Ballet Training
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."

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Ballet Stars
Unity Phelan in Jerome Robbins' Antique Epigraphs. Paul Kolnik, Courtesy NYCB.

The NYCB soloist started strength-training to improve her ballet technique and found a second passion.

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Health & Body
Photo by oldskool photography/Unsplash

My dance program goes on a two-week break after Nutcracker performances. I'm worried about staying in shape and hate not having regular class. What can I do on my own, and how much should I be doing? —Emma

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Joel Prouty (far right) trains professional dancers such as James Whiteside, Katherine Williams, Lloyd Knight and Lauren Post. Photo courtesy Prouty

A good personal trainer can coach you through a challenging, safe workout. A great one understands the unique demands dance places on your body and helps you correct specific weaknesses to make you an even stronger performer. Enter Joel Prouty.

Before his passion for fitness took over, he was a member of the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, Houston Ballet and Boston Ballet, toured with Twyla Tharp and performed in Broadway's Come Fly Away. When he retired from the stage in 2010, he dove into exercise physiology courses at New York University, captivated by the idea of dancers as athletes. "My main focus and obsession was how to train like an athlete—strong, powerful, quick and resilient—while still maintaining the long, lean aesthetic required to be a dancer, and perhaps more specifically a classical ballet dancer."

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Trending
April Day is celebrating her 16th season with The Joffrey Ballet. Photo by Cheryl Mann, Courtesy The Joffrey Ballet.

Joffrey Ballet Star April Daly shares how she stays conditioned throughout the season—and makes her summers intense.

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Health & Body
Photos by Jayme Thornton for Pointe. Modeled by Anna Greenberg of American Ballet Theatre's Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School.

Planks are one of the most popular exercises for core strength, but they're not just about flat abs. Julie O'Connell, physical therapist and performing arts program manager at Chicago's Athletico Physical Therapy, says that dancers can use them to maximize their conditioning: Look at the corrections you're getting in class or the choreography you're learning and mirror those concepts in your strength work.

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Ballet Stars

Words of wisdom: As a morning mental warm-up, Stephanie Rae Williams, of Dance Theatre of Harlem, recites an affirmation, like "Today is a great day" or "You can and you will." After she suffered an injury onstage, she also started saying a mantra in the wings, such as "I am strong. I am healthy. I am capable." It helps quell her nerves backstage.

DTH's Stephanie Rae Williams shares her smart conditioning tips. Photo by Rachel Neville, Courtesy Dance Theatre of Harlem.

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Ballet Stars
Madeline DeVries cultivates strength and fluidity for Alonzo King's works. Photo by Stacy Ebstyne, Courtesy LINES.

Madeline DeVries, of Alonzo King LINES Ballet, starts her days with a bike ride or strength work.

Warm-up on wheels: Madeline DeVries' commute doubles as a workout. Two or three days a week, the Alonzo King LINES Ballet dancer bikes about seven miles through San Francisco to the studio. "The hardest part is going through Golden Gate Park. There's one uphill section that's always killer," she says. She arrives ready to dance and likes how biking warms up her knees.

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Ballet Stars
Generosa in Susan Stroman's TAKE FIVE…More or Less. Photo by Lindsay Thomas, Courtesy PNB.

Pacific Northwest Ballet soloist Angelia Generosa uses cross-training to tackle the company's varied repertoire.

Cross-training philosophy: Pacific Northwest Ballet soloist Angelica Generosa kicked up her workout regimen a few seasons ago when she was first dancing "Rubies," along with a lot of contemporary rep. "I realized that I couldn't afford to get hurt," she says. "I had to take time to take care of my muscles, so they could recuperate and feel good for whatever PNB asked me to do." Now in her seventh season, Generosa acknowledges that just stretching before class isn't enough. "Maintenance is really important. Know what you need before and after class."

At the gym: She starts any workout (or busy day at the studio) with a 10-minute elliptical or bike warm-up. Generosa developed tendonitis in her left knee a few years ago, so this prepares the joint for more strenuous activity. Then, she'll do 20 to 45 minutes of cardio on the treadmill or elliptical; upper-body work, like arm circles while holding 10-pound free weights; ab exercises; and stretching, especially her quads after running.

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Health & Body
LADP's Rachelle Rafailedes leading a workout. Photo by Studio 6, Courtesy Sunshine Sachs.

If your usual workouts are feeling stale, Benjamin Millepied's L.A. Dance Project might be able to help. The contemporary ballet troupe recently launched an online exercise platform that puts its stars in your living room.

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Ballet Stars
Lauren Fadeley in Balanchine's Walpurgisnacht Ballet. Photo by Daniel Azoulay, Courtesy Miami City Ballet.

Miami City Ballet principal soloist Lauren Fadeley uses company class, her home gym and the beach to stay strong.

Amped-up class: Now in her second season with Miami City Ballet, Lauren Fadeley has found new challenges in company class. "It's more intense and aerobic than I'm used to," she says. Her approach: It's not a casual warm-up but a daily opportunity to practice everything correctly, so it's automatic onstage.

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Health & Body
NYCB principal Adrian Danchig-Waring in rehearsal. Photo by Erin Baiano, Courtesy NYCB.

Cross-training to heal: Since 2010, principal dancer Adrian Danchig-Waring has dealt with flare-ups of painful stress fractures in his shins. When we spoke, he was working on healing those "dreaded black lines," substituting physical therapy, cardio and strength work for his usual dance-heavy schedule with New York City Ballet.

Pool time: Unable to participate in company class or bear much weight, Danchig-Waring has taken up swimming for 30 to 60 minutes daily. "It's become sort of my new passion," he says. He likes the sport for its no-impact, high-cardio nature and often follows lap workouts from a training website called goswim.tv. He cycles through various strokes, like freestyle, crawl and backstroke, to condition different muscles in his arms and shoulders.

Strength in numbers: Danchig-Waring takes a group fitness class, typically Pilates, after each swim. At first, he was surprised by how much he enjoyed the atmosphere. "But then I realized my whole life as a ballet dancer has been group fitness. There's this healthy sense of competition and collective energy that motivates, and it helps to push yourself further."

Off-his-feet footwork: Pilates mat work is especially perfect for him since most of the class is done lying down or on all fours. This allows Danchig-Waring to articulate his feet through demi- and full pointe in non–weight-bearing exercises, like the single-leg stretch and criss-cross. "Foot strength is such an essential part of this rehabilitation," he says.

Retraining the body and mind: Danchig-Waring works with a physical therapist twice a week on what he calls "neurologic reconditioning." He's coached through basic exercises, like sitting on the edge of a bench and slowly rising to relevé in parallel while holding a tennis ball between his ankles. Though the movements aren't complex, it's a mental challenge. "I focus on firing specific muscle groups that are otherwise resistant to working." The aim is to relieve some of the burden from his shins and toes and instead rely more on his glutes and abductors for stability.

Discovery zone: Inspired by his injuries, Danchig-Waring is on a mission to better understand ballet's mechanics—in the past, he even took a kinesiology lab at New York University. Despite being a principal dancer, he says, "I feel like a total novice when it comes to how the body is designed to move." Ballet is about so much more than forcing the body into beautiful shapes, he says, so now he's learning to dance in a way that's healthier and more sustainable.

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