Getty Images

How to Fuel Your Body for Audition Day

Alexandra Hughes remembers she was too nervous to eat before one of her first company auditions. She entered the studio on an empty stomach—and quickly realized she'd made a mistake. “I felt like my brain was telling me what it wanted me to do, but my body couldn't keep up," she says. The experience was sobering: she learned she needed to eat, nervous or not. For her, the secret was small snacks throughout the day; a few months later she secured an apprenticeship with Pennsylvania Ballet.

An audition day presents the perfect storm of food anxiety. The desire to look your best and perform at your highest level can be a perplexing challenge. How do you fuel appropriately without feeling over-full? Stress also presents an unsettling hurdle: When your stomach's in knots, eating is often the last thing you want to do. Yet finding the right audition day diet will allow you to focus on the real challenges—like those 32 fouettés!


The Week Before

First things first: You will not be able to change the way you look before Saturday. "One of the biggest mistakes dancers make before an audition is trying some extreme eating shift in an attempt to lose weight at the last minute," says Rebecca Dietzel, a nutrition consultant for Canada's National Ballet School. Ultimately, drastically reducing portion sizes, skipping meals or cutting out entire food groups will leave your body ill-prepared for the challenging class ahead. Stick to the same amount of fuel you know you need on a regular basis.

Fresh raw salmon steak on cutting board

Getty Images

The Night Before

Even though no director will notice an extra six ounces of fluid in your body, you want to steer clear of anything that will make you feel insecure in a leotard and tights. Minimize the amount of sodium you have the night before to prevent bloating. "Most of the sodium people take in actually comes from processed foods," points out Roberta Anding, a registered dietitian who works with Houston Ballet. Sodium is added as a preservative, and doesn't necessarily mean the food will taste salty—one serving of instant pudding has the sodium equivalent of two slices of deli ham.

Instead of eating anything processed, focus on whole, natural foods. Anding suggests a dinner along the lines of grilled salmon, brown rice, steamed broccoli and fruit salad, with lots of water to drink. Hughes makes sure her dinner is fairly hearty since she knows she'll be eating small, lighter meals the next day.

The Morning Of

You've heard it a million times—don't skip breakfast! You want to get the most out of this first meal since your nerves will only get worse as audition time approaches. "Anxiety just doesn't allow your stomach to empty very well," says Anding. A breakfast of Greek yogurt, oatmeal and berries is a great option because they are all low glycemic index foods. "That means they're time released," she explains. Instead of all the carbohydrates dumping into your bloodstream at once, they will provide slow and steady fuel all morning long.

Hughes' audition day breakfast usually includes an egg with toast, a banana to minimize leg cramping, orange juice and milk. Protein is a must. "Having it in the morning keeps my mind a little more focused," she says. You can get protein in different ways. Some brands of Greek yogurt contain 14 grams—about the same amount as two eggs. Alternatively, you can get 11 grams of protein from one cup of oatmeal.

Bananas and peanut butter and chia seeds on toast on a white plate against a pink background.

Getty Images

Just Before

For optimum strength, put something in your stomach a couple hours prior to dancing. Trail mix, a banana with peanut butter, or yogurt are all good choices. Many dancers rely on energy bars because of their portability. "If you're going to eat a bar, just be sure to read the ingredients," Anding says. "You want nothing containing sugar alcohols, which tend to cause gas, cramping, bloating and diarrhea." Sorbitol, xylitol, maltitol, and any other ingredient ending in "-ol," are sugar alcohols.

Even if the butterflies are making it difficult to eat, it's never a good idea to walk into the studio running on empty. Anding points out that milk, whether you prefer soy or traditional cow's milk, will leave your stomach quickly and can provide carbohydrates, proteins and nutrients that are great fuel for your muscles.

Make sure to pack additional snacks in case you have to wait around for your group to dance. When Hughes was placed in a later auditioning group, she ate something small again after registration. When her nerves were bad, she opted for a yogurt since it isn't solid and her body can digest it easily.

Afterwards

About 30 minutes after the audition, eat again to help your muscles repair. "If you have another audition, even if it's four or five days later, your preparation starts the moment the first one is over," says Anding. Again, protein is a good choice, but it doesn't have to be meat. Edamame, hummus or nuts can all get the job done without feeling heavy in your stomach.

A hand holds a pink bowl filled with edamame, against a white background.

Getty Images

What To Avoid

Caffeine and alcohol are two of the biggest performance busters. Too much caffeine will leave you shaky and can heighten your anxiety. A small amount will help with alertness, but Anding says it shouldn't be more than 4 ounces of coffee a day. Alcohol comes with a host of problems, from impairing muscle recovery to depleting the body of essential B vitamins. The effects are detrimental enough that, she says, "alcohol really just needs to go by the wayside until you've secured your dream job."

As a little auditioning experience soon shows, drastically reducing your food intake will hurt focus and energy level. If you can develop nutritious habits in your day-to-day life, smart pre-audition eating will be second nature. "The whole goal is to keep nutrition off your mind when you're auditioning," says Anding. "It should be simple and stress-free, and you should know you're well-fueled."

A hand fills a glass of water at a metal sink.

