Even during busy Nutcracker season, remember to practice gratitude. Here: Pacific Northwest Ballet, photo by Angela Sterling.

As a dancer, you have a lot to be thankful for, starting with the fact that you’re doing something you love every day. Though the spirit of gratitude is in the air at Thanksgiving, it can get lost in the stressful whirlwind of Nutcracker season and holiday family obligations. But remembering to be grateful pays off. Here are just a few health benefits of gratitude that can serve you well all year long:

Sharpen your mind: Research published in the Journal of Happiness Studies found that adolescents who were more grateful not only had higher overall satisfaction, but also higher grade point averages. Focusing on the positive may be just what you need next time you’re tackling a new role or struggling with difficult choreography.

Sleep better: A study in Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being found that students who wrote in gratitude journals before bed felt less worried and were able to get a better night’s sleep. If anxiety strikes the night before an audition or performance, try jotting down a few reasons you’re grateful to be a part of it, instead of counting all the ways you feel unprepared.

Strengthen friendships: Research published in Social Psychological and Personality Science linked gratitude to higher levels of sensitivity and empathy towards others. Next time you’re competing for a highly-coveted role, think of how lucky you are to have peers who are as passionate about dance as you are, and who challenge you to do your best. It may help you better understand their perspective, too.

Ballet Careers
Gray Davis with wife, ABT soloist Cassandra Trenary, after his graduation from the South Carolina Criminal Justice Academy. Courtesy Trenary.

When Gray Davis retired from American Ballet Theatre in July of 2018, he moved home to South Carolina, unsure of what would come next. Last month, just over a year later, Davis graduated from the South Carolina Criminal Justice Academy. Today, he's working as a deputy for the Abbeville County Sheriff's Office.

Though Davis danced in ABT's corps for 11 years and is married to soloist Cassandra Trenary, to many he's best known for saving the life of a man who was pushed onto the subway tracks in New York City in 2017. The heroic effort earned him the New York State Liberty Medal, the highest civilian honor bestowed by a member of the New York State Senate. We caught up with Davis to hear about how the split second decision he made in the subway affected the course of his life, what it's been like starting a second career and what he sees as the similarities between ballet and law enforcement.

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Sponsored by BLOCH
Courtesy BLOCH

Today's ballet dancer needs a lot from a pointe shoe. "What I did 20 years ago is not what these dancers are doing now," says New York City Ballet shoe manager Linnette Roe. "They are expected to go harder, longer days. They are expected to go from sneakers, to pointe shoes, to character shoes, to barefoot and back to pointe shoes all in a day."

The team at BLOCH developed their line of Stretch Pointe shoes to address dancer's most common complaints about the fit and performance of their pointe shoes. "It's a scientific take on the pointe shoe," says Roe. Dancers are taking notice and Stretch Pointe shoes are now worn by stars like American Ballet Theatre principal Isabella Boylston, who stars in BLOCH's latest campaign for the shoes.

We dug into the details of Stretch Pointe's most game-changing features:

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Ballet Stars
Megan Amanda Ehrlich, Courtesy LEAP Program

Claire Sheridan wanted to change the status quo. Leading up to the 1990s, she recalls, "there was a 'shut up and dance' mind-set," and as the founder of the dance program at St. Mary's College of California and a longtime teacher in professional companies, she had seen too many dancers retire with no plan for a successful career transition. "At that time, if you thought about education and the future," she says, "you were not a committed dancer. I wanted to fight that."

With the support of St. Mary's, Sheridan developed the Liberal Education for Arts Professionals program, or LEAP, an innovative liberal-arts bachelor's degree program designed especially for professional dancers. She first presented her idea to executives at San Francisco Ballet. "Kudos to that company, because they said, 'This is great,'" she says. "Eleven of the first 18 dancers who started in August 1999 were from SFB."

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Ballet Training
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I'm a college freshman, and my dance program isn't challenging enough. We only have ballet three times a week and a few hours of modern, and my classmates aren't as dedicated as I am. There's a small dance company nearby, where I was hoping to take extra classes, but I don't have a car. I want to transfer, but I feel like I won't be in good enough shape for auditions. —Tara

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