Professional dancers know the power of a good nutrition plan for a run of performances to boost performance while also reducing muscle soreness and mental fatigue. Dance students can take a page out of their playbooks to make sure they’re dancing their best for recitals. As a former professional dancer myself, I wish I knew then what I know now about performance nutrition. 

One simple thing to change your whole day:

It’s crucial to come off an overnight fast with some energy intake. We call it breaking the “fast” for a reason. Even when sleeping, your body has used energy and you wake in an energy deficit. Choosing to extend this fasting state while going about your day has consequences including reduced mental focus, lower energy, poorer athletic performance and a bad mood. Breakfast means you’ll feel and dance better for the next few hours with the added benefit of making the later part of your day easier because you won’t be in such a huge energy deficit all day. Often when dancers restrict eating earlier in their day, they tend to be extremely hungry later. Even if you’re not hungry or in a rush, at the very least grab a banana and/or a granola bar. Eating breakfast, especially with whole grains or carbs, has been shown to help with healthy weight management. So don’t fall into the trap of thinking that skipping breakfast is going to result in quick weight loss. It won’t, and it will leave you feeling depleted.

Morning energy ideas:

  • Carbohydrates such as rolled or steel cut oats, whole grains like wheat, spelt, rye and buckwheat.
  • Fruit mixed with a protein like nuts, seeds, yogurt, veggie sausages or an egg. Veggie sausages tend to have lower saturated fat than meat sausages and can be made with healthier ingredients like quinoa, beans and soy protein. 
  • Look for packaged breakfast bar options with added sugars less than 10-15 grams. Naturally occurring sugars are fine when bars are made with dates or dried fruit. 
  • Frozen whole grain waffles made with flax seeds and/or nuts. There are also some good recipes for making your own waffles or nutrient-dense pancakes which you can freeze and pop in the toaster for busy mornings. 

Pack it with you; you’ll thank yourself later:

Don’t get grumpy two hours into dress rehearsal. Plan ahead. Don’t rely on grabbing fast food or something from a vending machine to be your fuel for the most important performances of your year. The week before recitals, go to the grocery store and strategically pick out easy, quick snacks that are portable in your bag. Bring 2-3 of them with you.  

  • Plant-based protein bars (I prefer pea, soy, hemp proteins to whey protein)
  • Low to moderate sugar granola or oat bars (less than 15g added sugars)
  • Peanut butter and jelly sandwich (sun butter for those with allergies)
  • All fruits are good snacks.
  • Yogurt or yogurt squeeze pouches (I like the Silk and Forager’s brands; keep them cool.) 
  • Packaged energy rolls like the Gluten Free Bites brand
  • Packaged or homemade dried chickpeas and edamame. They come in fun flavors and can be eaten by themselves or added to a salad. 

Of course you’re busy, just take 10 minutes to set up your whole day:

Invest in a good, short wide-mouth thermos to keep foods at a safe temperature and make packing your own healthy foods a breeze.

  • Chickpea or lentil flour pastas. They cook in less than 8 minutes on the stovetop. Add a light red sauce or pesto and put in a short wide-mouth thermos. 
  • Cold yogurt, berries and hemp hearts or other seeds
  • Hot beans and rice (throw some carrots in while cooking for added vitamin A)
  • Room temperature buckwheat noodles tossed with a store-bought Thai or Japanese dressing. 

Don’t buy the whole vitamin shop. Here are key vitamins and minerals to get:

  • Vitamin D3 (for immune function and muscle strength)
  • B vitamins like B12 and B6 (for energy)
  • Iron (for immune function and reduced fatigue)
  • Vitamin C (immune function, and wound repair for those pointe shoe blisters)
  • Both iron and vitamin C are better obtained through food to prevent gastrointestinal discomfort, but supplements can be used if needed. Iron-rich foods are beans, leafy greens like spinach and kale, dried fruit like apricots and raisins, and red meats (but current health recommendations are to limit red meat, so enjoy beans and greens for dinner). Pair with fruit or veggies like sweet peppers for added vitamin C which boost iron absorption. You only need 100 mg of vitamin C (not those 1000 mg packs).

