Andrea Marks is a writer based in New York City. Beginning in her home state of Connecticut at the School of the Hartford Ballet, she trained in dance for over 20 years. She majored in English and minored in dance at Skidmore College and earned her Master's degree in journalism at Columbia University.
But as dancers, we should. We need our feet. They connect us to the floor; we push off them to move through space. We use them to relevé, roll through, land, stomp and tap. Yet we don't treat them well. And sometimes, we flat-out abuse them.
Snow and cold make January a rough time for teachers who need their feet to be limber and warm, especially after a few weeks off. Karin Ellis-Wentz, head of pre-professional programs at the Joffrey Academy of Dance in Chicago, always feels the difference after vacation. "One winter break, I did TheraBand exercises," she says. "It helped to keep my feet, ankles and calves in shape, so I wasn't cramping terribly when I came back to teaching again."
Whether you've cross-trained over the break or not, returning to class means long days of teaching, demonstrating and standing that can be especially rough on your feet and lower legs. To remind you to treat your feet well, we asked the experts for their most current thinking on how to best prepare and protect your most-used body part.
For as long as there have been dancers, there have been diets. But dancers should be spending their time dancing, not manipulating their diet and restricting calories. "If they greatly reduce their caloric intake and reduce grains and bread, their energy is going to drop, and they're going to go into a brain fog," says The Ailey School's nutritionist Marie Scioscia, referring to a feeling of disorientation caused by undernourishment.
Nevertheless, your students are bound to encounter—and consider trying—popular diets. The constant stream of conflicting information about ever-changing diet trends can be especially misleading for young dancers who are eager to get ahead in a field that demands athletics and rewards aesthetics. To help you sort through some of the noise, DT looked at three trendy diets of 2017—some with more science than others—and checked in with registered dietitians about how they stack up for dancers.
You've seen them: dancers, still recovering from a holiday food coma, shuffling into class in a woozy, post-vacation stupor. (You may even know the feeling yourself.) It's all they can do to make it through their classes, and by day two, they're stiff, sore and moaning about it.
“Winter break is the worst," says Rubén Graciani, chair of dance and associate artistic director, Conservatory of Performing Arts, at Point Park University. Not many students take a January intensive, and with no school for about four weeks, it's just long enough to fall seriously out of shape—especially if dancers aren't cross-training.
“The biggest thing is stamina," he says. “Jumping into that schedule—11 to 13 technique classes a week—it's really hard on their bodies."
In a basement wood-floor studio at Peridance Capezio Center in New York City, Katharine Pettit starts her intermediate tap class with simple drills using the heel and toe taps. She incorporates weight shifts and gradually increases the speed to warm up ankles and brains, first hitting the quarter notes and eighth notes, then triplets and sixteenths. “Really fight for that specificity," she urges during time steps. She pauses to demonstrate the correct spot to hit the toe tap—in “the Bermuda Triangle" between the three screws. Her tap smacks the floor with a satisfying, crisp sound.
As 30 dancers in booty shorts and socks concentrate to perform grand pliés in center, Heather Rigg glides around the perimeter of the studio. She counts off the exercise as she checks students' alignment to gauge their level of experience. “That's when I see whether I need to take something out of the combination or restructure it. I can tell at that point what the pace is going to be."