The elusive banana arch, that make-or-break detail looming large in the minds of ballet students, isn't as important as you might think. That is, the hyper-curved foot might be a beautiful blessing for some, but pursuing strong and articulate feet is far more important than obsessing over mere aesthetic. After all, no one is hired for their feet alone. Read on for all things feet, and our best strength and alignment tips:
Lying awake in her hotel bed in Washington, DC, the night before her audition, Richmond Ballet dancer Valerie Tellmann-Henning was tormented with anxiety. At 31 years old, she was comfortable in her career. So comfortable that she decided to seek new artistic challenges. With the support of her director, she decided to audition for The Suzanne Farrell Ballet with the hope of juggling two contracts. The only thing that stood between her and her goal was a bout of anxiety. “I felt like I was 19 again trying to get my first job," she remembers. “It made me second-guess a lot of things about myself: Is Suzanne going to like my body type? Will my legs be high enough?" The anxious feeling made Tellmann-Henning irritable, and she even found herself holding her breath during the audition class, as a stream of insecurities cycled through her mind.
Anxiety is an irrational sense of fear that pairs perfectly with perfectionism. Most, if not all, ballet dancers will feel anxious from time to time. In fact, the psychologists we spoke to said it is one of the most common reasons dancers come to them for treatment. While a dash of nerves before you go onstage can add electricity to your performance, anxiety can kill your confidence and even limit your ability to live your life normally if it goes unchecked. In a field that's filled with stressful situations—like casting, audition jitters, contract renewals, mounting bills and stage fright—it's important to learn how to identify anxiety, evaluate the seriousness and take steps to cope with it before it holds you back.
What Your Yoga Teacher Wishes You Knew
Yoga has become a popular form of cross-training for ballet dancers, thanks to its stretching, strengthening and stress-relieving benefits. But it also poses challenges: How do you adapt your flexibility and turnout and shed your competitive nature to get the most out of class? Jennifer Goodman, a Chicago-based yoga instructor, freelance dancer and former Joffrey Ballet member, shares her tips for what you should and shouldn't be doing when you roll out your mat.
Don't push your flexibility to the max. It might feel nice to sink into a pose, but it won't do you any good. When you dial back your extensions, says Goodman, you start to gain strength to support your flexibility. And pushing too far could lead to injury. “Especially if you're in a heated yoga class, you can overstretch," she says, citing a fellow dancer who pulled her hamstring but didn't realize it until afterwards.
A fresh perspective: Last year, Katie Critchlow went through seven months of recovery for a debilitating ankle sprain, but the process transformed her outlook on cross-training: “You think that doing ballet class every day is enough, but it's not," she says. “Ballet dancers are hypermobile, and in order to execute everything onstage when you're tired and fatigued, you need a lot of strength to back that up."
Ready to run: About two months after her injury, Critchlow began jogging. “I had to start really, really slow on a treadmill." Her ankle sprain had affected her hip, too, causing her to veer in a diagonal until she balanced the alignment in her legs. Now she prefers to run outdoors around Salt Lake City. “It helps mobilize my joints, so I'll either go at the end of a light day or wait for the weekend."
The Royal Winnepeg Ballet principal adapts her cross-training for the company's frequent touring.
Travel savvy: Touring seven to eight weeks a year means Sophia Lee hits hotel gyms a lot. “I usually pack my runners and workout clothes," she says. Once she arrives at a tour stop, she'll hop on the elliptical for 20 to 30 minutes. If there's no gym, she'll walk around the city to relieve stiffness from the bus or plane ride.
Picture this: While she's traveling or in her hotel room, Lee does visualization exercises. “I close my eyes, listen to the music and imagine exactly how I'm going to execute each movement. I actually think about firing the same muscles and where I'll breathe in and breathe out."
Love it or hate it, this is the time of year when people start talking about New Year's Resolutions. While it's exciting to think about what you want to work on in 2017, it can also feel daunting—especially because we often set unrealistic goals for ourselves, and wind up frustrated a few months in. Breaking resolutions down into small, attainable steps can help keep you motivated, and seeing positive results. To get you started, we pulled together a few tips for tackling some common dance-related goals.