Category Archives: Life Management

Love Your Ballet Body Series

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February is all about love so here at Ballet Strength we are doing a 14 day Love Your Ballet Body series in the two weeks leading up to Valentine’s Day. Join us each day for a new workout or ballet tips. We will also be doing free product giveaways and more!

Head over to our new blog at http://www.balletstrength.com to download your Love Your Ballet Body workout calendar!

Be sure to follow us on Instagram (@balletstrength), Youtube (youtube.com/c/balletstrength), and Facebook (facebook.com/balletstrength) for the latest workout videos as we will not be posting them here!

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Our Blog Has Moved!

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We are excited to announce that with the launch of the new balletstrength.com, our Ballet Skills blog has moved! Now you can get all of our helpful free blog tips as well as our products that offer solutions to the most common ballet problems in one place!

Don’t worry, we’ll still check back with you here periodically but our most recent and up to date blog posts and products will be posted to our new blog at http://www.balletstrength.com. Thanks again for all of your support and I look forward to hearing your feedback on the new blog!

Should I go to Ballet When I’m Sick?

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There is nothing worse than waking up in the morning with a sore throat and a full day of rehearsals ahead of you. No matter how healthy you are it is inevitable that the flu or a cold will hit you at some point during peak season. I get asked a lot by my dancer clients whether they should continue classes and rehearsals while sick. The answer truly depends on just how sick you are. Is it a cold? Allergies? The flu? Are you contagious?

In general, if you are sick you stay home and rest but with dancers it can be a really tough decision to make. If we miss a day of rehearsals, for example, our understudy will get a chance to do our part or we may lose our spot altogether. So what do you do? Be sure to talk to your studio or company director directly on the phone (so they can hear just how sick you are) and take care of YOU. Staying home may make you feel lazy, but it is an essential part of your recovery – and the faster you recover, the sooner you will be back to dancing.

The general rule is that if the symptoms are above the neck it is usually okay to exercise but at a lower intensity than you are used to. As dancers, we don’t really get the luxury of determining the pace of class and rehearsals, so If you absolutely must go through with it, alert your teacher or director that you will be taking it easy. Dancing while you are ill could also lead to injury so be cautious. The key is to listen to your body – it is definitely not a good idea to push yourself beyond your limits when you are under the weather so take it easy.

You wouldn’t want the rest of the dancers at your studio to get sick either, so be sure to wash your hands and wipe off your barre spot with disinfecting wipes. Get lots of rest when you can and be sure to drink lots of liquids whether you are at the studio or at home.

When you should definitely NOT dance while you are sick:
• When you are vomiting
• You have a fever
• Coughing or chest congestion
• Widespread body and muscle aches

When it is okay to dance with a lower intensity:
• Sore throat
• Nasal congestion
• Sneezing
• Runny nose

My hope is that you stay healthy this Fall and Winter and continue to thrive as a dancer. Be sure to stay up on your nutrition and rest to avoid getting sick!

Summer Ballet Intensives – Adjusting Back to Home Life

Princeton Ballet School's Summer Intensive Program. Photo Credit: Theresa Wood

If you attended a summer ballet intensive program this year, congratulations! It is such an honor and accomplishment to be accepted into a summer ballet school away from home. I remember all too well the 6 weeks of dancing bliss, meeting new friends, being away from my parents, and of course learning a ton from the wonderful ballet teachers that were on staff. Memories like these last a lifetime – I am even still in touch with some of the friends I made at summer intensives long ago.

The hardest thing for me was always adjusting back to home life after the end of a summer intensive program. I remember leaving for American Ballet Theatre, New York at age 15, living in an apartment by myself, and walking to the studios each morning by myself. It was a big responsibility but it made me feel so grown up.  It was always hard for me to leave my family and friends back home, but once I got to the summer intensive, I never wanted to leave! Chances are, you are dealing with the exact same feelings right now after returning home from your summer intensive, and I want to share some pointers with you to help you adjust and get comfortable back at home.

Be Easy on your Parents – Your parents have missed you so much during the duration of the summer intensive. After all, their little one has been away for 6 weeks and they can’t wait to see you and spoil you when you get home. While their overly-affectionate attitude may be annoying, don’t fight it – embrace it. It is often hard to adjust back to the boundaries and rules that your parents have set at home. Sit down with them and explain your new found confidence rather than breaking the rules and getting in trouble. The key to dealing with your parents is working with them, not against them!

