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These 1970s Dancer Recipes May Surprise You

Photo by Chava Lansky, Courtesy of the American Ballet Theatre Archive at the Library of Congress.

Who says dancers don't eat?

In 1979, the corps of American Ballet Theatre went on strike in a fight to increase their wages (starting corps members made a measly $235 a week). "We're underpaid and overworked" said soloist Rebecca Wright in a People magazine article from the time. Though the nearly two-month long labor dispute ultimately gave dancers a 40 percent wage increase and better benefits, the months without work left dancers tightening their belts even further to make ends meet. Their solution? A benefit performance and auction organized by Gelsey Kirkland starring Natalia Makarova and former NYCB dancer Edward Villella, stars who spoke out on behalf of the corps. The benefit brought in $10,000. One of the items auctioned off was Ballet Theatre Belly-Busters, a cookbook compiled by the dancers of their favorite recipes, complete with a hand-drawn cover.

We got our hands on one of these original copies, and were surprised to see what an eclectic mix of delicacies the book contained, from hometown favorites to ballet-themed baked goods.


One of the quirkiest recipes is "Heating Pad Yogurt" submitted by Solange MacArthur. In true dancer fashion, MacArthur explains how to make yogurt in a glass bottle wrapped in your heating pad... yes, the same heating pad you use to tend to your aching muscles after class.

We always love a Nutcracker-themed treat. Francia Kovak submitted this recipe for Russian Tea Cakes, fondly named "Nutcracker Sweet." With just a few ingredients and easy instructions, these cakes can help whet your appetite for Nutcracker season.


Ballet companies bring together dancers from all different backgrounds and cultures. This recipe from renowned ballerina Marianna Tcherkassky emphasizes her Russian heritage (the current Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre ballet mistress is of both Russian and Japanese descent.)


Is your mouth watering yet? Here's one more: "Mom's Brunswick Stew" from former ABT associate artistic director and current associate artistic director of The Washington Ballet, Victor Barbee. We wonder if he's still making this hearty fare at home with his wife, ballet extraordinaire Julie Kent.


Though many of the roughly 100 recipes in this book feel a bit dated (canned vegetables, mayonnaise, and fruit cocktail anyone?), it's encouraging to see dancers defying the stereotype of consuming only a few sticks of celery each day. And even better, Ballet Theatre Belly-Busters shows the persistence of dancers who fought for the right to a more secure life.


Accessed from the American Ballet Theatre Archive of the Music Division at the Library of Congress.

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