Dancer Health

Former ABT Principal Ashley Tuttle Gets Personal About Her Eating Habits, Working Out and Napping

Tuttle (left) with dancer Jessica Einhorn at Mark Morris Dance Center. Photo by Kyle Froman

Shuttling between 25 weekly classes at four institutions in two different boroughs of New York City, Ashley Tuttle gets much of her daily exercise just from the commute. "You live in the city, you have to walk a lot," says the former American Ballet Theatre principal, who also starred in Twyla Tharp's Movin' Out on Broadway.

Tuttle is beloved for her open adult classes at Mark Morris Dance Center, where she encourages even novices to let loose and really dance the phrases rather than just drilling technical exercises. Since 2016, though, she's spent the majority of her teaching hours as faculty at Eliot Feld's Ballet Tech, where she trains pre-professional students from fourth grade through high school. She also leads college classes four times a week at Barnard, and teaches a company class at ABT when the troupe is in town.

Since launching her teaching career a decade ago, Tuttle is frank that her own wellness has not been a priority, and that's something she wants to work on. She talked to DT about her fitness, eating and sleep habits, how she's always striving to take better care of herself, and shared recent advice from Mark Morris.


How do you warm up before a day of teaching?

I might have time to touch my toes. Some classes at Barnard start at 8:40 in the morning, so I leave my house at 7. I'd really like to do more; I just haven't found the time. I don't do anything except that when I demonstrate, I try to not always stand on the left leg and use the right. I do have problems with a hip bothering me for the past six months. I know not to demonstrate too much if something like that is bothering me. I think I'm pretty lucky as a dancer. People younger than me had to stop dancing because of injuries. I haven't dealt with that.

Do you work out?

I try to go on the stationary bike or elliptical three or four times a week. I tried to do yoga, but I get frustrated in yoga, which is the opposite of what is supposed to happen. I also just took my second ballet class today in two years.

What are your eating habits like? Do you cook for yourself in the evening?

It's so bad. I am a hamburger-french-fry kind of girl. I'm lucky—I guess I've worked enough to burn off the calories. Sometimes for dinner I'll cook pasta with broccoli or chicken, maybe with garlic and pepper.

Pretty bland—I don't like cheese or tomatoes. I'm not a big sweets person, not chocolate or cookies. I like soda, but recently made myself stop drinking it.

How do you get the sleep you need to keep such a full schedule?

I'm able to unwind and crash pretty quickly. Especially if I have to get up around 6, I try to get to sleep around 11 or 11:30. I find I get quite tired, though. Catch-up days are nice.

The thing about teaching: It's a wonderful thing to do and I love it, but it is a very outward thing. You're giving a lot. I still haven't found the balance of things that come back to me. Some of my adult beginners are such great students. They work so hard and they practice and they ask questions. That gives you something back. Seeing students improve is wonderful. You have to find ways to replenish yourself.

You have one day off a week. Do you spend your Sundays recuperating?

One of the things that's difficult about my work schedule is I don't have much social time, so on Sundays I try to find time to hang out with people I haven't spent time with in a while. I might go to a performance. I also like to read books and hang out with my dog, Tallulah. And I like to sleep. Napping is always good.

You mentioned you recently took a ballet class for the first time in a while. Is that something you want to do more often?

It's a challenge I always have. My schedule gets so tight that I have no time to go to class. Or if there is time I'm so tired. When I get back into class, it's hard. My body's not in shape. There's a little bit of ego where it's like, "I used to be able to do this and now I can't." That being said, this is the language I speak best. This is who I am. I'm trying to find how I can keep dance in my life in a way that gives me energy and makes me feel good, without being hypercritical of myself.

I was riding the stationary bikes at Mark Morris recently, and I ran into Mark in the stairwell. He said, "Oh, you're schvitzing!" because I was sweating. I said, "I'm trying to get back in shape, and it's so hard as you get older." And he said, "Maybe you've gotta change what your idea of being in shape is."

The Conversation
Dance Teachers Trending
Photo by Quinn Wharton, courtesy of Forance

While Teddy Forance admits that performing with commercial artists like Lady Gaga and Madonna, and in front of 30,000 people, is exhilarating, he is personally drawn to more abstract music when he choreographs. It's a preference that sometimes confounds his contemporaries. "Some of my friends will ask, 'How do you choreograph to music that sounds like silverware fighting?'" he says. "I just tell them one sound at a time," he says.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored by Dance Teacher Web
Courtesy Dance Teacher Web

Dance students aren't the only ones who get to spend their summers learning new skills and refining their dance practice. Studio owners and administrators can also use the summer months to scope out new curriculum ideas, learn the latest business strategies and even earn a certification or two.