Keep in Touch – Do be sure to keep in touch with all of the new friends you met at your summer intensive. Social media like Facebook makes it super easy these days. Not only is it a great way to keep each other updated as to what is going on in your lives, it can also be a great connection for the future – Say if you’re looking for a roommate for next year’s summer intensive.

Respect your Ballet Teachers – You want to show off your new skills and technique, but don’t do it at the cost of making your ballet teacher angry. This is probably one of the hardest things to adjust to. For example: you go to a Balanchine summer intensive but return to a classical school. Your teacher back home definitely will not appreciate your new hands and over-crossed fifths 😉 Do your best to honor their corrections and chat with them after class. They will help you understand why they don’t like some of your new habits, but will also tell you which new habits they appreciate in a good way!

Adjusting back to home life can be tough after attending a summer ballet intensive program. Communicate with your loved ones, friends, and ballet teachers and you will be back on track in no time!

* Photo Credit Princeton Ballet School’s Summer Intensive Program. ©Theresa Wood

 

 

 

Hydration for Dancers

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If you are dancing for long periods of time, it is important to replace the fluids lost from sweating. If you become dehydrated while dancing, especially in the heat, it can cause fatigue, dizziness, decrease in coordination, and even muscle cramping. Examples include forgetting combinations, the inability to physically complete long segments of choreography due to fatigue, and legs cramping in the middle of a piece. We’ll talk more about how you can hydrate yourself during the dancing day to prevent some of the awful consequences of dehydration.

Chances are, you’ve probably experienced one of the three symptoms I mentioned above. Dancers are sometimes at a disadvantage here, as teachers are not all educated about the importance of hydration in the classroom and do not allow water or sports drinks to be brought into the studio. You can work around this by making a conscious effort to drink water and/or a sports beverage throughout the day, at home or at school, and in the morning before ballet.

Adequate hydration is an essential part of your ballet nutrition. Water makes up almost 60% of our body weight. Water is the most important nutrient for your body. Its functions include lubricating joints, regulating body temperature, and transporting nutrients through the body. We lose water during the day through sweating, respiration, and through urinary and fecal output.

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Electrolytes-

When you hear the word “hydration” you immediately think of water, but being hydrated sometimes means more than simply drinking more water. Dancers who spend more than 3 hours rehearsing per day can be at risk for dehydration and fluids need to be replenished in the form of electrolytes. Electrolytes are minerals that are essential to the human body.(examples: sodium, potassium, magnesium) Electrolyte beverages utilize these minerals to restore the body’s water levels.

When I was dancing with a ballet company that required 8 hours per day of class and rehearsals, I sipped on an electrolyte beverage all day long. Many of my friends didn’t even drink as much as water during the long rehearsal days and let me just tell you – it is part of the reason why their performance in class and rehearsals suffered day to day.

Choose your “sports drink” wisely – although some may taste like kool-aid this is likely due to the fact that they contain too much sugar. My favorite brands of electrolyte hydrators such as the brand Vega, are found at natural health food stores.

I hope this blog will help you understand hydration and how it effects your ballet performance and recovery. For more information please be sure to subscribe to this blog and join us on Facebook or check out my eBook, Ballet Nutrition. Happy Dancing!

 

Setting Ballet Summer Intensive Goals

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As the end of June approaches many of you will head off to your very first summer ballet intensive program. With your suitcases packed have you left anything behind? You have surely packed enough leotards and pointe shoes to get you through the 3-6 weeks that you will be away from home. Have you forgotten the most important thing you will need for your summer intensive?

The most common thing that dancers forget to do before leaving for a ballet summer intensive program is set goals. Why are you doing this summer intensive program? To improve, right? But what exact areas of your dancing are you looking to improve? Let’s face it, without setting goals what exactly will you get out of your summer intensive experience?

Before you leave home (or even if you are in your first few weeks of the intensive) write down the following questions in your ballet journal.

What do I feel that I most need to improve on this summer? This could be anything from pirouettes to technique.

What have my teachers been encouraging me to improve on? This would be the corrections that you get in class or at the school year-end conference.

What do I need to do to make these corrections over the summer? Listen to the teachers, focus, etc

Why did I choose this summer intensive? List the key reasons that you decided to go to this particular summer program. Anything from teaching staff to city.

What do I most want to accomplish this summer at (fill in your summer intensive name) ? What is your ultimate goal in attending this particular summer program? Do you perhaps want to be asked to stay for this school’s year-round program?

By answering these questions and looking them over every few days, you will stay on track at your summer program. I know it sounds kind of dorky but if you really want to become the best dancer you have to set goals and remind yourself of those goals consistently. Have fun and make friends but remember, you are there to dance!