It’s important to take good care of your body during recital week. This is not the week to try to lose weight. There’s no way that restricting calories this week will result in any noticeable difference on stage; it will only leave you feeling exhausted and mentally drained. Fuel your body well, and you’ll notice the difference on stage. Remember that the first two signs of dehydration are fatigue and poor balance, so bring your big water bottle with you and fill it up at least 3 times a day (or more!). 

Good luck and have fun!

Emily Harrison of Nutrition for Great Performances.

By Emily C. Harrison MS, RDN, LDN of Nutrition for Great Performances.

Emily Cook Harrison MS, RD, LD 
Emily is a registered dietitian and holds both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in nutrition from Georgia State University, USA. Her master’s thesis research was on elite level ballet dancers and nutrition and she has experience providing nutrition services for weight management, sports nutrition, disordered eating, disease prevention, and food allergies. Emily was a professional dancer for eleven years with the Atlanta Ballet and several other companies. She is a dance educator and the mother of two young children. She now runs the Centre for Dance Nutrition and Healthy Lifestyles. She can be reached at

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It all started with a bag of Hello Kitty candy. When Saskia Gregson-Williams moved to Los Angeles from the UK, and was searching for a ballet school to attend, her dad’s friend suggested Yuri Grigoriev School of Ballet. That friend was the stepfather of then-11-year-old Indiana Woodward, who trained at the school. So, off went Gregson-Williams into class one day, and in came Woodward, running toward her with a bag of Hello Kitty candy from France. It was the first time they met, but instantly they became best friends.

Indiana Woodward and Saskia Gregson-Williams of Grace & Form. Photo by Emily Teague.
Indiana Woodward and Saskia Gregson-Williams of Grace & Form. Photo by Emily Teague.

Their lives took them in different directions, but they maintained their long-distance friendship. Gregson-Williams would go on to dance with the Joffrey Ballet, until a bad ankle injury kept her away from the stage. At this time, she launched her own blog and cookbook, Naturally Sassy. She also qualified as a personal trainer and built ballet-based fitness method Ballet Blast.

Woodward went on to study in Moscow at the Bolshoi Ballet School and then the School of American Ballet. In August 2012, she became an apprentice with New York City Ballet and was promoted to principal in October 2021.

But now, not only are the two women still best friends, they’re also business partners.

Enter Grace & Form Studio – Gregson-Williams and Woodward’s lifelong dream of combining their unique backgrounds and experience in ballet and fitness. The online studio provides a blend of ballet classes and mindfulness movement practices, available through an app or desktop studio. In Grace & Form’s collection of classes, you’ll find ballet (from total beginner to professional), barre workouts, strength routines, sculpt classes, yoga sequences and more. Users can curate their own workout or follow the studio’s weekly workout plan.

Indiana Woodward with Saskia Gregson-Williams of Grace & Form. Photo by Megan McNally.
Indiana Woodward with Saskia Gregson-Williams of Grace & Form. Photo by Megan McNally.

“We wanted to create a space that nurtured and strengthened bodies and minds, building a love for your body with every step,” Gregson-Williams tells Dance Informa. “Bringing ballet to beginners, and helping those who love to dance love their bodies better. We envisioned Grace & Form as a sanctuary where the artistry of ballet intertwines with the power of fitness, shaping not just bodies but inspiring a profound connection between movement and self-discovery.”

Grace & Form offers a seven-day free trial before a monthly subscription ($19.99) or yearly subscription ($179.88). The studio also offers one-on-one training in ballet or strength, with a customized workout plan following the session for the month ahead to stream in the Grace & Form app.

Beyond that, Gregson-Williams and Woodward offer scholarships to the studio for those who want to try it out but can’t afford the subscription. Details on the scholarship program come out on the first of each month on Grace & Form’s social media: @graceandformstudio.

Indiana Woodward and Saskia Gregson-Williams of Grace & Form. Photo by Megan McNally.
Indiana Woodward and Saskia Gregson-Williams of Grace & Form. Photo by Megan McNally.

Gregson-Williams and Woodward are sure to stress that Grace & Form offers a range of classes designed for movement beginners through avid gym goers and professional dancers. Users can filter through the different levels to find something that suits their needs or where they are that day.