At Dance Teacher Web's Conference and Expo, attendees will spend July 29–August 1 in Las Vegas, Nevada learning everything from new teaching methods to studio management software. And as if the dance and business seminars weren't enough, participants can also choose from three certifications to earn during the conference to help expand their expertise, generate new revenue and set their studios apart:

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teachers Trending
Photo by Julianna D. Photography, courtesy of Abreu

Although Rudy Abreu is currently JLo's backup dancer and an award-winning choreographer—his piece "Pray" tied for second runner-up at the 2018 Capezio A.C.E. Awards, and a variation of the piece made it to the finals on NBC's "World of Dance"—he still finds time to teach. Especially about how he hears music.

Keep reading... Show less
David Galindo Photography

New York City is a dream destination for many dancers. However aspiring Broadway stars don't have to wait until they're pros to experience all the city has to offer. With Dance the World Broadway, students can get a taste of the Big Apple—plus hone their dance skills and make lasting memories.

Here's why Dance the World Broadway is the best way for students to experience NYC:

Keep reading... Show less
Getty Images

Q: Our dancers' parents want to observe class, but students won't focus if I let them in the room. I've tried having them observe the last 10 minutes of class, but even that can be disruptive and bring the dancers' progress to a halt. Do you have any advice on how to handle this?

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teacher Tips
Getty Images

James Payne, director of The School of Pennsylvania Ballet, starts class each day by asking students how they feel. "If they're collectively hurting, and I know that the day before they were working hard on something new, I might lessen the intensity of the class," he says. "I won't slow it down, though. Sometimes it's better to move through the aches and get to the other side."

A productive class depends, in part, on how well it is paced. If you move too slow, you risk losing students' interest and creating unwanted heaviness. Move too fast and dancers might not fully benefit from combinations or get sufficiently warm, increasing their risk of injury. But even these guidelines may differ depending on the students' age and level. Good pacing is a delicate balance that can facilitate mental and physical growth, but it requires good planning, close observation and the ability to adapt mid-class.

Keep reading... Show less
Studio Owners
Getty Images

Running your own studio often comes with a pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps mentality. After all, you're the one who teaches class, creates choreography, collects tuition, plans a recital, calls parents, answers e-mails, orders costumes—plus a host of other tasks, some of which you probably don't even think about. But what if you had someone to help you, someone who could take certain routine or clerical tasks off your hands, freeing you up to focus on what you love?

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teachers Trending
Derek and Julianne Hough via @juleshough on Instagram

Here at Dance Teacher, we LOVE a talented dance family. Something about parents and siblings passing their passion for dance down to those who come after them just warms our hearts.

While there are many sets of talented siblings across all genres of dance, ballroom seems to be particularly booming with them.

Don't believe us? Check out these four sets of ballrooms siblings we can't take our eyes off of. Their parents have raised them right!

This is far from a comprehensive list, so feel free to share your favorite sets of dance siblings over in our comments!

Keep reading... Show less
Courtesy of Roxey Ballet

This weekend, Roxey Ballet presented a sensory-friendly production of Cinderella at the Kendell Main Stage Theater in Ewing, New Jersey, with sound adjustments, a relaxed house environment and volunteers present to assist audience members with special needs. The production came on the heels of three educational residencies held at New Jersey–based elementary schools in honor of Autism Awareness Month in April.

Keep reading... Show less
To Share With Students
Shared via Dance Teacher Network Facebook

I'm a part of a popular group on Facebook called Dance Teacher Network which consists of dance teachers across the country discussing and sharing information on all things dance. Yesterday morning, I spotted a photo shared in the group of four smiling young boys in a dance studio. And I couldn't help but smile to myself and think, "Wow, I never had that...that's pretty damn amazing."

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teachers Trending
Photo courtesy of Marr

When Erica Marr discovered ballroom dancing in her late teens, she instantly fell in love with the Latin beats and strong drum lines that challenged her musicality. After shifting her focus away from contemporary and jazz, she began studying with elite ballroom coaches in New York City and quickly earned a World Championship title in her division.

Keep reading... Show less

mailbox

Get DanceTeacher in your inbox