Ballet Strength Interview with Dancer Samuel Wilson

Dance Theatre of Harlem's Samuel Wilson and Michaela DePrince in Black Swan Pas de Deux.

Dance Theatre of Harlem’s Samuel Wilson and Michaela DePrince in Black Swan Pas de Deux.

Dance Theatre of Harlem dancer Samuel Wilson is preparing for an upcoming show at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center on January 17th. The show boasts three different pieces from three different choreographers including the well known Agon by George Balanchine and Gloria by Robert Garland. Learn more about Samuel and what he does behind the scenes to stay in top physical condition.

When did you know that you wanted to be a professional dancer?  The moment I realized I wanted to be a professional dancer was shortly after I started taking lessons. At that time in my life, I had very few aspirations for my future and had many hobbies but nothing that was quite as challenging or rewarding. It was as if a light bulb had turned on in my head and I found what I was meant to do.

What struggles or injuries have you encountered along the way?  The struggles and injuries I have encountered have been both major and minor. There are always set backs in life and it is no different for dancers. The most difficult part about any injury is that you are temporarily removed from the thing you love most in this world. I have broken my ankle, both my big toes, subluxed my right hand and even sprained my back muscles, which is the most painful of all those injuries. In the end, it is a part of trying to achieve perfection and excellence so it has always helped me to keep a positive outlook on things.

With the talk of New Year’s resolutions, what was your resolution this year?  With all the talk of New Year’s resolutions I have decided to continue with the same resolutions I have already made: to be a better dancer, person, and friend. There are so many aspects of myself that I will continue to work on and develop. Instead of making a deadline for those things, I wish to take my time and enjoy life as it comes. Also, I would like to go on a cruise with my girlfriend.

What do you do for cross training to maximize your performance?  What I do during the off season for cross training can vary from day to day. Since our dance season has two major breaks, one in the winter and one in the summer, it is not too difficult to find jobs. During that time, I do as much teaching as I can so I can develop a new skill set that can be used in my future. Along with that, I take long walks with my dogs, or even roller blade with them, and lift weights. I have found that rest is sometimes a good medicine, along with stretching and yoga to maintain strength.

Why do you feel that cross training is important for young dancers in particular?  I feel that cross training can be good for young dancers because it can help strengthen your weaknesses and prevent you from acquiring injuries related to overusing the wrong muscles. It can also have endurance benefits and help the overall aesthetic of a young dancer’s body.

Tell me more about your nutrition and go-to foods for energy:  As a male dancer, I find myself eating constantly and with great gusto. My go-to foods are pretty healthy in nature (not fried) such as meat, vegetables, fruits and whole grains. I find that without foods, such as carbs and protein, I get very hungry and cranky. When I eat I also live by a rule, “If I wanna eat it, then I am going to eat it!” When I am eating a dessert, I just eat less of what I want and I am less likely to snack on other things.

What did you learn on your own that you wish someone had taught you as a young dancer?  What I learned on my own that I wish someone had told me when I was young is that as a dancer you need to be patient. I always wanted things to happen so fast for me: to be a principal dancer in just a year or be given the roles I want because I work hard and hold myself to a high standard. The thing is, there is so much more to what we do than being out front all the time or getting the parts you want. I have fallen in love with some of the steps I do on the side and have detested some of the ballets where I am in a central role. There are also moments I enjoy being in the spotlight, as well, and now I relish it because it was earned over time and never just handed to me.

You have an upcoming performance at the NJPAC – tell me more about this:  We have an exciting program coming to NJPAC on the 17th! We will be doing a repertory show, including works from three different choreographers. The program will have something for everybody, such as the deeply spiritual Gloria by Robert Garland or the quick and assertive Agon by George Balanchine. Sandwiched in the middle is a love story of a different kind that has all the roller coaster of emotions you would find within the minds of timid lovers. I expect it to be an event the audience will not soon forget.

What words of advice do you have for young dancers?  The words of advice I have young dancers are to keep persevering. You must continue to give all you can and what you will get in return will always be worth it in the end. Take your time and enjoy dance while you still have it. Remember that you are blessed to be able to create art every day and that you are an individual with your own story to tell.

You can see Samuel Wilson and the rest of Dance Theatre of Harlem at the NJPAC on Friday, January 17, 2014 at 7:00 pm. For tickets and pricing visit ticketmaster.com.

Ballet New Years Resolutions

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The New Year starts tomorrow – have you set your goals or resolutions for the year? When we think of the “year” as dancers, we tend to look at it the way we look at the school year, September through June. While the start of the school year is a great time to set new goals, this doesn’t mean that you can’t set new goals starting January 1st! The following are some goals and resolution ideas to help you out in 2014!

