Gifts galore: Dana Benton and Sean Omandam in Colorado Ballet’s Nutcracker, photo by Terry Shapiro

When you're powering through a marathon of Nutcracker performances, holiday shopping may feel more like a stressful chore than a fun seasonal activity. If you still haven't crossed everything off your list, consider these meaningful dance-inspired gifts that are backed by research:

Handmade legwarmers or baked goods. A study from the Journal of Marketing found that people valued homemade items over mass-produced ones, when shopping for loved ones. The thought is that handmade items have a more personal feel and are literally "made with love," making them more appealing. If you can craft something yourself, even better.

Donate to a scholarship fund for less fortunate dancers. Giving to charity tends to make people happy, but a study published in the International Journal of Happiness and Development found that it makes them even happier when the giving helps to build social connections (like giving in someone's name instead of making an anonymous contribution). Try making even a small donation to a cause that a friend or family member cares about. It'll help you both get into the holiday spirit.

Tickets to an upcoming ballet performance. A study from the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School found that people who receive experiences instead of items feel more connected to the gift-giver. Plus, why not take the opportunity to spend time with a good friend? You could also plan a lunch for the two of you to celebrate the end of Nutcracker craziness.

Still stumped? Download Pointe's digital edition and check out our holiday gift guide for more ideas. Or gift a Pointe subscription at our special holiday price.

 

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Ballet Careers
Gray Davis with wife, ABT soloist Cassandra Trenary, after his graduation from the South Carolina Criminal Justice Academy. Courtesy Trenary.

When Gray Davis retired from American Ballet Theatre in July of 2018, he moved home to South Carolina, unsure of what would come next. Last month, just over a year later, Davis graduated from the South Carolina Criminal Justice Academy. Today, he's working as a deputy for the Abbeville County Sheriff's Office.

Though Davis danced in ABT's corps for 11 years and is married to soloist Cassandra Trenary, to many he's best known for saving the life of a man who was pushed onto the subway tracks in New York City in 2017. The heroic effort earned him the New York State Liberty Medal, the highest civilian honor bestowed by a member of the New York State Senate. We caught up with Davis to hear about how the split second decision he made in the subway affected the course of his life, what it's been like starting a second career and what he sees as the similarities between ballet and law enforcement.

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Sponsored by BLOCH
Courtesy BLOCH

Today's ballet dancer needs a lot from a pointe shoe. "What I did 20 years ago is not what these dancers are doing now," says New York City Ballet shoe manager Linnette Roe. "They are expected to go harder, longer days. They are expected to go from sneakers, to pointe shoes, to character shoes, to barefoot and back to pointe shoes all in a day."

The team at BLOCH developed their line of Stretch Pointe shoes to address dancer's most common complaints about the fit and performance of their pointe shoes. "It's a scientific take on the pointe shoe," says Roe. Dancers are taking notice and Stretch Pointe shoes are now worn by stars like American Ballet Theatre principal Isabella Boylston, who stars in BLOCH's latest campaign for the shoes.

We dug into the details of Stretch Pointe's most game-changing features:

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Ballet Stars
Megan Amanda Ehrlich, Courtesy LEAP Program

Claire Sheridan wanted to change the status quo. Leading up to the 1990s, she recalls, "there was a 'shut up and dance' mind-set," and as the founder of the dance program at St. Mary's College of California and a longtime teacher in professional companies, she had seen too many dancers retire with no plan for a successful career transition. "At that time, if you thought about education and the future," she says, "you were not a committed dancer. I wanted to fight that."

With the support of St. Mary's, Sheridan developed the Liberal Education for Arts Professionals program, or LEAP, an innovative liberal-arts bachelor's degree program designed especially for professional dancers. She first presented her idea to executives at San Francisco Ballet. "Kudos to that company, because they said, 'This is great,'" she says. "Eleven of the first 18 dancers who started in August 1999 were from SFB."

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Ballet Training
Getty Images

I'm a college freshman, and my dance program isn't challenging enough. We only have ballet three times a week and a few hours of modern, and my classmates aren't as dedicated as I am. There's a small dance company nearby, where I was hoping to take extra classes, but I don't have a car. I want to transfer, but I feel like I won't be in good enough shape for auditions. —Tara

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