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.

Instagram

Are you a total bunhead who loves to write? You might be the perfect fit for Pointe. We're seeking an editorial intern who's equally passionate about ballet and journalism.

Keep reading...
Sponsored by Ellison Ballet
Rachel Neville, Courtesy Ellison Ballet

If you've got your heart set on dancing for, say, San Francisco Ballet, you should attend a school that specializes in Balanchine, right? Not necessarily: It's actually a misconception that you have to train in a particular style or technique in order to pursue a career in that style. Ellison Ballet in New York City—which specializes in Vaganova technique—is living proof: Graduates of Ellison's year-round program and summer intensives go on to ballet companies that perform in a wide range of styles, and use what they've learned from Vaganova to land jobs.

Here are five reasons why studying Vaganova technique can actually make you a sought-after dancer for any number of ballet companies:

Keep reading...
Ballet Stars
Morgan in rehearsal for Firebird. "When something is taken away from you, you appreciate it 10 times more once you have it back, she says. Lilly Echeverria.

A couple years ago, if you had told Kathryn Morgan that she'd be a soloist at Miami City Ballet, learning roles like the Firebird, Mercedes in Don Quixote and the Striptease Girl in Slaughter on Tenth Avenue, she would have said you were crazy. But last April, seven years after she was diagnosed with hypothyroidism and left her career at New York City Ballet behind, Morgan signed a professional company contract once again.

Keep reading...
News
National Ballet of Canada principal Heather Ogden in The Sleeping Beauty, which tours to the Kennedy Center this week. Bruce Zinger, Courtesy the Kennedy Center.

Wonder what's going on in ballet this week? We've rounded up some highlights.

Keep reading...