Health & Body
From left: Erin Arbuckle in rehearsal for a new work by Richard Isaac. Photo by Paul B. Goode, courtesy Arbuckle; running the 2015 NYC Marathon. Photo by MarathonFoto, courtesy Arbuckle.

When Erin Arbuckle takes ballet class wearing her New York City Marathon shirt, teachers often ask her, "You didn't actually run that, did you?" She did, twice, and she's running again this year on November 5.

Arbuckle, 28, a graduate of School of American Ballet and a freelance dancer who has performed with Ballet Next and Emery LeCrone Dance among others, is a rare ballerina who not only runs but has taken on the challenge of a marathon.

"If I can run 26 miles, I can handle a two-minute variation," she says.

Ballet dancers are taught to save their bodies for dance and avoid injury from other activities. While low-impact cross-training like swimming is encouraged, running is generally considered too high impact.

"I was told it would give me huge calves and thighs and damage my knees," Arbuckle says.

Her two foot surgeries were from dance injuries though, not running, and her body is holding up well despite what she was told to expect.

Marika Molnar, director of physical therapy at New York City Ballet, generally advises dancers to run only as a warm up. "Running for 5 to 10 minutes before ballet class to move the large muscles of the body is useful," she said. "Beyond that, you start to have risks."

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Health & Body
Paris Opéra Ballet's Letizia Galloni. Photo by Benoîte Fanton, Courtesy POB.

A beautifully winged foot is the perfect complement to an arabesque line. But according to Marika Molnar, president and founder of Westside Dance Physical Therapy, learning how—and when—to wing requires subtle work and an understanding of the leg's alignment.

Often, she sees dancers winging before, not after, they point their ankle, foot and toes. Instead, the wing should be the final touch. "If you follow the line of the middle of your thigh through the middle of your kneecap down through the middle of your shin, that line should come out where your second toe is," says Molnar. Then you can slightly wing your foot while maintaining that alignment.

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