I always get sick during Nutcracker. Help! —Emily
Long days, late nights, chilly weather and overworked bodies make the perfect recipe for disaster during Nutcracker season. I'll never forget burning up with a fever backstage in my Arabian costume, or the time when a flu outbreak caused major casualties in our Snow and Flower corps. Staying well requires a combination of nutrition, hydration and sleep—not to mention preparedness and discipline.
Your meals should include a combination of carbohydrates, protein and healthy fats to ensure you're receiving essential vitamins and minerals. Use your days off to stock up on groceries and prepare meals for the week to minimize late-night cooking, and keep lots of healthy snacks, like fruits and vegetables, in your bag to stay fueled throughout the day. Most importantly, hydrate. Water oxygenates the blood, flushes toxins, wards off inflammation and keeps the lymphatic system working properly—all keys to a healthy immune system. You may also want to take a daily multivitamin.
Coming home from my summer intensive was such a letdown. How can I carry my summer inspiration into the fall? —Hailey
I remember the feeling, too. After weeks of intense dancing, exciting master teachers and new friends, it can be hard to go back home. You have to channel that inspired energy back into your regular routine. I found it helpful to write down as much as I could remember in a notebook. Give each teacher his or her own page. Include corrections, combinations or exercises that you found particularly helpful, as well as any of their catch phrases or metaphors that brought on an “aha" moment. I even drew stick-person diagrams of one teacher's turnout and arabesque exercises, illustrating all the steps. Refer back to your notebook, applying what you learned over the summer to your fall classes, and make a list of achievable goals that you'd like to reach by December. (By the way, I still have my notebook!)
September 1 marks the beginning of a whole new year—a new dance year, that is. You're fresh from your summer intensive, getting back into a regular class and rehearsal schedule and learning choreography for a new set of performances.
It feels like a clean slate, and that makes it a great time to think about your goals for the upcoming school year. What do you most want to work on this year, and what do you hope to achieve? Whether it's finally mastering a technical challenge, establishing a cross-training routine or building up your confidence, here are some things to keep in mind:
Set realistic goals. According to a study that looked at New Year's Resolutions, 46% of resolutions fail within six months. That's probably because so many of us set unreasonably high expectations for ourselves, or create lists of goals that are a mile long. If you expect to perfect every aspect of your technique in one season, you're setting yourself up for frustration. It's great to challenge yourself, but you're more likely to see tangible progress when you make your goals smaller and more concrete.
Be flexible. One study found that when we make our goals a bit broader, rather than extremely specific, we're more likely to follow through. So if you're a non-morning person who wants to start cross-training before class, try aiming for 3-5 early days a week instead of making five days a week the only option.
Stay motivated. A new season, and all the possibilities it holds, is exciting—but it can also be daunting. Once you start working towards a goal, keep checking in with yourself and try these tips for keeping procrastination at bay if you start to waver.
Build on summer intensive momentum. If you attended an intensive this year, chances are you're energized and renewed after a summer of new experiences. Use that energy when you're back at your home studio: keep notes of helpful corrections you received from your new teachers, stay in touch with friends from your intensive and talk to your teachers at home about what you hope to accomplish this year. They'll probably be happy to help!
I’ve always been ashamed to admit that I try harder in class when I know the teacher is looking at me. I also elevate my arabesque higher when I'm standing next to the girl with great extension. While I realize competition is part of our human nature, I wish I could push myself on my own. Now, there's a new (free!) app, Proof!, that helps you accomplish your goals by adding a little friendly virtual competition. Through the app, you set up personalized goals and share them with friends or family. Then you post a picture or video of yourself following through with the goal—with your friends there to check up on you. It's a perfect way to motivate yourself to reach higher and improve your technique faster. Download the app, available for Android and iPhone, and then challenge your whole class to a little friendly wager: Who can make their double pirouette a triple? Or their triple a quadruple?