Elle Macy in Benjamin Millepied's Appassionata. Angela Sterling, Courtesy PNB.

Pacific Northwest Ballet Soloist Elle Macy Was Once Fearful of Cross-Training

Cross-training misconceptions: Before Elle Macy became an apprentice with Pacific Northwest Ballet, she was apprehensive about cross-training. "I was warned that it might bulk you, or not to do certain activities because they could potentially injure you." But a stress fracture in her foot changed her perspective. Unable to bear much weight, Macy reluctantly tried stationary biking at her physical therapist's suggestion. "What I learned is that you're not going to get injured from being on an elliptical for 20 minutes or by taking a Pilates class," says Macy. Today, it's not uncommon to find the soloist training on the elliptical, doing ankle stability exercises, using the Pilates reformer or taking a hot yoga class.


Blue circular boards with metal pieces sticking out of them.

Two BAPS boards. Gary Tucker, Courtesy PNB.

Favorite tool: Macy's ankle ligaments are loose because of past sprains. To strengthen the surrounding muscles and prevent injury, she does standing exercises on a BAPS board daily. Short for "biomechanical ankle platform system," the round board has an uneven rocker bottom, and weights can be placed at different spots around the board to further challenge balance and proprioception. Checking in with her ankles also preps Macy for PNB's varied rep. "We go from pointe shoes to socks to flat shoes to tennis shoes sometimes, so it's nice to have that stability intact."

How she starts her day: Macy arrives at the studio an hour before class starts. "Today, I saw our PT—my ankles were kind of jammed, so he helped me get them in the right place." Her daily warm-up includes stability work on the BAPS board, clamshells for her glutes, core strengtheners and TheraBand exercises. If she has an afternoon break, she'll hop on a reformer in PNB's Pilates room to reset between rehearsals. "It's a nice way to do some exercises without exerting too much energy," she says.

Macy onstage in a dark background wearing a black leotard costume and pointe shoes. One leg is extended in a kind of attitude behind her.

Macy in David Dawson's Empire Noir. Angela Sterling, Courtesy PNB.

The magic number: "If a ballet's 20 minutes long, on a day that I'm not running it, I try to do the elliptical for that long," says Macy. If she needs to build more stamina, sometimes she'll do a run-through and a full elliptical session on the same day—but she's mindful of not overdoing it. "You don't want to peak too soon or be so exhausted that you don't end up performing as well."

Macy's workout advice: Use the buddy system. If she's in the gym or taking a yoga class, Macy trains with a friend to hold herself accountable. She often trades exercises with her boyfriend, fellow PNB soloist Dylan Wald. "Doing it with somebody else makes it more fun—and ensures that you're going to do it."

The Recovery Trick She Swears By

Salt spills out of a wooden spoon on a white background

Getty Images

Epsom salt baths. "Getting in the warm water with the Epsom salts and the bubbles and the candles, it takes the weight of the day off, and rejuvenates the muscles to take on the next day."

When She Has Preshow Jitters

White headphones on white background

Getty Images

"I try to get as Zen as possible. I'll lie down and just find my breath. I remind myself that it's just like a regular day, I've rehearsed enough and I'm ready to do it. I'll listen to music to make that busy-ness in my brain slow down." Her favorites? Broadway show tunes, Florence + The Machine, Adele, Sam Smith and Robyn.

Latest Posts


Getty Images

The History of Pointe Shoes: The Landmark Moments That Made Ballet's Signature Shoe What It Is Today

Pointe shoes, with their ability to elevate a dancer both literally and metaphorically to a superhuman realm, are the ultimate symbol of a ballerina's ethereality and hard work. For students, receiving a first pair of pointe shoes is a rite of passage. The shoes carry an almost mystical allure: They're an endless source of lore and ritual, with tips, tricks and stories passed down over generations.

The history of pointe shoes reveals how a delicately darned slipper introduced in the 1820s has transformed into a technical tool that offers dancers the utmost freedom onstage today.

Keep reading SHOW LESS
Getty Images

How Coming Back to Ballet After Years Away Has Saved Me During the Pandemic Shutdown

I was 4 years old when I took my first ballet lesson. My mom had dressed me in a pink leotard with matching tights, skirt and slippers. She drove me on a Saturday morning to a ballet academy in downtown Caguas, the town in Puerto Rico where I grew up. I don't remember much from the first lesson, but I do recall the reverence. My teacher Mónica asked the class if someone wanted to volunteer to lead. She was surprised I—the new girl—was the one to raise my hand.

I made up most of the steps, mimicking the ballerinas I had seen on TV and videos. At one point, Mónica stepped in and asked me to lead the class in a bow. I followed her directions and curtseyed in front of the mirror with one leg behind me and a gentle nod. I looked up to find myself in awe of what I had just done.

This was the same feeling I had when, after years away from dance, I finished my first YouTube ballet class at home in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

Keep reading SHOW LESS
La'Toya Princess Jackson, Courtesy MoBBallet

Join Memoirs of Blacks in Ballet for Its 2020 Virtual Symposium

Memoirs of Blacks in Ballet, founded in 2015 by writer and activist Theresa Ruth Howard to preserve and promote the stories of Black ballet dancers, is offering three weekends of interactive education and conversation this month through its 2020 Virtual Symposium. The conference, titled "Education, Communication, Restoration," encourages participants to engage in candid discussions concerning racial inequality and social justice in ballet. While it is a space that centers on Blackness, all are welcome. Held August 14, 15, 21, 22 and 28, MoBBallet's second annual symposium will allow dancers to receive mentorship and openly speak about their personal experiences in a safe and empowering environment.

The first event, For Us By Us (FUBU) Town Hall, is a free community discussion on August 14 from 3:30–4:30 pm EDT via Zoom, followed by a forum for ballet leadership. The town hall format encourages active engagement (participants can raise their hands and respond in real time), but the registration invoice also contains a form for submitting questions in advance. The following discussions, forums and presentations include topics like company life as a Black dancer, developing personal activism, issues of equity and colorism in ballet companies, and more. Tickets range from free to $12 for each 60- to 80-minute event.

Keep reading SHOW LESS

Editors' Picks