Ballet Careers

The Perfect Summer: These 4 Pros Know How to Balance Rest, Cross-Training and Fun to Start Their Next Season Right

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Need some inspiration for staying in shape this summer? These four dancers know how to balance rest, cross-training and fun to start off their next season right.


Photo by Charlie McCullers, Courtesy Atlanta Ballet.

Jackie Nash

Atlanta Ballet

Typical summer break: mid-May–August

On rest: I need to take one solid week, at least, to let all those last bits of the season go. After Nutcracker we push straight through until May, so a lot of little things in my body need to heal, and I want to have some mental space to go over how the season went.


Summer gig: For the past five or six years, I've danced with Atlanta Ballet's 12-member, dancer-run summer company, Wabi Sabi. We start rehearsing three to six hours a day one or two weeks after the season ends, with performances in July and August. I don't need to do maintenance beyond that because the shows finish close to the beginning of our season.

Taking class: When we're not working on Wabi Sabi, I either teach or take class during the Atlanta Ballet Centre for Dance Education summer intensives to stay in shape.

Nutrition: Because I have more time, I look for new recipes. I love grilling fish outside and having people over for kebabs, getting to be more social.

Branching out: I own a house in East Atlanta with my husband, fellow AB dancer Heath Gill. We like to catch up on gardening, painting and house maintenance things.


Figgins in Jorma Elo's "1st Flash." Photo by Rosalie O'Connor, Courtesy Aspen Santa Fe Ballet.

Jenelle Figgins

Aspen Santa Fe Ballet

Typical summer break: Six weeks total, usually in May and September

On rest: Working 7,900 feet above sea level means that the demand on our bodies is very high. I try to take a couple weeks to rest. My routine is to spend time at a spa here, getting massages and physical therapy, and going to the hot springs and mineral baths in the area.

Cross-training: Later on during the break I start getting physical. Aspen is really special because a lot of social activities are active and outside. A lot of us go hiking in the summer. We also have access to great yoga classes. I need to lengthen and stretch, and I avoid exercise that will make me too tight.

Taking class: We are the only dance studio out here, so it is difficult. We tend to get out of town because Aspen is so small. If I travel on my break, I take classes at home.

Nutrition: I love to cook. On layoff, I have more time to focus on my diet and research how I can turn my food into medicine. Turmeric is good for my mood and is also an anti-inflammatory—right now I am into turmeric-and-blood-orange lemonade.

Branching out: I'm Buddhist, so I like to chant and meditate. I try to "shed" all the stuff in my mind and alternate in self-questioning about how my thoughts and energies are serving dance and my life. It's a great time for me to let my mind go beyond my job. I'm also continuing to learn with online college courses.


Photo by Christopher Wahl, Courtesy NBoC.

Skylar Campbell

National Ballet of Canada

Typical summer break: Four weeks, dates vary

On rest: Balance is my favorite word and key for any athlete. At the end of the season you are most likely in top dancing shape. Rest is good, but I don't like to throw it all away, because our layoffs are short.

Cross-training: During the season it can be difficult for me to cross-train. I love to change up my routine during off weeks, because it's important to keep moving. I do resistance training at the gym and take advantage of swimming. If I have a principal role coming up, focusing on long-term cardio can help. If I go home to California, I am lucky to be able to train at the Pilates studio my parents own in Orange County.

Taking class: For every week I take off, I need just as much time to get back.

Nutrition: The first week, I do a cold-pressed-juice cleanse because I don't need as much fuel and replenishment. After that I ease back into my regular diet.

Branching out: I try to let my mind out of the ballet bubble. I exert my energy on playing the drums. It is a great outlet when I'm not dancing.


Porterfield and Paul Michael Bloodgood in Balanchine's "Agon." Photo by Tony Spielberg, Courtesy Ballet Austin.

Oren Porterfield

Ballet Austin

Typical summer break: mid-May–August

On rest: I definitely need a week of seeing music shows, drinking beer, eating pizza—real people fun. Austin is a great city for music and my husband is a gigging musician. I have to take a little time away to get perspective before going back to demi, demi, grand.

Cross-training: I can't do the same thing every day. We're lucky to have access to a Pilates studio, so we can take group apparatus class and use reformers. I take yoga around town and do it at home with "Yoga with Adriene," a YouTube channel. I have a gym membership, too.

Taking class: I usually don't take off of class for more than two weeks.

Nutrition: I am definitely more forgiving of my body standards during layoff. I appreciate being curvier in the summer, which is something I don't appreciate as much in season. I try not to ever go on a diet—moderation is the best thing. I eat real food, and if I eat food that isn't so good, I make sure I move more.

Branching out: I have an apothecary line I started a few years ago (ritual-goods.com), and I make essential-oil perfumes and sprays. I do pop-ups. In the summer I have more opportunities to learn more about herbalism and experiment.

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