Pointe shoes are high maintenance. New pairs are not only expensive, but time consuming. So it's no surprise that many dancers try to extend the lifespan of each shoe. But did you know that dancing on dead shoes can increase your risk for a variety of injuries?
Pacific Northwest Ballet's Noelani Pantastico, here with James Moore, urges dancers not to push through injuries. Lindsay Thomas, Courtesy PNB.
Pacific Northwest Ballet principal Noelani Pantastico was returning to dance after an injury when she made a "rookie mistake": After three months of intensive physical therapy to deal with an osteochondral defect—which caused damage to the cartilage and bone of her left ankle—she jumped into a rehearsal for Balanchine's Theme and Variations. She hurt her Achilles tendon, leading to another month and a half of recovery. "I was so excited to get back that it blinded me," says Pantastico.
Foot and ankle injuries can plague dancers at any level, even the most accomplished principals. If you are experiencing pain or concerned something's wrong, it's important to see a doctor for a diagnosis. But knowing the symptoms of some of the most common injuries can help lessen the sting if your dancing is temporarily derailed. We've broken down the symptoms, causes and pathways to recovery for several foot and ankle issues that ballet dancers may encounter.
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It's that time of year when cold weather and busy performance schedules have you craving delicious comfort foods. To help make winter cooking less daunting, we're sharing three professional dancers' favorite recipes. For added confidence that these meals are great for fueling your dancing, we asked Marie Elena Scioscia, a registered dietitian and author of Eat Right Dance Right, to weigh in on what makes them healthy, and the small things you can do to make them even healthier.
Nutcracker season is officially upon us, which means the ballet world is swept up in a tizzy of rehearsals, double-show days and winter magic (just the way we like it!). Amidst the hustle and bustle of the season, dancers have to make smart decisions about warming up—especially between matinee and evening shows. While companies often provide warm-up class, you never know when the unexpected might hit, and it's important to understand how to craft your own.
To help, we caught up with Miami City Ballet corps member Julia Cinquemani, and ballet master Steven Annegarn of Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre to get expert advice on how to create a personalized warm-up barre. Check out their tips below.
Emily Giacalone, modeled by Elizabeth Steele of Steps on Broadway Youth Programs.
If you're feeling wobbly in adagio or wish you could hold your piqué attitude a bit longer, there are ways to assess and improve your balance. Try these four exercises, recommended by Heather Southwick, Boston Ballet's director of physical therapy.
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.
Emily Giacalone, modeled by Elizabeth Steele of The School at Steps.
In fall 2012, New York City Ballet associate artistic director Wendy Whelan, then a company principal, was taking morning class when her foot slid out from under her, causing her to pull the very top of what felt like her right hamstring muscle. "It shocked me from the inside out," she notes.
Whelan spent three months nursing her hamstring. But once she got back to performing, her right hip flexor began flaring up. "By the end of Nutcracker season, I could no longer bear standing in fifth position. I could not lift my right leg without severe pain," she says. "I couldn't imagine why or how this was suddenly becoming so debilitating." A sonogram revealed a complex labral tear in Whelan's hip.
I have very tapered Morton's toes (longer second toes). My big toe joints are about a half centimeter shorter than my second and third toe joints, so I have a terrible time finding stability on demi-pointe. My weight lands on that second toe joint, which is pretty narrow and uncomfortable under that pressure. How can I find a more stable relevé? —Larissa
Picture this: It's the end of class. You're exhausted and ready for reverence when your teacher decides it's time for a drill of 32 changements. If you feel like you might not be jumping at your best, take extra caution. According to a study led by Danielle Jarvis, an athletic trainer and associate professor of kinesiology at California State University Northridge, when dancers are tired, they may lack the muscle control to land jumps correctly, putting them at risk for injury.
Josephine Lee of the California-based ThePointeShop explains how to find the best fitting pointe shoes when recovering from a broken metatarsal, plus extra tips on recurring injuries, and getting over the box of your shoes.