Getty Images

Don't Forget Water

Part of the recipe for your best performance on audition day is proper hydration, but how much fluid is enough? Dietitian Roberta Anding says that a common ballpark figure is half your weight in ounces, so if you weigh 120 pounds, you should drink about 60 ounces per day. Beware that the winter months of audition season can require added focus on fluid intake. Cold weather leads many people to turn to hot drinks like coffee and tea, with less of an impulse to drink water. In addition, the dry air actually depletes your body of moisture (which is evident in dry skin). "Drinking only when you're thirsty is a flawed strategy," says Anding. "You know you're hydrated if your first morning urine looks like pale lemonade."

Latest Posts


Vikki Sloviter

Sydney Dolan Takes Center Stage at Pennsylvania Ballet

This is Pointe's Summer 2020 cover story. You can subscribe to the magazine here, or click here to purchase this issue.

Just days before the world shuttered under the strain of the coronavirus pandemic, and the curtain came down indefinitely on dance companies everywhere, Pennsylvania Ballet soloist Sydney Dolan debuted Gamzatti in La Bayadère with captivating ease. Her jumps soared, her technique was sound, and her cheeky smile paired with exquisite port de bras was beguiling. Though she didn't know the company would soon cancel the remainder of its season, her beautiful performance acted as a kind of send-off into the unknown.

Dolan's career could be described in one word: charmed. At just 19 years old, she's flown through the ranks at PAB, debuted a long list of roles, won a Princess Grace Award and been named one of Dance Magazine's "25 to Watch." Yet it's her challenges that have shaped not only her training but her outlook, giving her a solid foundation for becoming one of Pennsylvania Ballet's rising stars.

Keep reading SHOW LESS
Courtesy de Roos

SAB Student Founds Dancewear Nonprofit to Help Others in Need

When School of American Ballet student Alexandra de Roos was 8 years old, she placed a collection box at her dance studio for others to donate their gently used dancewear. De Roos, now 17, has since turned that single collection box into a nonprofit organization that aims to minimize economic barriers in the performing arts with free dancewear and classes.

De Roos' organization, Peace Love Leotards, has collected about $2,600 of new and gently-used dancewear and $2,000 in grants and donations since formally launching in April. Dancers or studio owners can request items through a form on the organization's website.

"I knew that dancewear was really expensive and that a lot of students might not be able to do the thing that they love because it's cost-prohibitive," de Roos said. "I really wanted to create something to allow people to have the same experience of the love and joy of dance that I've been so grateful to have."

After SAB shifted its winter term online amid the COVID-19 pandemic, de Roos decided to expand Peace Love Leotards. She reached out to dance companies, resulting in partnerships with brands including Jo+Jax, Lone Reed Designs, RubiaWear and Wear Moi.

"To have them be like 'We want to help you with this and we love this idea and what you're doing is amazing,' that was really exciting to me," she said. "It was very heartwarming."

Jordan Reed, the creator of custom dancewear brand Lone Reed Designs, said she has donated seven items to Peace Love Leotards with plans to donate more consistently every quarter. Custom leotards often retail at higher prices, but Reed, a former Houston Ballet corps member, said the one-of-a-kind clothing offers an "extra bit of confidence, which can go more than a long way in a dancer's journey of training."

Paul Plesh, a sales director for Wear Moi in the United States and Canada, said the company donated 11 leotards after finding Peace Love Leotards' mission to be "commendable." Joey Dowling-Fakhrieh, the founder and creative director of Jo+Jax, said dancewear "can make a significant impact on a student's confidence, as well as how much they enjoy the process of learning dance."

De Roos has worked to expand Peace Love Leotards, Inc. rapidly in the past few months, but she first created the organization at eight years old after participating in a mentorship program with competitors in the Miss Florida and Miss Florida's Outstanding Teen pageants. The pageants, which are part of the Miss America Organization, require competitors to have personal platforms they advocate for as titleholders. As a competition dancer, de Roos instantly thought about the cost barriers to dance when wondering what her own future platform would be.

De Roos said she and her young classmates often outgrew nearly brand-new dancewear, so she approached her studio's owner about placing a collection box at the studio.

Barbara Mizell, who owns Barbara's Centré for Dance in Florida, said she was unsurprised by de Roos' proposal. De Roos always had "such a way of pushing herself and she never forgot those around her," Mizell said. As the box filled up, she distributed the dancewear to others at the studio, local schools with dance programs, and the local YMCA.

"When they could start to see that it was providing happiness for others, then it was almost like the kids couldn't wait to donate," Mizell said.

Nearly a decade after the Miss Florida organization inspired her to launch Peace Love Leotards, de Roos is now a titleholder herself, as Miss Gainesville's Outstanding Teen 2020. Her new mission for Peace Love Leotards is applying for grants, and she has already received a $1,000 grant from the Delores Barr Weaver Legacy Fund that will be used to fund a Title 1 school class.

"The whole organization behind Peace Love Leotards is the dancers," de Roos said. "Being able to help the dancers that are in need and being able to think about the dancewear that they're going to be receiving or have received has been truly amazing."

#TBT: Royal Ballet Principals in a Gala Tribute to Tchaikovsky (1993)

It's not often that you get to see eight principal dancers sharing a stage, but Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky's centennial is a special circumstance. In a 1993 gala honoring the composer, former Royal Ballet principals Darcey Bussell and Zoltan Solymosi, Leanne Benjamin and Tetsuya Kumakawa, Lesley Collier and Irek Mukhamedov and Viviane Durante and Bruce Sansom performed alongside The Royal Opera Chorus in Madame Larina's ball scene from the opera Eugene Onegin.

Keep reading SHOW LESS

Editors' Picks