Ballet Training

Pennsylvania Ballet's Nayara Lopes Works Out So She Can Have More Fun Onstage

Nayara Lopez in The Nutcracker's snow scene. Alexander Iziliaev, Courtesy Pennsylvania Ballet.

Many workouts, one goal: When Nayara Lopes is asked what she does to cross-train, there's no short answer. Some days she swims laps; other days she takes yoga. And then there are her elliptical sessions, strength-training with light weights and Pilates classes. Why does she work so hard outside of the studio? "Because I want to feel good onstage," she says. "There's nothing better than going out there and having fun and knowing you're gonna get through it." Thanks to her cardio routine, stamina isn't an issue. "When I'm onstage, I feel ready for anything."


Lopez in George Balanchine's "Emeralds"

Alexander Iziliaev, Courtesy PAB


Catching up: Lopes didn't learn to swim until she was 23. "I went to a party and everybody knew how to swim except me." Instead of being deterred, she took two weeks of lessons when she returned to her native Brazil that summer.

Finding balance: Her current aerobic workouts consist of swimming laps or 30 minutes on the elliptical. "I used to spend an hour, but I was always so tired," she says. She developed a stress reaction in her left foot during a period of heavy corps work mixed with too much time on the elliptical. Scaling back and swapping in some swimming has reduced the impact on her joints, helping to keep her foot injury at bay.

Lopez as Dewdrop in The Nutcracker

Arian Molina Soca, Courtesy PAB

Abs anywhere: "I do planks. A lot of them," says Lopes. "Before rehearsal, before starting class—I'm always doing two minutes." When her rehearsal schedule allows, she also joins students at The School of Pennsylvania Ballet for their weekly Pilates mat class.

Going from 60 to 0: "I like to go full-on in everything I do," says Lopes, so that means a day off truly is a day off. "I literally just stay home on the couch and try not to do anything." Sometimes that means turning down plans with friends, but she says it's especially important to recharge during lengthy performance runs.

Matthew Henry via Burst

Snacks on Snacks on Snacks... "That's the secret: I'm always eating," says Lopes. "People say that I'm the strongest vegetarian that they know." She packs her diet with protein-rich snacks, like hard-boiled eggs, hummus and peanut butter, and favorite veggies, like broccoli, spinach and eggplant.

...And Carbs! "I don't prevent myself from eating anything," says the self-professed pizza and pasta lover. "I need the energy—I don't just want to be teeny and fit and not be able to jump. I want to be a powerhouse, as well."

Ballet Careers
Sisters Isabella Shaker and Alexandra Pullen. Photo Courtesy Alexandra Pullen.

This is the second in a series of articles this month about ballet siblings.

My mom was in the corps de ballet at American Ballet Theatre. A generation later, so was I. As if that's not enough for one family, my younger sister Isabella Shaker dreams of following in our dancing footsteps. Her endeavor, and her status as somewhat of a child prodigy, stirs feelings of pride and apprehension within me, since I have lived through the ups and downs of this intense yet rewarding career.

Ballet will always be my first love and the thing that brings me the most joy, and my dance career has opened endless opportunities for me. However, it's a difficult career path that requires a lifelong dedication. It's super competitive and can lead to body image issues, physical injury and stress. Most dancers will face some of these problems; I definitely dealt with all three.

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Ballet Stars
Photo by Gabriel Davalos, Courtesy Valdés

For decades the name Alicia Alonso has been virtually synonymous with Ballet Nacional de Cuba, the company she co-founded in Havana in 1948. Alonso died on October 17, just shy of what would have been her 99th birthday. In recent years, she had stepped back from day-to-day decision-making in the company. As if preparing for the future, in January, the company's leading ballerina, 42-year-old Viengsay Valdés, was named deputy director, a job that seems to encompass most of the responsibilities of a traditional director. Now, presumably, she will step into her new role as director of the company. Her debut as curator of the repertory comes in November, when the troupe will perform three mixed bills selected by her at the Gran Teatro de la Habana Alicia Alonso. The following has been translated from a conversation conducted in Spanish, Valdés' native tongue.

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Ballet Stars
Photo by Jayme Thornton

It's National Bullying Prevention Month—and Houston Ballet breakout star Harper Watters is exactly the advocate young dancers facing bullying need. Watters is no novice when it comes to slaying on social media, but his Bullying Prevention Month collaboration with Teen Vogue and Instagram is him at his most raw, speaking about his own experiences with bullies, and how his love of dance helped him to overcome adversity. Watters even penned an incredible op-ed for Teen Vogue's website, where he talks candidly about growing up queer. Catch his amazing anti-bullying video here—and, as Watters says, "Stay fabulous, stay flawless, stay flexible, but most importantly, stay fearless."

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News
Alicia Alonso with Igor Youskevitch. Sedge Leblang, Courtesy Dance Magazine Archives.

Her Dying Swan was as fragile as her Juliet was rebellious; her Odile, scheming, her Swanilda, insouciant. Her Belle was joyous, and her Carmen, both brooding and full-blooded. But there was one role in particular that prompted dance critic Arnold Haskell to ask, "How do you interpret Giselle when you are Giselle?"

At eight, Alicia Alonso took her first ballet class on a stage in her native Cuba, wearing street clothes. Fifteen years later, put in for an ailing Alicia Markova in a performance of Giselle with Ballet Theatre, she staked her claim to that title role.

Alonso received recognition throughout the world for her flawless technique and her ability to become one with the characters she danced, even after she became nearly blind. After a career in New York, she and her then husband Fernando Alonso established the Cuban National Ballet and the Cuban National Ballet School, both of which grew into major international dance powerhouses and beloved institutions in their home country. On October 17, the company announced that, after leading the company for a remarkable 71 years, Alonso died from cardiovascular disease at the age of 98.

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