Dancer Health
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Laura Moretti, consulting dietitian at Boston Ballet, gives one of her favorite dinner recipes for dancers: avocado pasta.

"This recipe is excellent for dancers. Avocados are heart-healthy fats that help you absorb nutrients from food, are high in vitamin D, which encourages bone health, and are full of potassium to help with cramping and fluid regulation. Dance has an aerobic base, so the carbohydrates in this dish are essential for fuel. (You can replace white pasta with other varieties: lentil, whole wheat, gluten-free or black bean.)"

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Dancer Health
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I'm 14 years old, and I love dance more than anything, but after school and homework, I have trouble finding the energy to go to my grueling classes. Is there any food or drink that could help get me more energy?

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Dancer Health
Are mental blocks holding your dancers back? Photo c1.staticflickr.com

At The Dance Zone in Henderson, Nevada, a young dancer rehearses her jazz routine for the team's weekend competition. At 9 years old, she has already decided that she's “not a turner," and today, with a competition looming, she struggles to execute a double turn. Before long, she gets so worked up that every time she tries to turn, she falls, bottom to the floor. “She just got freaked out," says Dance Zone co-owner Jami Artiga. “It was a fear of letting her team down."

Many teachers will recognize this scene. Dance requires as much mental focus as physical, and it's easy for students to become so stressed out that they hold themselves back. Anxiety like this can turn an otherwise joyous dance experience into torture. Fortunately, as a teacher, you can help students stop fretting and start dancing with confidence.

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Dancer Health
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I know that forcing myself to turn out will hurt my ankles and knees, but can it cause my leg to become bow-shaped, too? I ask, because I didn't have bowlegs before I took ballet classes, but after a few years, my calf shape has changed, and lately my teacher is telling me that I use the wrong muscle to turn out. Are the two problems connected?

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Dancer Health
Doctors tend to underestimate women's pain more often than men's. Photo by Quinn Wharton

Pain is an inevitable part of a dancing life and dancers have a high tolerance for it, according to Sean Gallagher, a New York physical therapist whose practice includes many professional performers. "So when dancers complain, it really means something," he says.

But women and men experience pain differently, and tend to be treated for it differently as well. Female dancers need to understand those differences before they go to a doctor, so they can make sure they get treated promptly and effectively.

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Dancer Health

I'm an adult and just started taking ballet classes for the first time in my life, and I'm having trouble keeping my balance. I've never really paid attention to my balance in the past, but I always seem to fall over when the teacher has me hold relevé in any position. Do you have any tips or suggestions?

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Dancer Health
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Alison Deleget, athletic trainer at Harkness Center for Dance, says dancers can use these exercises as a warm-up to help prevent shinsplints and stress fractures. For each exercise, perform 10–15 reps, two to three times. The goal is not to fatigue the muscles, but to activate them.

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Dancer Health

I have a student who's complaining that her hip's popping out of the socket. I notice that when I ask her to rotate her leg in and out while in a tendu, it seems to pop out when she's turning in and goes back in place when she's turning out. I've never seen this before. Can you shed some light on what it is and how I should deal with it?

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