Resolution #1: Write down your corrections – You are more likely to actually improve and apply corrections if you write them down. Take notes of what your teachers tell you and look back on those notes every few weeks.

Resolution #2: Stretch – Stretching is an essential part of your muscle recovery at the end of the dancing day. Make it a habit to stretch before bed each night so that you feel refreshed and ready to go in the morning.

Resolution #3: Limit negativity – As dancers we sometimes become perfectionists. This perfectionism can sometimes put us in a negative place mentally. Do your best to think positive thoughts and seek solutions rather than complaining about them.

Resolution #4: Help others – Is a friend having difficulty picking up choreography? Help him or her out. Going over the choreography with your friend will also help you learn it better. Plus helping just feels good!

Resolution #5: Nail those auditions – Be confident and nail those summer intensive auditions this year! Showcase your best by looking the part and acting the part.

Did I give you some ideas? Now sit down and start writing out your detailed New Year resolutions for a successful 2014 dancing year. You’ll be glad that you did!

 

Nutrition for Dancers – Career Saving Advice

Ballet NutritionDid you know that proper nutrition can make or break your day to day ballet performance? With the intense physical demands that are being put on dancers these days a solid nutrition routine is a must for optimal performance, endurance and muscle recovery. Contemporary choreography is taking ballet to a new athletic level. Dancers are much like other athletes – They need to eat for energy.

When I landed my first professional job away from home as a dancer with Ballet Austin, I wasn’t used to having to prepare meals and take care of myself. Frozen food and pizza were convenient but were not what my body needed to perform at it’s best from day to day. I was always tired, got frequent migraine headaches, and my performance in class started to suffer. I also gained weight.

All of this eventually lead up to an injury. The physical and nutritional stress that I was putting on my body had finally taken it’s toll. Soon I was called into the office to talk to the directors about not only my injury but my weight gain. The last thing that I wanted to be thinking about while dealing with an injury was “dieting.” Injured, self-conscious, and desperate for answers, I left the company mid-season to recuperate back at home and pull myself together in time for company auditions that Spring.

Through healthy eating, adequate rest, and stress management I was able to catch myself before I fell into a career ending pattern in time to receive multiple job offers that Spring. Luckily I have put together a resource for you to optimize your nutrition and apply the same principles that helped me to your life and dancing!

It’s called Ballet Nutrition and it covers all of the important things that you need to know including; using food for fuel, proper hydration, adequate rest, muscle recovery, daily caloric requirements (super easy to use formula to figure out your needs), and eating for energy. This digital book empowers you to make your own healthy choices and design your own plan based on the principles explained and examples given.

Your dancing deserves the best nutrition! Read more about Ballet Nutrition here >> http://balletstrength.com/Ballet_Strength/balletnutrition.html

 

 

Getting into a Ballet Company

What does it take to get into a ballet company? Many of you may be asking yourself this very question right now as you embark upon a summer intensive program in hopes of being accepted into the company or trainee program for the 2013/2014 season. Let’s face it, you have competition and while summer intensives are for learning, they are also a great test of your fight – will you stand out and impress or try your hand in the back of the room?

It comes down to two things from what I have seen and experienced – Are you technically sound or are you a one trick pony? Let me explain. While every company is different in terms of style, there are a few truths that you just can’t ignore. There are those who can developé their leg past their ear, those who are barre technicians, those who have feet so arched that they can’t actually stand up in center, and then there are those who are balanced. Where do you want to be?

You know the answer – You want to be a balanced, well rounded dancer. Ballet company’s are not looking for acrobats nor are they looking for feet so arched that they are dangerous. They want dancers who have a strong base, are easy to work with, will not get injured at the first opportunity that comes their way, and who have a good work ethic. They are looking for strong technique and the ability to perform well when it counts.

Directors want to be able to use their dancers in multiple ways and they need versatile dancers to keep up with the demands of contemporary choreography. Chances are, your friend who has gotten this far only because she is good at adagio will be skimmed over for someone with a little more usefulness. The same also goes for the lazy but talented dancer who’s heart just isn’t in it.

Showcase your strengths, but show that you are willing to work hard in all areas of dance, try new things, and do it with an open mind. Afterall, if you are chosen to represent the company as a dancer, apprentice, or trainee the director wants to know that you will be likeable and can take correction and direction well.

This summer “trial run” for a position in the company next year is a test to see what your work ethic is like. Will you work your way to the front of the room and present yourself as the next company dancer?