Ballet Training
All photos by Jayme Thornton for Pointe, modeled by Payge Lecakes of Manhattan Youth Ballet.

A shallow plié can be frustrating for any dancer. But even if you think you've reached your limit, a deeper, juicier plié may be achievable, says Karen Clippinger, professor at California State University, Long Beach, and author of Dance Anatomy and Kinesiology. "Many dancers can improve the depth of their plié through persistent stretching and careful attention to optimal body alignment," she says. Barring any structural issues that would shorten your plié, such as bone spurs at the front of the ankle, these three exercises will help you access your full range.

You'll need:

  • a 1/2- to 1-inch thick book
  • a Thera-band
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April Day is celebrating her 16th season with The Joffrey Ballet. Photo by Cheryl Mann, Courtesy The Joffrey Ballet.

Joffrey Ballet Star April Daly shares how she stays conditioned throughout the season—and makes her summers intense.

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Ballet Stars
Lunkina and Harrison James rehearsing Wayne McGregor's Genus. Photo by Karolina Kuras, Courtesy National Ballet of Canada

National Ballet of Canada principal Svetlana Lunkina shares the choreographer who pushed her to the next level and secrets of her conditioning regimen.

Wayne's world: Despite being naturally limber, when Svetlana Lunkina worked with Wayne McGregor on his incredibly elastic Chroma, the rehearsal process pushed her boundaries. "Wayne told me, 'You are so flexible, but I think you can do more,'" she says. "It was amazing to see how sometimes we think we're at our limit, but we actually could go farther." Since then, she's actively been working on her flexibility.

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Dara Oda in Ben Stevenson's Alice in Wonderland with Texas Ballet Theater. Photo by Amitava Sarkar, Courtesy Texas Ballet Theater

These three current professionals opened up about opting for a degree first, how it impacted their careers and their favorite college memories.

Dara Oda, Texas Ballet Theater Dancer

Photo by Max Caro, Courtesy of Texas Ballet Theater

Belhaven University, BFA in dance (ballet emphasis), 2014

Growing up, Dara Oda knew she wanted to dance professionally, but she didn't feel ready to audition at the end of high school. "It was really easy to think of college as a fallback," she says. But her perception soon changed. "When I went to Belhaven and saw the level of training I would be getting, that encouraged me to pursue my dream but also be proactive and get my degree at the same time."

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Health & Body
Photos by Jayme Thornton for Pointe. Modeled by Anna Greenberg of American Ballet Theatre's Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School.

Planks are one of the most popular exercises for core strength, but they're not just about flat abs. Julie O'Connell, physical therapist and performing arts program manager at Chicago's Athletico Physical Therapy, says that dancers can use them to maximize their conditioning: Look at the corrections you're getting in class or the choreography you're learning and mirror those concepts in your strength work.

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Ballet Stars

Words of wisdom: As a morning mental warm-up, Stephanie Rae Williams, of Dance Theatre of Harlem, recites an affirmation, like "Today is a great day" or "You can and you will." After she suffered an injury onstage, she also started saying a mantra in the wings, such as "I am strong. I am healthy. I am capable." It helps quell her nerves backstage.

DTH's Stephanie Rae Williams shares her smart conditioning tips. Photo by Rachel Neville, Courtesy Dance Theatre of Harlem.

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Summer Intensive Survival
Follow these tips to stay fresh and clean all summer long. Here, Pacific Northwest Ballet School Summer Course students in a partnering class. Photo by Angela Sterling, Courtesy PNB.

No matter where you're training this summer, you want to make an impression with your artistry— not your B.O. You'll be dancing (and sweating) more than usual, so follow these basic rules to help you stay healthy and keep embarrassing hygiene faux pas at bay.

✔ Change your dancewear daily.

Photo by Jayme Thornton

To ward off odors and the chance of infection, "you must wear a clean leotard and tights every day," says Deborah Hess, senior faculty at Canada's National Ballet School. For men, that means a fresh pair of socks and tights, plus a clean shirt and dance belt. Since you'll have multiple classes, you may need to change midday to avoid skin irritation and odor.

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Good news: Your foot strength and flexibility can improve with careful training. All photos by Jayme Thornton, Modeled by Corinne Chowansky of Marymount Manhattan College.

Maybe you weren't born with gorgeous, overarched feet, but that doesn't mean you're completely stuck with what you've got. "Strength and flexibility can improve with training, but that's within the limits of your individual anatomy," says Dr. Nancy Kadel, a Seattle-based orthopedic surgeon who specializes in dancers' foot and ankle issues. Building a balance of both will help you achieve more supple feet that can support ballet's demands. Kadel recommends the following:

Tools of the (Foot-Strengthening) Trade

Hand towel for scrunching toward you as you actively curl your toes. For a challenge, add weight, like a book, to the end of the towel.

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