Have a question?
Click here to send it to Suzanne Farrell Ballet dancer Amy Brandt.

One dancer in my company barely eats anything. She’s not super-thin, but sometimes I see her eating only a handful of vegetables for “dinner.” Should I say something to the artistic staff, or approach her? —Anonymous
You’re in a tricky situation—you can’t assume a colleague has a problem just because you’ve seen her eating a couple of small meals. But, even if she doesn’t look dangerously thin, it’s possible that she could have an eating disorder. And you have every right to be concerned. According to Lynn Grefe, president of the National Eating Disorders Association, eating disorders have the highest death rate of any mental illness. But before going to the artistic staff with your suspicions, try talking to your friend directly.

Be sensitive in your approach. “Express your concern, without being critical,” advises Grefe. “You could say, ‘I’m worried about you. You’re such a great dancer, but I’ve noticed you’re hardly eating. Is everything okay?’” Be prepared: She may react with denial, or be offended by the suggestion that she has a problem. “But don’t give up on her right away,” says Grefe. Continue giving your support and friendship. If she admits to having a disorder, offer to help her find the right resources to get better.

However, if she denies having a problem and you truly believe she needs help, alert someone on the artistic staff. “She might get upset, or think you’re jealous,” says Grefe. “But if she ends up getting help that she needs, she’ll thank you later.” For more information about eating disorders, visit nationaleatingdisorders.org or call NEDA’s live helpline at 800-931-2237.

I don’t have great turnout, especially in fifth position. What can I do? —Olivia

Very few people have perfect 180-degree rotation—I certainly don’t! Unfortunately, you can’t significantly alter your natural range. But you can work within it without compromising your technique by wrenching from your knees and ankles.         
According to Andrea Zujko, DPT, COMT, a senior physical therapist at New York’s Westside Dance Physical Therapy, you can maximize your available turnout by strengthening your hips’ external rotators with clamshell exercises. Lie on your side, keeping your shoulders, hips and knees in line, and bend your knees, creating a V with your feet behind you. Slowly open and close your top leg like a clam, keeping your feet together, until your external rotators start to fatigue.

Zujko also recommends investing in a pair of rotator discs or Functional Footprints (both available at pilates.com), which twist back and forth like a Lazy Susan. “Their moveable surface allows you to practice turning out from the hip,” she says. Stand on the discs about hip width apart in parallel, and slowly rotate one leg out and back in until your muscles start to fatigue. “Take inventory of what the rest of your body is doing,” says Zujko. “Sometimes we tilt our pelvis forward and arch our backs, or roll our feet in, to get more turnout.” After working one leg at a time, try opening both simultaneously. You can also position the discs in an open fourth and, eventually, in fifth.

My studio doesn’t allow students to attend summer programs until they’re 17. I’m 16 and have been accepted to many programs that I really want to attend. My school’s intensive is amazing, but will it look bad on my resumé if I haven’t been to many others? —Sarah

Directors will be more concerned with the quality of your dancing than the quantity of summer programs on your resumé. But the fact that you’re auditioning for programs, knowing that you’re not allowed to go, makes me think you’re craving more than what your studio can offer you.

Your school directors probably have specific reasons why they don’t allow younger students to go away. Perhaps they want their dancers to have a solid, consistent training base or fear they might injure themselves. However, you’re not getting a chance to network, experience new teachers or investigate companies of interest. If you really want to go away this summer, set up a meeting with your directors to talk about it. Explain why you feel the need to expand your horizons. If they’re unwilling to budge, take a close look at your ultimate goals and determine whether you can afford to wait another year. Be prepared to deal with the consequences at your school if you decide to go. 

Your Best Body
Pilates hundred intermediate set-up, modeled by Jordan Miller. Photo by Emily Giacalone.

The Pilates hundred is a popular exercise used by many dancers for conditioning and warming up, but it's also one of the most misunderstood. Pumping your arms for 100 counts sounds simple enough, but it requires coordinated breathwork, a leg position that suits your abilities and proper alignment. Marimba Gold-Watts, who works with New York City Ballet dancers at her Pilates studio, Articulating Body, breaks down this surprisingly hard exercise. When done correctly, the benefits are threefold: "If you're doing it before class," she says, "the hundred is a great way to get your blood flowing and work on breath control and abdominal support all at once."

To Start

Lie on your back with knees bent and feet on the floor. Nod your chin toward the front of your throat, and reach your fingertips long.