“When it comes to ballet classes, those who have an interest in ballet but no formal training can find Grace & Form a welcoming place to start,” Gregson-Williams says. “Beginner classes typically require no prior experience and focus on fundamental techniques, basic positions and ballet terminology, making them accessible to anyone. We’re expanding our beginner library so that individuals looking for a new form of exercise that combines strength, flexibility and grace will find it an easy place to start. Experienced dancers can benefit from Grace & Form by refining their technique, improving their strength and flexibility, and learning from dancers they respect and love. We have a filter of beginner to advanced, so whilst you can filter by your level even the beginner classes can be a great place to go back to.”

Gregson-Williams and Woodward say their launch earlier this year was met with a lot of enthusiasm, and already they’re seeing ways for the platform to grow. Over the next six months, the roster of teachers will expand internationally. And, almost like a tease, Gregson-Williams and Woodward share, “Although we always knew that our first element of Grace & Form would be the virtual, we’re very excited to come into the physical space in 2024. That’s all we’ll say for now!”

Saskia Gregson-Williams and Indiana Woodward of Grace & Form. Photo by Emily Teague.
Saskia Gregson-Williams and Indiana Woodward of Grace & Form. Photo by Emily Teague.

Grace & Form merges ballet and fitness in a safe and approachable way. And perhaps being entrepreneurs of the Studio has even enhanced the friendship of Gregson-Williams and Woodward in an exciting way.

“We’re both go-getters, and share a no-time-than-the-present attitude,” Gregson-Williams says. “When we have our minds set on something, we are both laser-focused. Our creative thinking compliments one another, and we always feel inspired to plough on after a quick catch up on the phone.”

To get a feel for the classes offered on Grace & Form, and to sign up for a free seven-day trail, visit You can also follow Grace & Form on Instagram: @graceandformstudio.

By Laura Di Orio of Dance Informa.

The post Ballet and fitness – and friends – merge in Grace & Form Studio appeared first on Dance Informa Magazine.

Whistle has announced the launch of Disrupting Harm In Dance, a free online toolkit designed to support dancers and dance institutions in addressing sexism, exploitation, abuse, ableism, white supremacy, toxic capitalism and more in the workplace. Whistle (formerly known as Whistle While You Work) is an international platform created by dancer Frances Chiaverini and activist Robyn Doty in 2017, to confront gender-based harm in dance workspaces, along with other forms of discrimination and abuse. Toolkit collaborators include Crip Movement Lap, The Dance Union, J. Bouey and OFEN Co-Arts. This toolkit is Whistle’s final project.

Frances Chiaverini. Photo by Monica Liguoro.
Frances Chiaverini. Photo by Monica Liguoro.

Disrupting Harm In Dance: How to navigate dysfunctional culture while feeling safe, connected, and empowered, was created after years of community discussions, research, surveys and working with dancers. Whistle, in partnership with collaborators, has created this self-directed online toolkit for dance professionals to gather real-life skills for navigating sexual harassment, abuse of power and various forms of discrimination, in addition to setting and maintaining boundaries, mental health, consent practices, advocacy and allyship, and community accountability. The self-directed curriculum combines the lived experiences, knowledge, and expertise of numerous performing arts and dance experts. It offers time and space for dance professionals to examine their current ideas, unlearn practices that do not serve them and develop new practices for a changing culture. The curriculum is dancer-centered, and it can be explored as an individual or as a group.

“We at Whistle love dance and love dancers even more,” said Chiaverini. “We know that there is a staggering lack of support at an institutional level for dancers experiencing abuse and discrimination.”

“We hope this resource can offer aid to individuals and direction for institutions in shaping better workspaces for dancers,” Doty added. “Knowing that this toolkit would be Whistle’s final project emphasized its importance as we created it. We are proud to share what we have learned, and the work of the brilliant activists and experts we have learned from. We hope that this resource helps to make much-needed change in the dance field.” 

Doty and Chiaverini began this work together during a Fellowship Chiaverini held at PACT Zollverein in Essen, Germany, in 2017. She invited Doty to collaborate, which focused the trajectory toward shaping the workshops the two would conduct over the course of the following years at institutions in Europe, Mexico, and the USA. 

Robyn Doty.
Robyn Doty.

