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Dancers are always talking about how healthy nuts are for you, but I’m allergic to them. What are some good alternatives that will give me the same nutrition? —Alyssa
Nuts are a high-quality source of protein, fiber and heart-healthy fats—and a super-portable snack for the studio. Luckily, good alternatives exist for those with nut allergies. According to Roberta Anding, sports dietician to Houston Ballet, pumpkin or sunflower seeds are great nut substitutes with little likelihood of an allergic reaction. You can also try protein-packed spreads like hummus or soy-nut butter. However, these recommendations don’t have the exact nutritional profile of nuts—for instance, seeds have less calcium and are higher in saturated fats. “If you want similar nutrition,” Anding says, “it may require crafting a combination of ingredients.”     

Breakfast smoothies are a great way to do just that. Try this recipe recommended by Anding: In a blender, combine one small carton of Greek yogurt (packed with protein and calcium), a quarter of an avocado (a good source of fiber and heart-healthy fats) and a teaspoon of ground flaxseeds (rich in omega-3 fatty acids) with a½ cup of red raspberries, a cup of blackberries and a banana. While fruit adds natural sweetness, berries provide a good source of anti-inflammatory compounds, much like walnuts and almonds.

I have relatively flat feet, so I hate how they look in pointe shoes. Would you recommend arch enhancers? Are they actually beneficial or just a cheat? —Celeste

Arch enhancers—commonly called “farches” (fake arches…get it?)—are slip-on silicon insteps. They create added height at the top of the foot and ankle, giving the illusion of naturally curvy feet. I have a few friends who wear enhancers for performances to exaggerate their line (though if their costume requires bare legs, they’re out of luck). Their purpose is purely aesthetic—they won’t strengthen your foot or change its structure.

Arch enhancers serve as a quick fix, but if you struggle with your feet, it’s better to deal with them honestly by giving extra attention to your pointework—and you need to see what’s really going on down there to do so. Your teacher may not approve of arch enhancers for this very reason, so I wouldn’t recommend wearing them for class (or at auditions—directors want to see the real you). You may also want to reevaluate your pointe shoes. Perhaps a shorter vamp or softer shank would give your feet a more flattering line. Yes, sky-high insteps are beautiful. But never underestimate the beauty of strong, well-articulated footwork.

I get very few corrections in class and am starting to feel ignored. Is it okay to approach my teacher and let her know I feel like I’m getting left behind? —Lauren
Of course! You want to make sure you’re getting the most out of your training. Besides, it’s possible your teacher is unaware she’s giving you less attention. Go up to her after class and ask to meet with her and talk. Let her know that you’re eager to improve, but that you feel you need more feedback. Tell her what aspects of class you’re having trouble with, and ask her to keep an eye out.

Evaluate your work habits, too—does your classroom behavior contribute to the problem? For instance, if you usually hide in the back of the room, stand passively to the side while she corrects others (instead of applying the correction to your own dancing) or openly yawn while she gives combinations, she may assume you’re not invested. Communicating with her will hopefully clear up any misunderstandings. However, if your teacher acts dismissive towards your concerns and continues to pay scant attention to you in a way that you feel is truly unfair—or if you suspect her silent treatment is some sort of mind game—consider finding a new teacher.


I want to be a professional dancer, but my parents won't listen. They either don't think I can do it (contrary to what my teachers have said) or they won't let me take the necessary steps to become a professional. Please help. —Audrey

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Rigorous program, check. Well-rounded technical training, check. Purposeful liberal arts curriculum, check. Study your craft abroad, check! If you are looking for all the above, the Joan Phelps Palladino School of Dance at Dean College truly has it all.

