Health & Body

How Boston Ballet Principal Derek Dunn Retrained His Body With Gyrotonic

Derek Dunn in George Balanchine's Prodigal Son. Liza Voll, Courtesy Boston Ballet

A new way of working: Derek Dunn may be known for his explosive jumps and strings of pirouettes, but the powerhouse dancer admits that he wasn't always working inthe smartest way. When he developed hip issues last year, he was forced to shift from "giving 150 percent all the time" to a subtler approach. "I'd been muscling through every- thing and tucking and cranking," he says. "But I've realized that my energy can be used in a much more effective way."


Dunn in August Bournonville's La Sylphide

Rosalie O'Connor, Courtesy of Boston Ballet

The results: Through his sessions with Kerri Williams, a physical therapist and Gyrotonic trainer at Boston Ballet, Dunn says he's already noticed a huge difference. "I'm always mixing up the rep with classical and contemporary and putting my body into crazy positions. Doing Gyrotonic puts me back into alignment." His workouts focus on finding more space in his hips, recruiting smaller muscles, engaging his core and creating long lines as he moves. "It's really taken a load off my hips and legs."

Morning must-dos: Around the time he was promoted to principal, Dunn crafted a pre-class warm-up, echoing principles from his Gyro work. He starts each day with bridges to activate his gluteus medius, then abdominal work and an exercise for stability and turnout. After a side-lying series of clamshells and leg lifts, plus a hamstring strengthener, he caps off his routine with stretching.

For partnering work: "With my body type, I build muscle pretty quickly, but that's not always the goal," says Dunn. "I just want to make sure that I'm strong enough to support my partner." Instead of lifting weights, he prefers upper-body exercises using a TheraBand or his body weight. To strengthen his shoulders, for instance, he'll tie a TheraBand to the barre at his left side and hold the band in his right hand. Keeping his elbow pinned to his body, he'll pull the band away from the barre and return, focusing on correct alignment of the shoulder joint.

Spinning his wheels: When he's getting in shape for challenging rep, Dunn's cardio of choice is 20 minutes on a stationary bike. "I try to keep the same pace, but I'm pushing myself, not going for a stroll."

Visualize It: To engage the deepest layer of abdominal muscles, the transversus abdominis, Dunn imagines he's walking into cold water.

Derek's Daily Diet

PactoVisual via Pixabay

"It's taken me a while to learn what to eat to feel energized without feeling overly full," says Dunn, who worked with a nutritionist to identify meals and snacks that click with him.

Breakfast: Three eggs with spinach; coffee; and water with a splash of apple cider vinegar. He'll add toast on busy days.

After class: An energy bar, "to get more carbs before rehearsals."

Lunch: A homemade bowl with spinach, quinoa, a vegetable ("usually butternut squash or roasted beets") and chicken.

Snack: Peanut butter pretzels, for quick carbs mixed with protein. "I eat a handful if I need a pick-me-up."

Dinner: Fish with roasted vegetables and a carb, like rice, couscous or pasta. If he's performing, he'll have another bowl instead.

The Conversation
Viral Videos

Dreams, drama, and capital-D DANCE: The brand-new High Strung Free Dance trailer just dropped, and it is chock-full of everything we love.

Keep reading... Show less
The Royal Ballet's Vadim Muntagirov and Marianela Nuñez in La Bayadère. Photo by Bill Cooper, Courtesy ROH.

Do you ever wish you could teleport to London and casually stroll into The Royal Opera House to see some of the world's best-loved ballets? Well, we have a solution for you: The Royal Ballet's 2018-19 cinema season.

Whether live or recorded, the seven ballet programs listed below, streaming now through next October, will deliver all of the magic that The Royal Ballet has to offer straight to your local movie theater. Can you smell the popcorn already?

Keep reading... Show less
Ballet Training
Getty Images

Do you have any tips for starting at a new studio? How can I impress the teachers and make friends? —Jaclyn

Keep reading... Show less
Ballet Stars
American Ballet Theatre corps member José Sebastian (center) is launching the Hamptons Dance Project with a cast of fellow ABT dancers this August. Rochelle Brodin, Courtesy Hamptons Dance Project.

From coast to coast, and on the shores of Lake Michigan in-between, professional dancers and choreographers are going one step beyond putting together a summer pickup company. Some are now curating multi-evening festivals in their hometowns and beloved vacation areas, and featuring an impressive range of companies, dancers and dance styles. So get ready to plan your next trip—here are three dance fests in beautiful resort areas to keep on your radar.

Keep reading... Show less