Health & Body

Steal Ballet West Soloist Katie Critchlow's Workout

Critchlow in Balanchine's "Diamonds." Photo by Luke Isley, Courtesy Ballet West.

A fresh perspective: Last year, Katie Critchlow went through seven months of recovery for a debilitating ankle sprain, but the process transformed her outlook on cross-training: “You think that doing ballet class every day is enough, but it's not," she says. “Ballet dancers are hypermobile, and in order to execute everything onstage when you're tired and fatigued, you need a lot of strength to back that up."

Ready to run: About two months after her injury, Critchlow began jogging. “I had to start really, really slow on a treadmill." Her ankle sprain had affected her hip, too, causing her to veer in a diagonal until she balanced the alignment in her legs. Now she prefers to run outdoors around Salt Lake City. “It helps mobilize my joints, so I'll either go at the end of a light day or wait for the weekend."



Photo by Pete Saloutos, Courtesy Ballet West

Agility training: To retrain how she transfers weight from foot to foot, Critchlow's physical therapist led her through ladder work, often done by football and soccer players. The agility drills had her dashing through a lattice of boxes on the ground in hopscotch-like patterns. “You keep changing the exercise so the body is never used to the direction you're pushing off from," she says.

Catching waves: Originally from San Diego, Critchlow grew up surfing. “That also helped me over the hurdle because I had to balance on the board." She loves how the sport improves her core stability.


With Tom Mattingly in Val Caniparoli's The Lottery. Photo by Luke Isley, Courtesy Ballet West

The work is never done: Critchlow continues to see her PT, and she's currently focusing on controlling how she rolls down from pointe—an action that's aggravated by her plantar fasciitis. To improve this transition, she loads a leg press or calf-raise machine with as much weight as she can handle and does 10 reps of slow relevés, using two feet to go up and only one to come down.

Pre-show sweat session: Critchlow visits the gym three to four times a week, and often before she performs. “Ballet barre doesn't really get all those bigger muscles, like hamstrings and glutes, warm," she says. She'll spend 20 minutes at the gym, doing five minutes of cardio and reps on various weight machines to warm up her entire body.

Larke Johnson in rehearsal. Courtesy The Joffrey Ballet

Marie and Franz have a new guest at their Christmas Eve party this year. Emma Lookatch and Larke Johnson, both dancers in the Adaptive Dance Program at Joffrey Academy of Dance: Official School of The Joffrey Ballet, are alternating in the new role of Worker Girl. It is a permanent part created specifically for students with disabilities in Christopher Wheeldon's version of The Nutcracker at The Joffrey Ballet.

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Francisco Estevez, Courtesy Colorado Ballet Academy

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Ballet Training
Ballet Austin Academy students practice priouette en dehors. Annie Marie Bloodgood, Courtesy Ballet Austin.

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Rosalie O'Connor, Courtesy US Prix de Ballet

The US Prix de Ballet is taking an unconventional approach to the ballet competition—by putting the competitors' health first. After a successful first year in 2018, the Prix is returning to San Diego, CA this February with an even more comprehensive lineup of wellness workshops and master classes, in addition, of course, to the high-level competition.

Though the talent is top-notch, the environment is friendly, says HARID Conservatory faculty member Victoria Schneider, who serves on US Prix de Ballet's elite panel of judges. "The wellbeing of the dancer is the main focus," says Schneider, who awarded three scholarships to HARID at last year's competition.

US Prix de Ballet was born after its founders traveled to the Japan Grand Prix International Ballet Competition in 2016. "The company ran every aspect of the competition with professionalism, dignity, honor and precision," says founder Neisha Hernandez. "We knew we wanted this level of experience for America."

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