You have something unique that can make a big difference in the quality of your dancing: your body. That may sound obvious, but if you tap your potential fully you can achieve more than you ever imagined. A few changes in how you train and eat can help you articulate steps better, give you more stamina in rehearsals and make you a more relaxed and expressive performer. Throughout this health-and-fitness issue you will find tips, strategies and inspiration—like the “Healthy Moves” sidebar on this page—to help you achieve your best self.
It comes down to habits, and it’s easy to fall into bad ones. “The Danger Zone” (page 29) outlines some of the pitfalls that trap dancers every day. Of course, even the most dedicated dancer has her weak moments. “My worst mistake,” says senior editor Jenny Stahl, “was trusting other dancers’ health advice, like trying to fall asleep in second position to increase my turnout.”
And like many dancers, assistant editor Margaret Fuhrer ignored injuries, assuming she could work through them. “I spent most of my junior year of high school pretending that I didn’t feel a shooting pain in my right foot every time I passed through demi-pointe,” she says. “By the time I arrived at Boston Ballet’s summer program, what began as a minor injury had developed into a major—and excruciatingly painful—stress fracture.”
Injuries plague all dancers, even when they follow the rules. How you approach your recovery, however, can make a big difference. In “Back from the Brink” (page 33), ABT’s Stella Abrera, NYCB’s Megan LeCrone and Colorado Ballet’s Chandra Kuykendall share the ups and downs of the road back, and how persistence can beat the odds.
Persistence can also prove the tipping point between ability and opportunity. It took talent, drive and sheer hard work to get Maria Kochetkova, our cover ballerina, to San Francisco Ballet. She pays close attention to her body, working on her weaknesses as much as her strengths. “You have to know what’s good for your body,” she says, “and mine likes it when I dance a lot.”
Sharon Wehner, Colorado Ballet
I’m a go-go-go person, so I started taking 15 minutes each morning and night to meditate. Making the time and space to get quiet has been beneficial on all fronts—mentally, emotionally and physically. I tend to work constantly. On top of dancing, I’m in LEAP, a college program to help professional dancers earn a BA. Meditating teaches you to listen to your body. It has carried over to my dancing, particularly if I’m feeling a lot of nerves. I am more able to get my body into a relaxed and ready state.
Amanda Cobb, The Washington Ballet
Since I started Gyrotonic, I’m stronger, and I can turn better. I am getting my certification because I want to teach it as well as take it. Just being able to trust my body feels great. I love helping dancers with Gyrotonic—you have to have a good eye to see the imbalances because we’re strong and know how to fake it. I’d also like to work with athletes—maybe basketball players—to help Gyrotonic go to the next level.
Katherine Hartsell, Boston Ballet
Yoga helped me to work with my body in a more mindful way. I carry tension in my upper body and neck, so it’s great to have an hour and a half to focus on that area. I’m not very turned out, but yoga has helped me get to know the structure of my hip joints so I can work them properly. And it helps me to breathe fully. I teach yoga as well. Often dancers don’t feel comfortable speaking up, so making my voice loud enough was one of the hardest things for me when I started to teach. In a very literal way, I opened up—yoga hasn’t just opened up my body; it has opened up my personality.