Are there foods that are helpful for building bone density? —Cait


You're smart to ask, since several factors put female dancers at risk of low bone density. While any form of weight-bearing activity, including ballet, will help build bone mass, excessive training, being underweight and disordered eating—which are common among young dancers—can lead to hormonal imbalances that affect bone health. If you have stopped getting your period or have an irregular menstrual cycle, listen up!

According to Karen M. Gauci, MPH, RD, LD, dietitian for the Harid Conservatory, women stop building bone density around age 30. It's crucial to develop bone health now in order to prevent problems like osteopenia and osteoporosis down the line.

Vitamin D, please. Aim for 10 to 15 minutes of daily sunlight to boost your bone health. Thinkstock

Gauci recommends eating foods rich in calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and vitamin D. Calcium is essential for healthy bones, and comes from dairy products like milk, cheese and yogurt; green, leafy vegetables; and bone-in anchovies and sardines. Magnesium aids calcium absorption, while phosphorous helps increase bone mineralization; both are readily available in most fruits and vegetables. Vitamin D is produced in the skin by exposure to sunlight—not always easy for dancers who are cooped up in the studio all day. According to the International Association for Dance Medicine & Science, 10 to 15 minutes of exposure a day should do the trick. Vitamin D–rich foods include fatty fish (like salmon and mackerel), eggs and portobello mushrooms, as well as D-fortified milk and orange juice.

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However, Gauci warns against eating too much animal protein like beef, pork and eggs. "You need calcium in order to digest it, so your body will pull calcium from your bones," she says. That's why plant-based protein sources (such as beans, lentils, quinoa), which do not need calcium to be metabolized, should be an integral part of your diet.

Have a question? Send it to Pointe editor and former dancer Amy Brandt at askamy@dancemedia.com.

Francisco Estevez, Courtesy Colorado Ballet Academy

When you're looking for a ballet program to take you to the next level, there are a lot of factors to consider. While it's tempting to look for the biggest name that will accept you, the savvy dancer knows that successful training has more to do with the attention and opportunities you'll get.

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Pennsylvania Ballet demi-soloist Thays Golz as the Sugar Plum Fairy during a stage rehearsal for George Balanchine's Nutcracker. All photography by Arian Molina Soca.

For many professional ballet dancers, Nutcracker means weeks of performances. That usually translates to multiple casts—and important breakout opportunities for those in the junior ranks. On the afternoon of December 13, Pennsylvania Ballet demi-soloist Thays Golz made her debut as the Sugar Plum Fairy along with her Cavalier, corps member Austin Eylar. For the Brazilian-born dancer, who joined PAB in 2018 after two seasons at Houston Ballet, Sugar Plum marks one of her first principal roles.

"I'm really excited," says Golz. PAB artistic director Angel Corella appointed 12 casts of Sugar Plum Fairies over the run's 29 performances. "When I first found out, I was like, 'Pinch me!' I still can't believe it."

We caught up with Golz just before her debut to see how she prepared for her big break.

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Rosalie O'Connor, Courtesy US Prix de Ballet

The US Prix de Ballet is taking an unconventional approach to the ballet competition—by putting the competitors' health first. After a successful first year in 2018, the Prix is returning to San Diego, CA this February with an even more comprehensive lineup of wellness workshops and master classes, in addition, of course, to the high-level competition.

Though the talent is top-notch, the environment is friendly, says HARID Conservatory faculty member Victoria Schneider, who serves on US Prix de Ballet's elite panel of judges. "The wellbeing of the dancer is the main focus," says Schneider, who awarded three scholarships to HARID at last year's competition.

US Prix de Ballet was born after its founders traveled to the Japan Grand Prix International Ballet Competition in 2016. "The company ran every aspect of the competition with professionalism, dignity, honor and precision," says founder Neisha Hernandez. "We knew we wanted this level of experience for America."

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