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

How Boston Ballet Principal Derek Dunn Retrained His Body With Gyrotonic

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.

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Take Class From Celebrated Black Dancers and Raise Money for the NAACP Through Dance for Change

Since the nationwide fight against racial inequality took center stage in May, organizations across the dance world have been looking for meaningful ways to show their support, rather than fall back on empty social media signifiers. July 10-11, Diamante Ballet Dancewear is taking action with Dance for Change, a two-day event dedicated to fundraising for the NAACP, and amplifying the voices of Black professional dancers.

Organized by Diamante Ballet Dancewear's founder, Nashville Ballet 2 dancer Isichel Perez, and Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre teacher Elise Gillum, Dance for Change makes it easy to participate. Dancers need only to make a donation to the NAACP (in any amount) and email proof to diamante.ballet@gmail.com to be given online access to a full schedule of Zoom master classes taught by Black pros artists. Teachers include Ballet Memphis' George Sanders, Boston Ballet's Daniel Durrett, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre's Corey Bourbonniere, and more. "It's important that we amplify BIPOC voices during this time, and it's also important that we're conscious of where we're putting our dollars," says Bourbonniere. "Diamante is doing both with Dance for Change, and I'm honored to be in this talented group of melanated dancers."

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Sydney Dolan Takes Center Stage at Pennsylvania Ballet

This is Pointe's Summer 2020 cover story. You can subscribe to the magazine here, or click here to purchase this issue.

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Dolan's career could be described in one word: charmed. At just 19 years old, she's flown through the ranks at PAB, debuted a long list of roles, won a Princess Grace Award and been named one of Dance Magazine's "25 to Watch." Yet it's her challenges that have shaped not only her training but her outlook, giving her a solid foundation for becoming one of Pennsylvania Ballet's rising stars.

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SAB Student Founds Dancewear Nonprofit to Help Others in Need

When School of American Ballet student Alexandra de Roos was 8 years old, she placed a collection box at her dance studio for others to donate their gently used dancewear. De Roos, now 17, has since turned that single collection box into a nonprofit organization that aims to minimize economic barriers in the performing arts with free dancewear and classes.

De Roos' organization, Peace Love Leotards, has collected about $2,600 of new and gently-used dancewear and $2,000 in grants and donations since formally launching in April. Dancers or studio owners can request items through a form on the organization's website.

"I knew that dancewear was really expensive and that a lot of students might not be able to do the thing that they love because it's cost-prohibitive," de Roos said. "I really wanted to create something to allow people to have the same experience of the love and joy of dance that I've been so grateful to have."

After SAB shifted its winter term online amid the COVID-19 pandemic, de Roos decided to expand Peace Love Leotards. She reached out to dance companies, resulting in partnerships with brands including Jo+Jax, Lone Reed Designs, RubiaWear and Wear Moi.

"To have them be like 'We want to help you with this and we love this idea and what you're doing is amazing,' that was really exciting to me," she said. "It was very heartwarming."

Jordan Reed, the creator of custom dancewear brand Lone Reed Designs, said she has donated seven items to Peace Love Leotards with plans to donate more consistently every quarter. Custom leotards often retail at higher prices, but Reed, a former Houston Ballet corps member, said the one-of-a-kind clothing offers an "extra bit of confidence, which can go more than a long way in a dancer's journey of training."

Paul Plesh, a sales director for Wear Moi in the United States and Canada, said the company donated 11 leotards after finding Peace Love Leotards' mission to be "commendable." Joey Dowling-Fakhrieh, the founder and creative director of Jo+Jax, said dancewear "can make a significant impact on a student's confidence, as well as how much they enjoy the process of learning dance."

De Roos has worked to expand Peace Love Leotards, Inc. rapidly in the past few months, but she first created the organization at eight years old after participating in a mentorship program with competitors in the Miss Florida and Miss Florida's Outstanding Teen pageants. The pageants, which are part of the Miss America Organization, require competitors to have personal platforms they advocate for as titleholders. As a competition dancer, de Roos instantly thought about the cost barriers to dance when wondering what her own future platform would be.

De Roos said she and her young classmates often outgrew nearly brand-new dancewear, so she approached her studio's owner about placing a collection box at the studio.

Barbara Mizell, who owns Barbara's Centré for Dance in Florida, said she was unsurprised by de Roos' proposal. De Roos always had "such a way of pushing herself and she never forgot those around her," Mizell said. As the box filled up, she distributed the dancewear to others at the studio, local schools with dance programs, and the local YMCA.

"When they could start to see that it was providing happiness for others, then it was almost like the kids couldn't wait to donate," Mizell said.

Nearly a decade after the Miss Florida organization inspired her to launch Peace Love Leotards, de Roos is now a titleholder herself, as Miss Gainesville's Outstanding Teen 2020. Her new mission for Peace Love Leotards is applying for grants, and she has already received a $1,000 grant from the Delores Barr Weaver Legacy Fund that will be used to fund a Title 1 school class.

"The whole organization behind Peace Love Leotards is the dancers," de Roos said. "Being able to help the dancers that are in need and being able to think about the dancewear that they're going to be receiving or have received has been truly amazing."

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