Ballet Stars

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

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

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

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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

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"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.

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