Photographed for Pointe by Nathan Sayers, Modeled by Petra Love

Upcycle Your Workout (Without Buying New Stuff)

Pacific Northwest Ballet principal dancer Lesley Rausch says she did plenty of curls to tone her arms ahead of her summer wedding, but her physical therapist gave her another way to use those light free-weights that had a major impact on her jumps in the studio. "I stand in parallel first position and hold a weight in each hand with my arms at my sides, then engage my core and glutes to hinge forward at the hips with a neutral spine, before slowly raising my upper body back to standing," says Rausch. It's essentially a dead lift using your torso but also your hamstrings and all-important glutes, which power jumps. "Even though I'm not a natural jumper, I noticed after a few weeks that my petit allégro was faster and more effortless."

While new fitness products and doodads are always coming to the market, there are myriad ways to use the fitness props you already own to revive a tired workout or stretching regimen. We asked Rausch and two physical therapists to share some inspiration for repurposing your foam rollers, Thera-Bands, physio balls, and other old standbys in the New Year.

The Tired Tool: Foam Roller

According to Maribeth Crupi, a physical therapist who treats Boston Ballet dancers, rolling out after class definitely aids with delayed-onset muscle soreness, but there are other ways your trusty foam roller can help with overall conditioning. She recommends lying lengthwise on a three-foot-long foam roller to challenge your stability during level-one Pilates exercises, like single-leg circles or the hundred—just be sure to modify the positions so that one or both feet are firmly planted on the floor to help stabilize you.

Photographed for Pointe by Nathan Sayers, Modeled by Petra Love

A foam roller can also be used to correct slightly rounded shoulders, says Mark Baker, PT, DPT, OCS, who has treated dancers from Houston Ballet, Miami City Ballet and Los Angeles Ballet and has served as Inland Pacific Ballet's physical therapist since 1999. "A lot of dancers don't realize that while they work to strengthen their backs for better posture and port de bras, they must also stretch their muscles at the front of the shoulders—you can't strengthen into a range you don't have," he says. Lying on the roller with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor for balance, bring your arms into first position, then open them into second, like a "T," before letting them rest on the floor beside you. Relax into the stretch for one minute, then carry your arms through first and fifth position a few times before holding the stretch for one more minute.

Photographed for Pointe by Nathan Sayers, Modeled by Petra Love

Rausch has a foam-roller fix for dancers who let go of their rib cage when their arms are in fifth, an issue that can cause problems in partnered pirouettes. Again, lying on the roller lengthwise with your feet planted on the floor, do a set of arm circles and scissors while controlling the movement of your rib cage with your core muscles, especially the obliques and transversus abdominis, she says. The instability of the roller also helps you gauge if you're keeping your spine neutral and abs engaged while doing port de bras.

Photographed for Pointe by Nathan Sayers, Modeled by Petra Love

Quick Tip: You might be thinking about adding a Yamuna ball to your rolling routine, to target pressure points that your foam roller just can't reach, like the front of the hip. Crupi, however, gives dancers 2.5-inch spongy-rubber Pinky balls that she orders in bulk from a party store—at a fraction of the price.

Photographed for Pointe by Nathan Sayers, Modeled by Petra Love

The Tired Tool: Thera-Band

"I think we typically associate Thera-Bands with strengthening through the feet, but they're so versatile," says Rausch. "A lot of the dancers here at PNB do squats with the Thera-Band tied around the legs just above the knee or at the ankles, to strengthen the muscles that play a big role in lateral hip stability, like the gluteus medius." This muscle group is critical when balancing on one leg and giving the working leg freedom to move independently, without compromising hip alignment. Sidestep across the room in a squat position, working the band with the leg that's leading. Then return, facing the same direction but initiating the movement with the opposite leg first. You can also try straightening your legs (as shown below), keeping the pelvis neutral as you travel.

Photographed for Pointe by Nathan Sayers, Modeled by Petra Love

Quick Tip: Complement your typical Thera-Band foot stretches with some strengthening on the go: Grab your ballet skirt and place the edge underneath your toes on the floor. Scrunch your toes, engaging the muscles that support your arch, and release, gradually gathering the whole skirt in under your foot. Then, using your toes, push the fabric back out inch by inch. If you're recovering from swollen feet, Baker says, this exercise also helps to activate the lymphatic system that drains fluid.

Photographed for Pointe by Nathan Sayers, Modeled by Petra Love

Quick Tip: Need a Thera-Band in a pinch? "A young dancer I work with was at a competition and used a spare pair of tights as a Thera-Band to warm up her feet," says Crupi.

