Your Body: Surviving Nutcracker Season
Smart tips to avoid illness and injury
Allison Miller soars though her Snow Queen performances during Houston Ballet’s Nutcracker run. Over the years, she has gotten surviving the company’s 34 shows down to a science. “You have to listen to your body and pay careful attention to new aches and pains,” says Miller, who was a Dance Magazine 2011 “25 to Watch.” Her strategy includes weekly massages, ice baths, a yoga mat in her dressing room for stretching and cat naps, fresh juices, and an occasional tasty treat in honor of the season.
Experienced dancers like Miller know they need a plan. Thanks to the sheer number of shows, repetitive use injuries run rampant during Nutcracker season. Colds are frequent too because dancers come in close contact with the children in the performance, who themselves are exposed to other sniffling kids.
Plus, some of that snow glistening in the light is actually dust. Sensitive dancers need to have allergy meds at the ready for any allergen floating through the party scene. Starting a medicine like Claritin before performances can help minimize allergic symptoms related to dust. Here are some tips for getting through Nutcracker season injury and sniffle free.
Increase your fluids. “The kidneys are the washing machine of the body. If you are well hydrated you are less likely to get sick,” says Dr. Rebecca Clearman, MD, a Houston physician who specializes in rehabilitation. Miller agrees. “I rely heavily on juices, Emergen-C packets, and of course lots of water,” she says. “Fresh juice with greens, ginger, and lemon are my go-to choices.”
Keep your gadgets on hand. Use balls and rollers to undo some of the strain of frequent performances. “I have tennis balls and spiky metatarsal balls in my dressing room,” Miller says.
Snowflakes need sleep. Sleep may be your best weapon for avoiding both illness and injury. “Fatigue increases the likelihood of injury,” says Dr. Andrew Cooper, MD, a Salt Lake City orthopedist. Clearman agrees that you’re more likely to get sick and injured if you are sleep-deprived. “Studies show that getting a good night’s rest keeps the immune system and your body functioning optimally, so you are prone to fewer traumatic injuries,” she says.
Skip the shopping. You can’t expect to do all the holiday running around and dance a double Nutcracker. “Scale back on your social activities,” says Clearman. Do your shopping early or online. You only have so much bandwidth.
Fuel up. Double show plus class? It can be a draining schedule, so you need to make sure you have enough calories to get through. “Before a tough performance I like to have an Odwalla juice and some nuts or peanut butter,” says Miller. “And afterward, a burger is just right.”
Now there are even more reasons to take your B vitamins. Studies show that B7, also known as biotin, supports your adrenal gland’s function, which can help you keep your metabolism in top shape. As flu season sets in, make sure you get your daily dose from barley, fortified cereals, corn, egg yolks, or milk.
Can the Diet Soda
Diet soda has less sugar, but does that mean it’s better for you? Purdue University reviewed a dozen studies and found that artificial sweeteners can make the body have more intense sugar cravings, which in turn can lead to eating more high fat, calorie-laden foods. So skip the Diet Coke and stick with plain water when you feel thirsty.
Ouch! Try Some Olive Oil
Want another reason to opt for a Mediterranean diet? According to a recent issue of the journal Nature, the oleocanthal in olive oil has anti-inflammatory qualities that are similar to ibuprofen. So add a tablespoon to your salad or fish dish and help your body heal.
You know compelling musicality when you see it. But how do you cultivate it? It's not as elusive as it might seem. Musicality, like any facet of dance, can be developed and honed over time—with dedicated, detailed practice. At its most fundamental, it's "respect for the music, that this is your partner," says Kate Linsley, academy principal of the School of Nashville Ballet.
Notable dancer and beloved teacher, Ross Parkes, 79, passed away on August 5, 2019 in New York City. He was a founding faculty member at Taipei National University of the Arts in Taiwan, where he taught from 1984 to 2006. Lin Hwai-min, artistic director of Cloud Gate Dance Theater, said: "He nurtured two generations of dancers in Taiwan, and his legacy will continue."
About his dancing, Tonia Shimin, professor emerita at UC Santa Barbara and producer of Mary Anthony: A Life in Modern Dance, said this: "He was an exquisite, eloquent dancer who inhabited his roles completely."
Just four years ago, the University of Southern California's Glorya Kaufman School of Dance welcomed its first class of BFA students. The program—which boasts world-class faculty and a revolutionary approach to training focused on collaboration and hybridity—immediately established itself as one of the country's most prestigious and most innovative.
Now, the first graduating class is entering the dance field. Here, six of the 33 graduates share what they're doing post-grad, what made their experience at USC Kaufman so meaningful and how it prepared them for their next steps:
More than once, when I'm sporting my faded, well-loved ballet hoodie, some slight variation of this conversation ensues:
"Is your daughter the dancer?"
"Actually," I say, "I am."
"Wow!" they enthuse. "Who do you dance with? Or have you retired...?"
"I don't dance with a company. I'm not a professional. I just take classes."
Insert mic drop/record scratch/quizzical looks.