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They say that pigeons mate for life—perhaps that's why these birds naturally symbolize the young lovers in Sir Frederick Ashton's The Two Pigeons. In these two clips from a 1987 performance in Pisa, Alessandra Ferri and Robert LaFosse—then stars with American Ballet Theatre and New York City Ballet, respectively—dance a rapturous pas de deux at the end of Act II. With tiny pricks of her feet and bird-like flaps of her elbows in Part 1, Ferri marks her anguish, thinking she's been abandoned for another woman. Later, both she and LaFosse grow more and more entangled as they reconcile, Ferri dancing with the passionate abandon she's famous for. I love how in Part 2 (0:20), they can't seem to get enough of each other as their necks arch and intertwine. At the end of the ballet, two pigeons fly in to perch symbolically on the chair—er, there's supposed to be two. It looks like one missed its cue at this performance! No matter—Ferri and LaFosse's dancing make it clear that these young lovers are meant to be together for life. Happy #TBT!

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Summer Study Advice
The author at 13, rehearsing at her home studio, Ballet Arts Theater, in Endicott, NY. Courtesy McGuire.

This story originally appeared in the December 2010/January 2011 issue of Pointe.

As a young student at a small ballet school in upstate New York, I was obsessed with getting into the School of American Ballet. From the age of 10, I entered class each day with the ultimate goal of studying at SAB dangling before me like a carrot on a stick. Every effort I made, every extra class I took was for the sole purpose of getting into what I thought was the only ballet school that really mattered.

I auditioned for SAB's summer program for the first time when I was 12. In the weeks that followed, I became a vulture hovering over my family's mail, squawking at my mother if the day's letters were not presented for my inspection when I walked through the door. The day the letter finally arrived, it was thin and limp. I cried for a week as I dealt with the crushing feeling of rejection for one of the first times in my life.

My mind filled with questions and self-doubt. What was wrong with me? Why wasn't I good enough? I figured I must be too fat, too slow, my feet too flat. I had worked so hard. I had wished on every fallen eyelash and dead dandelion in pursuit of my single goal, just to have a three-paragraph form letter conclude that I was a failure. For a while, I let myself wallow in the comfort of my resentment, content to believe that success should have come easily, and that to fall was the same as to fail.

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Pointe Stars
Photo by Theo Kossenas, Courtesy The Washington Ballet

You made a deal with your mom to take ballet classes in exchange for a ride to tryouts for the football team. How did that work?
I thought that I would take ballet for a couple months, become a master and then leave that alone and concentrate on football. Ballet had other ideas, which perplexed me, and ultimately, I think, made me fall in love with it.

How is The Washington Ballet evolving under Julie Kent's leadership?
It's still early, but I think that the company is growing stronger classically. And we have Julie, Victor Barbee, Xiomara Reyes and Rinat Imaev—a great team of people who are giving their input and expertise, which is quite helpful.

Mack in 'Swan Lake.' Photo by Theo Kossenas

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Summer Study Advice
Summer intensive students at the School of American Ballet. Photo by Rosalie O'Conner, Courtesy SAB.

As a young student, Shea McAdoo's classes at the Master Ballet Academy in Scottsdale, Arizona, were “strict, straightforward, very classical and purely Vaganova." She appreciated the Russian rigor and precision, but when she was accepted to the School of American Ballet's summer course at 13, she leapt at the chance to learn something new. The vastly different emphasis on Balanchine technique at SAB was illuminating: “It changed my whole way of thinking about musicality and accents. I'd never known there were so many ways to do a tendu! And the épaulement—I loved how they talked about light hitting your face, tilting your chin to show off your diamond earring."

McAdoo's experience was transformative, even when she returned home. “Of course, I lowered my arms back down in second and didn't cross my wrists," she says, “but there were stylistic choices I brought back with me." Today, as an apprentice with Oregon Ballet Theatre rehearsing Balanchine's Serenade, she credits her ease with the ballet's fluid port de bras to her summer at SAB.

Learning about ballet's various styles and techniques is an important part of a dancer's development. With summer intensive auditions approaching, it's a perfect time to consider broadening your training. While it can be initially confusing, immersing yourself in a style outside your comfort zone can be eye-opening and influential for your future training and career. And the benefits of diversifying your training can last beyond a single summer.

Shea McAdoo in OBT's production of "Paquita." Photo by James McGrew.

Let Curiosity Be Your Guide

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