Hubbard Street II's Felicia McBride started swimming as part of her rehab for stress fractures. “After a long day of dancing," says McBride, “swimming rebalances my body. It lubricates everything; it's like putting oil back in my hinges."

Before you hit the pool, it's a good idea to freshen up your technique. Total Immersion Swimming (www.totalimmersion.net) is a tried-and-true instructional method to improve your stroke. When you swim, try to switch between strokes as you do laps. Each has something to offer a dancer in terms of movement intelligence. Freestyle (front crawl) emphasizes the basic spiral underlying all locomotive movement. Backstroke opens the chest and awakens the cervical spine and pectoral region, while breaststroke activates the back extensor muscles, which allow you to arch and bend backwards.

Swim for Stamina

Although running increases aerobic capacity, it can be hard on dancers' already stressed joints and muscles. “Swimming's regulated breathing pattern leads to an increased oxygen intake," says Ballet Memphis' physical therapist Lee Kelly. “The heart rate decreases, so in order to compensate, there is an increase in the volume of blood pumped in each beat, which provides improved cardiac output."

Dancers can feel the benefits in greater endurance and power. The water's resistance also helps to tone muscles, providing an anabolic workout. Pool time helped Colorado Ballet soloist Adam Still deal with the relentless pace of dancing the Chosen One in Glen Tetley's The Rite of Spring. “Swimming beats running because of the huge anabolic effect it has," says Still, a former competitive swimmer.

Relieve Back Pain

A recent study from Japan suggests that an aquatic exercise program of swimming and walking in a pool reduced low-back pain. Working against the water strengthens core muscles, which helps relieve back strain. “For trunk and extremity strengthening, the crawl is excellent because it works on muscle coordination with the opposite arm and leg," says Kelly.

There's also a novel stretching aspect to the sport. As the reach of your arm travels through the body into the pelvis, it creates a chain reaction throughout the body. “Flexibility is worked by a lengthening of the body, rotation motion, and exercising in an enviroment with no gravity," adds Kelly.

Escape Stress

Swimming's meditative aspect gives dancers a chance to decompress. The body is buoyant, which permits you to relax your muscles and joints. The water offers a feeling of total isolation as well. “The silence when you go underwater is hard to beat," says Still. “Ballet is high-impact and swimming is almost like zero gravity." McBride agrees that swimming can be an escape. “It gives me the peace and quiet to figure things out. I always leave the pool feeling renewed."

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Brandt in Giselle. Rosalie O'Connor, Courtesy ABT

Skylar Brandt's Taste in Music Is as Delightful as Her Dancing

American Ballet Theatre soloist Skylar Brandt's dancing is clean, precise and streamlined. It's surprising, then, to learn that her taste in music is "all over the place," she says. (Even more surprising is that Brandt, who has an Instagram following of over 80k, is "in the dark ages" when it comes to her music, and was buying individual songs on iTunes up until a year ago, when her family intervened with an Apple Music plan.)

Though what she's listening to at any given time can vary dramatically, the through-line for Brandt is nostalgia: songs that take her back, whether to childhood, a favorite movie or a piece she's recently performed. Brandt told us about her eclectic taste, and made us a playlist that will keep you guessing:

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Ailey II artistic director Troy Powell teaching an Ailey Workshop at NYCDA. Courtesy NYCDA

NYCDA Is Redefining the Convention Scene Through Life-Changing Opportunities

Back in 2011 when Joe Lanteri first approached Katie Langan, chair of Marymount Manhattan College's dance department, about getting involved with New York City Dance Alliance, she was skeptical about the convention/competition world.

"But I was pleasantly surprised by the enormity of talent that was there," she says. "His goal was to start scholarship opportunities, and I said okay, I'm in."

Today, it's fair to say that Lanteri has far surpassed his goal of creating scholarship opportunities. But NYCDA has done so much more, bridging the gap between the convention world and the professional world by forging a wealth of partnerships with dance institutions from Marymount to The Ailey School to Complexions Contemporary Ballet and many more. There's a reason these companies and schools—some of whom otherwise may not see themselves as aligned with the convention/competition world—keep deepening their relationships with NYCDA.

Now, college scholarships are just one of many ways NYCDA has gone beyond the typical weekend-long convention experience and created life-changing opportunities for students. We rounded up some of the most notable ones:

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Courtesy The Joyce

Dance Magazine Chairman's Award Honoree: Linda Shelton

In an industry that has been clamoring for more female leadership, Linda Shelton, executive director of New York City's The Joyce Theater Foundation since 1993, has been setting an example for decades. As a former general manager of The Joffrey Ballet, U.S. tour manager for the Bolshoi Ballet, National Endowment for the Arts panelist, Dance/NYC board member and Benois de la Danse judge, as well as a current Dance/USA board member, Shelton has served as a global leader in dance. In her tenure at The Joyce, she has not only increased the venue's commissioned programming, but also started presenting beyond The Joyce's walls in locations such as Lincoln Center.

What brought you to The Joyce?

That was many years ago, but it's still the same today: It's a belief in and passion for the mission of the theater, which is to support dance in all of its forms and varieties—every kind of dance that you could imagine.

Diversity is so important in dance leadership today. How do you approach this at The Joyce?

Darren Walker said something interesting at a Dance/NYC Symposium, which was that The Joyce is a disruptor. It was nice to hear in that context, because we don't think of it as something new. We didn't have to change our mission statement to be more diverse. We've been doing this since day one.

Is drawing in new audiences and maintaining longtime supporters ever in conflict?

Of course. I call it the blessing and the curse of our mission. We do present more experimental companies that may attract a younger audience. But it's very tricky. You're not going to tell your long-term audience, "Don't come and see this because you're not going to like the music." We've had people walk out of the theater before, but it's a response. It's important to spark those conversations.

What experimenting have you done?

We've tried a "pay what you decide" ticket the past couple of seasons with some of our more adventurous programming. You would reserve your seat for a dollar and after seeing the show pay what you decide is right for you.

Do you have advice for other dance presenters?

Find opportunities to sit with colleagues from around the country. At Dance/USA there's a presenters' council where we come together and talk about what we're putting in our seasons and what we're passionate about. Maybe there are enough presenters to collaborate and make it possible to bring a company to New York or to do a tour around the country.

Also, remember what it's all about: making that connection between what's onstage and the audience. If we can do that, despite every visa issue and missed flight and injury and changed program and whatever else comes our way, then we should feel good about the job we're doing.

To purchase tickets to the Dance Magazine Awards or become a sponsor, visit dancemediafoundation.org.

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