Ballet dancers today are asked to do more with their bodies than ever before. The physical demands of a ballet career can take an immense toll on a dancer's joints and muscles—subjecting them to pain, inflammation and an increased risk of injury. Considering all that is required of today's dancers, having a top-notch recovery regime is paramount.

Enter Apolla Performance Wear, which is meeting ballet's physical demands with a line of compression footwear that is speeding up the recovery process for professional dancers by reducing inflammation and stabilizing the joints.


Indeed, time is of the essence for today's ballet dancers, who often need to be performance-ready within 24 hours of a full day of dancing. So while the long-standing recommendation of RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation) still holds true, says Heather Southwick, director of physical therapy at Boston Ballet, dancers need all the help they can get in expediting their recovery.

Why is compression such a vital step in the recovery process—especially for dancers? For one, it reduces swelling by increasing circulation. (While swelling is a natural reaction to protect the affected area, says Southwick, it can inhibit circulation and decrease range of motion—not to mention cause pain.) Compressing the targeted area and then releasing it can lead to faster muscle and joint recovery and help prevent the buildup of fluid caused by swelling.

"But dancers don't have the normal timeframe for normal physiology to happen," Southwick says. "Sometimes they are dancing six days a week and easily six hours or more a day." That's where Apolla comes in—allowing dancers to jump-start their compression with products that can be worn before, during and after dancing.

Apolla's Shocks ("shoe" + "sock") have long been popular in the contemporary dance scene. But their products are just as relevant for ballet dancers. In fact, Apolla recently partnered with Boston Ballet to create two compression products designed for ballet dancers in particular: the Joule, a sock with cutouts for the heel and toes that can be worn over pointe shoes, ballet shoes or bare feet; and the K-Warmer, a thigh-high compression leg warmer. Unlike other compression products which are tight throughout the entire garment, Apolla Shocks offer more support around targeted areas such as the arches of the feet and ankles. The heel and toe areas of products like the Infinite Shock or Performance Shock are intentionally a bit looser to allow for more pinpointed compression in the arches and ankles.

In addition to their compressive qualities, Apolla Shocks offer dancers alignment support—especially important for ballet dancers with super-flexible feet. Shocks like the Joule subtly discourage overstretching the feet, while still allowing dancers to build strength. "When they're doing certain ballets, like Balanchine, where the look is really to go over the box of the shoe, they're stretching the front of the ankle quite a bit," says Southwick. "The Joule provides a little feedback and support in rehearsals so that, as the dancers are doing movements repetitively, they aren't straining the entire anterior aspect of the ankle." Dancers are also finding that their Apolla Shocks can replace kinesio tape.

Apolla Shocks have been such a boon for some ballet dancers that they're doing away with their ballet shoes entirely during class. Still, in many settings where teachers may prefer traditional ballet footwear, Apolla Shocks offer excellent supplemental support. "I use them almost every day," says Boston Ballet soloist Irlan Silva. "Even at my house when I'm resting, I leave them on. Afterward, when I take them off, my feet feel lighter." He likes to wear the Performance or Amp Shocks to warm up before class, and after class he'll wear the Infinite Shock, Apolla's most compressive mid-calf length sock to recover. He even wears the K-Warmer when he travels. "When I'm in an airplane, I put them on and they help me so so much," he says.

Despite a greater susceptibility to injury due to today's hypermobile aesthetic and dancers' jam-packed schedules, ballet dancers are better equipped to meet those challenges than ever before. With the help of Apolla products and other tools, dancers are thriving as active participants in their own self-care and training, dancing longer and healthier than ever before. "The newer generation of dancers thinks a lot about how they can care for their bodies," says Southwick. "They understand that science plays a big role in their care."

Ballet Careers
Lenai Alexis Wilkerson. Christopher Duggan, Courtesy Michelle Tabnick Public Relations.

This is one of a series of stories on recent graduates' on-campus experiences—and the connections they made that jump-started their dance careers. Lenai Alexis Wilkerson graduated from University of Southern California with a BFA in dance (dance performance concentration) and a political science minor in 2019.

As Lenai Alexis Wilkerson looked at colleges, she wanted a school that would prepare her for two totally different professions: dancing and law. "I knew, pretty much when I was 16, that I wanted to go to law school," she says. "So I wanted the opportunity to have a dual college experience, where I could have a conservatory training style within a university and I could focus equally on my academics." When she auditioned for the inaugural class of University of Southern California's Glorya Kaufman School of Dance, she knew it was the right fit.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored by Ballet Arizona
Tzu Chia Huang, Courtesy Ballet Arizona

These days, ballet dancers are asked to do more than they ever have—whether that's tackling versatile rep, taking on intense cross-training regimens or managing everything from their Instagram pages to their summer layoff gigs.

Without proper training, these demands can take a toll on both the mind and the body. But students can start preparing for them early—with the right summer intensive program.

The School of Ballet Arizona's summer intensive takes a well-rounded approach to training—not just focusing on technique and facility but nurturing overall dancer growth. "You cannot make a dancer just by screaming at them like they used to," says master ballet teacher Roberto Muñoz, who guests at the program every summer. "You have to take care of the person as well."

Keep reading... Show less
News
Nicolas Pelletier in Carmina Burana. Francisco Estevez, Courtesy Colorado Ballet.

Last week, Colorado Ballet interrupted Nutcracker rehearsals for an exciting announcement: Four dancers were being promoted. Though all made the jump from the company's corps de ballet, Nicolas Pelletier ascended directly to the rank of soloist, while Sean Omandam, Emily Speed and Melissa Zoebisch were promoted to demi-soloist. This news comes hot on the heels of last August's promotion of Francisco Estevez to principal.

Keep reading... Show less
Courtesy School of Pennsylvania Ballet

While many of us are deep in Nutcracker duties, The School of Pennsylvania Ballet director James Payne has been looking further ahead, finalizing preparations for the school's summer intensive programs. In January, he and his staff will embark on a 24-city audition tour to scour the country for the best young dancers, deciding whether or not to offer them a spot—maybe even a scholarship—in the school's rigorous 5-week intensive focused on high-caliber ballet instruction. Though he'll be evaluating aspirants, he urges that as a student, you should be equally selective in choosing programs that could galvanize your training—and possibly even your career.

We got Payne's advice on strategizing your summer intensive plan before the audition cycle kicks in:

Keep reading... Show less