The Tired Tool: Physio Ball

You probably crunch and plank on your physio ball, but Rausch likes to use hers to take her bridges up a notch. "It's much more challenging than bridging on the floor, so you definitely have to work up to it," she says. Sit on the ball and walk your feet forward until the ball is supporting your head and upper back. Lift your hips into a slight bridge, engage your glutes (although your hamstrings will kick in no matter what), and hold. "You lose the floor's support against your upper back, and if you add a leg lift at the top of your bridge, then gravity is working against you, too," says Rausch. "You'll strengthen muscles that support everything you do." As you bridge, keep your hands on your hips or rest them lightly on the ball for support.

Photographed for Pointe by Nathan Sayers, Modeled by Petra Love

Photographed for Pointe by Nathan Sayers, Modeled by Petra Love

You can, of course, do crunches while seated on the ball, but Baker also suggests strengthening the abdominals on the floor by passing the ball from your legs to your hands. Lie on your back and hold a 55-centimeter stability ball between your legs, keeping them straight, with your arms stretched over your head. Engage your abdominals to jackknife your legs up, simultaneously reaching for the ball and transferring it to your hands. As you lie back and lower the legs, carry the ball over your torso to rest behind your head on the floor. Reverse the move to transfer the ball back to your legs and lower slowly to the floor—that's one rep. Do 20.

Photographed for Pointe by Nathan Sayers, Modeled by Petra Love

Photographed for Pointe by Nathan Sayers, Modeled by Petra Love

Photographed for Pointe by Nathan Sayers, Modeled by Petra Love

Quick Tip: To test your balance and strengthen the area around the hip girdle, Crupi suggests these modified pliés: Standing on a yoga block or thick book with one foot in parallel and the other in a relaxed coupé, plié and straighten. The small platform and tiniest bit of height off the ground forces you to engage your core and helps you focus on straightening back up without hyperextending the knee. You can start by holding the barre for light support. Build up to 25 reps on each side.

Photographed for Pointe by Nathan Sayers, Modeled by Petra Love

Photographed for Pointe by Nathan Sayers, Modeled by Petra Love

Quick Tip: Kneeling in front of your stability ball, say a quick prayer to the goddess of killer abs, then place your hands on the ball, and tip forward until your elbows are on top. Keep a stable core and do not flex at the hips. Roll back to neutral. Do 15 reps.

Photographed for Pointe by Nathan Sayers, Modeled by Petra Love

Latest Posts

Peter Mueller, Courtesy Cincinnati Ballet

2020 Stars of the Corps: 10 Dancers Making Strides In and Out of the Spotlight

The corps de ballet make up the backbone of every company. In our Fall 2020 issue, we highlighted 10 ensemble standouts to keep your eye on. Click on their names to learn more!

Dara Holmes, Joffrey Ballet

A male dancer catches a female dancer in his right arm as she wraps her left arm around his shoulder and executes a high arabesque on pointe. Both wear white costumes and dance in front of a blue backdrop onstage.

Dara Holmes and Edson Barbosa in Myles Thatcher's Body of Your Dreams

Cheryl Mann, Courtesy Joffrey Ballet

Wanyue Qiao, American Ballet Theatre

Wearing a powder blue tutu, cropped light yellow top and feather tiara, Wanyue Qiao does a piqu\u00e9 retir\u00e9 on pointe on her left leg and pulls her right arm in towards her.

Wanyue Qiao as an Odalisque in Konstantin Sergeyev's Le Corsaire

Gene Schiavone, Courtesy ABT

Joshua Guillemot-Rodgerson, Houston Ballet

Three male dancers in tight-fitting, multicolored costumes stand in positions of ascending height from left to right. All extend their right arms out in front of them.

Joshua Guillemot-Rodgerson (far right) with Saul Newport and Austen Acevedo in Oliver Halkowich's Following

Amitava Sarkar, Courtesy Houston Ballet

Leah McFadden, Colorado Ballet

Wearing a white pixie wig and a short light-pink tunic costume, a female ballet dancer poses in attitude front on pointe with her left arm bent across her ribs and her right hand held below her chin.

Leah McFadden as Amour in Colorado Ballet's production of Don Quixote

Mike Watson, Courtesy Colorado Ballet

Maria Coelho, Tulsa Ballet

Maria Coelho and Sasha Chernjavsky in Andy Blankenbuehler's Remember Our Song

Kate Lubar, Courtesy Tulsa Ballet

Alexander Reneff-Olson, San Francisco Ballet

A ballerina in a black feathered tutu stands triumphantly in sous-sus, holding the hand of a male dancer in a dark cloak with feathers underneath who raises his left hand in the air.

Alexander Reneff-Olson (right) as Von Rothbart with San Francisco Ballet principal Yuan Yuan Tan in Swan Lake

Erik Tomasson, Courtesy SFB

India Bradley, New York City Ballet

Wearing a blue dance dress with rhinestone embellishments and a sparkly tiara, India Bradley finishes a move with her arms out to the side and hands slightly flexed.