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Pointe Stars

At just 16 years old, the Bolshoi Ballet's Maria Alexandrova already had the makings of a great artist. In this variation from Coppélia, she portrays the carefree Swanilda with blithe, youthful ease.

When she bounds on stage in her perky pink tutu, you immediately notice her legs–they just go on forever. In the first sequence of steps she keeps her jetés and développés low, but then the phrase repeats and she lets her gorgeous extensions fly. She sails through Italian fouettés and whirls around in piqués en manège that get faster and faster. While she nails all the virtuosic movement, Alexandrova also pays beautiful attention to detail throughout the variation. Even the simplest steps become something exciting, like her precise pas de bourrées beginning at 1:03 that sing with musicality.

Swanilda has been one of Alexandrova's signature roles throughout her career. For a fun side by side, watch her perform the same variation almost 20 years later in this video. Although Alexandrova formally retired from the Bolshoi in February, she still performs frequently in Moscow and internationally as a guest artist. Happy #ThrowbackThursday!

Pointe Stars
Ingrid Silva and her dog, Frida Kahlo. Photo by Nathan Sayers for Pointe.

You're probably already following your favorite dancers on Instagram, but did you know that you can follow many of their dogs, too? We rounded up some of our favorite dog-centered accounts and hashtags to keep you pawsitively entertained (sorry, we can't help ourselves).

Cora and Maya (American Ballet Theatre's Sarah Lane and Luis Ribagorda)

Sarah Lane and Luis Ribagorda's pups Cora and Maya update their profile pretty frequently. Often accompanying Lane to the ABT studios, they can also be seen using tutus or piles of pink tights as dog beds.

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Pointe Stars
Vladislav Lantritov and Ekaterina Krysanova in "Taming of the Shrew." Photo by Alice Blangero, Courtesy Bolshoi Ballet.

If you haven't checked your local movie listings yet for this weekend, hop to it. The Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema series and Fathom Events is broadcasting a performance of Jean-Christophe Maillot's The Taming of the Shrew to theaters nationwide on Sunday, November 19. (To see if it's playing near you and to purchase tickets, click here.) While the rest of the Bolshoi's cinema season features 19th- and 20th-century classics, The Taming of the Shrew gives audiences a chance to see the revered Moscow company in a thoroughly modern, 21st-century take on Shakespeare's famous play.

Aside from a limited run in New York City this July, American audiences have had little exposure to Maillot's 2014 production. To learn more, check out these two exclusive, behind-the-scenes webisodes below. Principal dancer Ekaterina Krysanova, who stars as the hotheaded Katharina, gives an intimate play-by-play of two major scenes in Act I. The first is her fiery rejection of three potential suitors (who all would prefer to marry Katharina's younger sister Bianca).

The second scene breaks down Katharina's first encounter with Petruchio (danced by the larger-than-life Vladislav Lantritov), the only man who seems to be able to challenge her. Here, too, we see the shrew's heart start to soften. (Don't miss her time-stopping attitude turn at 4:27.)

The Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema Series continues through June; for more details on upcoming screenings, click here.

Smuin Ballet dancers Erica Felsch, Rex Wheeler, Mengjun Chen and Tessa Barbour in "White Christmas," choreographed by dancers Ben Needham-Wood and Michael Smuin. Photo by Keith Sutter, Courtesy Smuin Ballet.

Nutcracker-ed out? Or just can't get enough holiday ballets? These unique Nutcracker interpretations and non-Nutcracker productions will make your season bright.

The Hip Hop Nutcracker

Through December 30

Tchaikovsky's masterful Nutcracker score isn't just for classical ballet…

Hip Hop + a live DJ + an electric violinist unite in The Hip Hop Nutcracker, currently touring the U.S.

Familiar characters such Drosselmeyer, the Nutcracker, Mouse King and Marie (here called Maria-Clara) dance through an updated New York City storyline with choreography by Jennifer Weber, artistic director of the Brooklyn-based theatrical hip hop company Decadancetheatre.

Premiered in 2014, The Hip Hop Nutcracker is produced by New Jersey Performing Arts Center.

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Pointe Stars
Jurgita Dronina as Kitri in "Don Quixote." Photo by Angela Sterling, Courtesy National Ballet of Canada.

When Jurgita Dronina first danced Kitri for a guest performance of Don Quixote with Teatro Filarmonico-Fondazione Arena Di Verona, she was in essence cast against type. "Before Kitri, I was dancing only lyrical or dramatic roles, so I had to start from scratch in finding my own signature in the steps and my own interpretation of the character," says Dronina, who was dancing with Royal Swedish Ballet at the time.

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