Cross-training misconceptions: Before Elle Macy became an apprentice with Pacific Northwest Ballet, she was apprehensive about cross-training. "I was warned that it might bulk you, or not to do certain activities because they could potentially injure you." But a stress fracture in her foot changed her perspective. Unable to bear much weight, Macy reluctantly tried stationary biking at her physical therapist's suggestion. "What I learned is that you're not going to get injured from being on an elliptical for 20 minutes or by taking a Pilates class," says Macy. Today, it's not uncommon to find the soloist training on the elliptical, doing ankle stability exercises, using the Pilates reformer or taking a hot yoga class.
A new way of working: Derek Dunn may be known for his explosive jumps and strings of pirouettes, but the powerhouse dancer admits that he wasn't always working inthe smartest way. When he developed hip issues last year, he was forced to shift from "giving 150 percent all the time" to a subtler approach. "I'd been muscling through every- thing and tucking and cranking," he says. "But I've realized that my energy can be used in a much more effective way."
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."
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 DTH.
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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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.
Miami City Ballet principal soloist Lauren Fadeley uses company class, her home gym and the beach to stay strong.
Amped-up class: Since joining Miami City Ballet in 2016, 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.
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.
Morning whirlwind: As a mother of two boys, the a.m. hustle is hectic for Ballet Austin's Aara Krumpe. But she always makes time for a 15-minute home workout on her Pilates reformer before company class. She uses the apparatus to warm up her feet and calves and do crunches and arm work. "By the time I walk in the studio, I can already feel the backs of my legs and my core," she says.
Favorite tool: During breaks between class and rehearsals, Krumpe stretches and uses a yoga block for support. "I focus on keeping my hips loose and open." To stretch her psoas, she'll lie down with the block propped under her tailbone and let gravity do the rest.