They say injury can be a great teacher: When Texas Ballet Theater dancer Carolyn Judson was sidelined with a back injury in 2007, her interest in health piqued. “I wondered how I could heal myself, so I began to research and read," she says. “I was amazed at what I found. I turned to food that reduced pain and inflammation." She credits the dietary changes she made, in addition to getting introduced to Gyrotonic, with helping her recover more quickly.
As time went on, Judson decided to expand her education. She enrolled in an online health coach training program at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, graduating in 2013. “I would come home from rehearsal and go right to class. The program also covered how to start up a business." Judson has since built her own website, which features many of her popular recipes.
It’s not uncommon for a dancer to be dedicated to her cross-training routine, but Pennsylvania Ballet corps member Holly Lynn Fusco goes the extra mile—or two. During layoffs and summer breaks she takes a train to New York City for Gyrotonic classes. And when PAB is in season, she taps her Gyrotonic training to keep her body supple yet strong.
Gyro guru: Fusco started intensive training in Gyrotonic when she was a student at Miami City Ballet School. “Since the movements are circular, it helps me utilize all my back muscles,” she says. Now, Gyrokinesis exercises are part of her daily pre-class routine.
Upper-body allure: Since Fusco’s back tends to be tight, she builds flexibility and strength with this exercise: Lie facedown on the floor with your hands underneath your forehead, and legs and feet together. Slowly lift your head and arms up as far as you can and hold for 10 counts. Repeat 15 times. “A lot of dancers are concerned with warming up their legs, but your upper body is almost more important. It’s how you carry yourself,” she says.
New heights: To prepare to dance at the high elevation of Vail, CO, where the company toured this summer, Fusco used the elliptical or a stationary bike for hour-long cardio workouts three times a week. “Russian Girl in Serenade is very strenuous—even right here in Philly.”
Turnout tune-up: “I just overcame a hip injury, so my rotating discs are my best friend.” Fusco stands in parallel with one foot on each disc and slowly lowers into a plié, rotates into turnout and then straightens her knees. The goal is not to let the discs move when you straighten. This activates the front of the hips and glutes.
A strong start: Every morning begins with a bagel with cream cheese and homemade juice. “I’m obsessed with juicing and try to stick to solid colors,” says Fusco. “Anything that’s green can go in at the same time.” The result: “It gives me the energy I need to get through class rather than just having coffee and crashing in an hour.” Fusco also brings her juice to work, so she can sip on it all day.
Favorite rehearsal fuel: She loves pumpkin seeds for a midday snack. “Sometimes I roast them with garlic and salt.”