Born to Run?

It is a truth universally acknolwedged among ballet students and dancers that running (or jogging) is bad, bad, bad.  Many dancers will say that running is terrible because it is pretty high-impact, meaning your joints can take a beating, and it works against you because it's a turned-in activity.  However, as a dancer who has been an amateur runner for the past six months, I say this is not necessarily true.

 

I started running because I needed to do a bit more cardio, since I wasn't dancing as much as I had been.  So to supplement my classes, I began pounding the pavement in my Brooklyn neighborhood two or three times a week, going about two miles or so.  It was really hard at first.  I've never been much for sports, and  I couldn't jog for more than 15 minutes without having to stop and walk, and my legs quickly got tired.  And believe me, I was NOT going very fast.  I stuck with it, though, because I really wanted to be able to run a few miles whenever I felt like it.  It's a good workout that can be done anytime, anywhere.  What really helped was setting a goal for myself:  I signed up for a four-mile New York Road Runners race in Central Park in June, which seemed totally impossible at the time, but I thought I would try and get to that point anyway.  You know what?  It worked.  I gently pushed myself to go a little faster and a little farther every couple of weeks, until one day, I realized I could run four miles without stopping.  I was so excited!  On race day, I got up at 6:15 a.m. to get ready for the 8:30 a.m. start.  I was nervous as I headed over to Central Park and waded into the crowd that had turned out to run, and wasn't sure that I was going to make it after all.  But I did, and when I finished, I felt euphoric and really proud of myself.  I had never competed in anything before, and the feeling of crossing a finish line (and no, I wasn't last, thank you very much) was great.

 

Since then, I've really fallen in love with running.  I can now run six miles at a pretty good pace, and I really like the opportunity it provides to get outside.  And as far as dancing goes?  My stamina has improved a lot, and since I stretch pretty religiously after running, I don't have problems with my turnout or flexibility decreasing.  The biggest change that has taken place, though, is how much confidence I've gained, knowing that I can do something other than ballet that is physically demanding and requires a lot of discipline as well.  I take that confidence with me into the studio, which is where we all need it most.

Ballet Stars

For many a bunhead, "The Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy" is not just a holiday tradition, but a rite of passage. The variation, with its tinkling celesta, bourrées and petit battus, is one that all ballet dancers are familiar with, and getting the opportunity to perform it often represents moving into new realms in your training or career. Such was the case for Soviet ballerina Ekaterina Maximova. In this 1957 clip, the 18-year-old aspirant performed the Sugar Plum variation at a ballet competition, where she represented the Bolshoi Ballet Academy.

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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."

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For any young dancer performing in The Nutcracker, Marie (aka Clara, depending on the production) is a dream role. But Charlotte Nebres, who will be playing Marie in New York City Ballet's Nutcracker this year isn't just bringing her own dream to life—she's also making history.

Charlotte is the first black dancer to ever perform the role of Marie in NYCB's production of George Balanchine's The Nutcracker, which dates all the way back to 1954. Charlotte was, of course, hugely excited to perform the role of Marie, but, according to the New York Times, when her mother told her that she was the first black dancer cast in the role, she said "Wow. That seems a little late."

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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:

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