India Bradley practices backstage before a performance of Balanchine's Tschaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 2.

Erin Baiano, Courtesy NYCB

Bella Ureta, Cincinnati Ballet

Wearing a white dress with pink corset, Bella Ureta does a first arabesque on pointe in front of an onstage stone wall.

Bella Ureta performs the Act I Pas de Trois in Kirk Peterson's Swan Lake

Hiromi Platt, Courtesy Cincinnati Ballet

Alejándro Gonzales, Oklahoma City Ballet

Dressed in a green bell-boy costume and hat, Alejandro Gonz\u00e1lez does a saut\u00e9 with his left leg in retir\u00e9 and his arms in a long diagonal from right to left. Other dancers in late 19-century period costumes watch him around the stage.

Alejandro González in Michael Pink's Dracula at Oklahoma City Ballet.

Kate Luber, Courtesy Oklahoma City Ballet

Nina Fernandes, Miami City Ballet

Wearing a long white tutu and crown, Nina Fernandes does a saut de chat in front of a wintery backdrop as snow falls from the top of the stage.

Nina Fernandes in George Balanchine's The Nutcracker

Alexander Iziliaev, Courtesy Miami City Ballet

Quinn Wharton

Pacific Northwest Ballet's Angelica Generosa Shares Her Classic, Comfy Style In and Out of the Studio

"I love the feeling and look of effortless fashion," says Angelica Generosa. Preferring a classic style, the Pacific Northwest Ballet soloist keeps her wardrobe stocked with blazers. But they serve a practical purpose, too. "It tends to get chilly in Seattle, so it's the perfect accessory for layering," Generosa explains.

She's also quite fond of designer handbags. "They're my go-to accessory, and they're also my weakness when shopping," she says, naming Chloé, Chanel and Dior as some of her favorite brands. "I really appreciate the craftsmanship it takes to produce one—they're so beautiful and each has its own story, in a way."

In the studio, Generosa prioritizes comfort, and she'll change up her look depending on the repertoire (leotards and tutus for classical works, breathable shirts with workout pants for contemporary). But she always arrives to work in style. "I really love putting together outfits for even just going to the studio," she says. "It's another way of expressing my mood and what kind of vibe I'm going for that day."

The Details: Street

Angelica Generosa, wearing a blue blazer, white blouse and gray jeans, is photographed from underneath as she walks and looks to the right.

Quinn Wharton

BCBG blazer: "It has some shoulder pads and a really cool pattern," says Generosa. "It reminds me of my mom and '80s fashion."

Zara blouse: She incorporate neutrals, like this white satin button-up, to balance bright pops of colors.

Angelica Generosa looks off to her right in front of a glass-windowed building. She wears a blue blazer, white blouse, gray jeans and carries a small green handbag.

Quinn Wharton

Madewell jeans: Comfort is a major factor for Generosa, who gets her fashion inspiration from her mom, friends and people she comes across day to day.

Chloé bag: "I tend to have smaller purses because I'm quite small. Bigger bags overwhelm me sometimes—unless it's my dance bag, of course!"

The Details: Studio

Angleica Generosa, wearing a blue tank leotard, black wool leggings and pink pointe shoes, balances in a lunge on pointe with her left leg in front, facing a wall of windows.

Quinn Wharton

Label Dancewear leotard: "This was designed by my good friend Elizabeth Murphy, a principal dancer here at PNB. Her leotards always fit me really well."

Mirella leggings: "I get cold easily," says Generosa, who wears leggings and vests to stay warm throughout the day.

Angelica Generosa, wearing a blue tank leotard, black wool tights and pink pointe shoes, jumps and crosses her right foot over her left shin while lifting her arms up to the right.

Quinn Wharton

Freed of London pointe shoes: "When sewing them, I crisscross my elastics and use an elasticized ribbon from Body Wrappers," which helps alleviate Achilles tendon issues, she says. She then trims the satin off of the tip of the shoe. "Then I bend the shank a bit to loosen it up and cut a bit off where my arch is."

Getty Images

This New "Nutcracker" Competition Wants Your Dance Studio to be Part of a Virtual Collaboration

Despite worldwide theater closures, the Universal Ballet Competition is keeping The Nutcracker tradition alive in 2020 with an online international competition. The event culminates in a streamed, full-length video of The Virtual Nutcracker consisting of winning entries on December 19. The competition is calling on studios, as well as dancers of all ages and levels, to submit videos by November 29 to be considered.

"Nutcracker is a tradition that is ingrained in our hearts," says UBC co-founder Lissette Salgado-Lucas, a former dancer with Royal Winnipeg Ballet and Joffrey Ballet. "We danced it for so long as professionals, we can't wait to pass it along to dancers through this competition."

Keep reading SHOW LESS

Editors' Picks