlos Acosta do after bidding farewell to his career in classical ballet? In Acosta's case, he returns to his native country, Cuba, to funnel his fame, connections and prodigious energies back into the dance scene that formed him. Because of its top-notch, state-supported training programs and popular embrace of the art of dance, Cuba is brimming with talented dancers. What it has been short on, until recently, are opportunities outside of the mainstream companies, as well as access to a more international repertoire. That is changing now, and, with the creation of Acosta Danza, launched in 2016, Acosta is determined to open the doors even wider to new ideas and audiences.
There's so much more to the dance world than making and performing dances. Arts administrators do everything from raising money to managing companies to building new audiences. With the growing number of arts administration programs in colleges, dancers have an opportunity to position themselves for a multifaceted career on- or offstage—and to bring their unique perspective as artists to administrative work.
While Solange was busy helping big sis Beyoncé give Coachella its best performances of all time, an equally compelling project was quietly circulating on Instagram:
New York City Ballet continues its first year without Peter Martins at the helm as our spring season opens tonight.
When he retired at the start of the new year, we plunged headfirst into unknown, murky waters. Who would the new director be? When would we know? Would we dancers get some say in the decision? Who would oversee the Balanchine ballets? Who would be in charge of casting? Would a new director bring along huge upheaval? Could some of us be out of a job?
In the world of ballet, Arcadian Broad is a one-stop shop: He'll come up with a story, compose its music, choreograph the movement and dance it himself. But then Broad has always been a master of versatility. As a teenager he juggled school, dance and—after the departure of his father—financial responsibility. It was Broad's income from dancing that kept his family afloat. Fast-forward six years and things are far more stable. Broad now lives on his own in an apartment, but you can usually find him in the studio.
Bales of hay, black umbrellas, bicycles—this Midsummer Night's Dream would be unrecognizable to the Bard. Alexander Ekman's full-length, inspired by Scandinavian solstice traditions and set to music by Mikael Karlsson, is a madcap celebration of the longest day of the year, when the veil between our world and that of the supernatural is said to be at its thinnest. The Joffrey Ballet's performances mark the seductively surreal work's North American premiere. April 25–May 6. joffrey.org.