At several internationally held open forums, Whistle organizers asked performers about abuse of power in dance. These community-based conversations illuminated pervasive issues within the culture that are deeply rooted in dance education and training. These training abuses are often repeated and amplified in the professional dance world as normalized work practices. Whistle then created programming and resources to address these issues such as harassment resource cards, a resource ‘zine and more, including a feminist library for which they distributed hundreds of free books and digital texts at Tanz Summit in Essen, Germany, and remounted again at Tanz im August in Berlin. Doty and Chiaverini have been outspoken on these issues, appearing in the ARTE documentary, Tanz, Macht, Missbrauch: Das Ende des Schweigens? (Dance, Power, Abuse: The End of Silence?).

Over the past seven years, Whistle has partnered with numerous international companies, collectives and organizations, including but not limited to: Dramaturgische Gesellschaft, Konferenz Jena, 2019; Pact Zollverein, Choreographic Center (Essen, Germany); <Interrupted = Cyfem and Queer> Berlin; Tanzplattform Rhein-Main; Frankfurt Städelschule; HfMDK, Frankfurt; Performance Space New York; LA Dance Project,; Nous Tous Gallery, LA; Goethe Institute Mexico; Tor Art Space, Frankfurt; Dancers Connect, Germany; Dance Artists’ National Collective; Zeitgenossischer Tanz Berlin; Tanz Büro Berlin; Tanz im August, Berlin; Mousonturm Frankfurt; Hochschule für Musik und Tanz Köln; Schauspielhaus Zürich.

In 2020, Whistle While You Work was awarded a Fellowship at The Center for Ballet and the Arts at New York University, and Chiaverini and Doty were able to spend dedicated time creating resources and collaborating with other game-changing dance-based organizers. With a 2021 grant from The Migros-Kulturprozent (Switzerland), Whistle worked with multiple experts to shape the online self-directed curriculum of Disrupting Harm in Dance. 

For more information, visit

The post Whistle releases free online toolkit aimed at disrupting harm in dance appeared first on Dance Informa Magazine.

With the holidays just around the corner, Dance Informa wanted to give the gift of health advice for the body, mind and soul. Read on for our 10 holiday dos and don’ts for keeping yourself healthy over the holiday break.

#1. Do be kind and gentle with yourself, and allow time to breathe, to enjoy the little moments. Remember that even in the midst of holiday chaos, it doesn’t last forever. Do what is right for you as an individual. If you need to take a breath, do it.

#2. Don’t get caught up in what others are or are not eating. It’s your body – your choice. Just because someone close to you is following the latest diet trend or is talking about their weight, does not mean you have to be influenced by that. It does not have anything to do with you. That’s about them. The amount of calories and nutrients you need to sustain your energy and strength is unique to you. Fuel your body and mind in a way that supports your ability to get through the holidays in a way that you start January in a good place not a place of defeat or punishment.  

#3. Do continue to eat regular meals and snacks through the day starting with breakfast. Even if you’re not dancing as much. This supports your metabolism, maintains muscle mass, and stabilizes blood sugar which results in better mood, less anxiety and less likelihood of overeating in the evenings. I know you’re busy. Eat breakfast anyway.

#4. Don’t keep too many sweets and treats in the house which can lead to overindulging. This potentially could set up a negative cycle of overindulgence, then feeling guilt about food, then restrictive eating.

#5. Do allow yourself to enjoy sweets and treats in a social environment and enjoy this time of celebration. It’s a beautiful thing to have a few of your friend’s holiday cookies, or your grandmother’s special recipe, or a slice of that pie that only comes once a year. Enjoying a serving of something delicious is a healthy way to enjoy your life. That’s not the same thing as overeating alone at home. 

#6. Don’t allow guilt over food to make you feel bad about who you are as a person. Our food choices don’t define our self-worth. Enjoying some holiday treats with friends won’t derail an otherwise healthy diet. Guilt all too often leads to restricting food which leads to hunger which leads to overeating. Drop the guilt, and keep your blood sugar stable by eating what your body needs when your body needs it.

#7. Do make sure you’re still getting a dietary foundation of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and plant-based proteins like beans, lentils, peas and soy. When your foundation is built on regular, healthy, high fiber plant choices, it doesn’t matter if you have an occasional holiday treat. This also helps maintain muscle mass so you will be starting January in a strong place. Have a big bowl of apples and clementines out on your counter to make for easy snacking. Make a point of eating at least one for a snack and pairing a fruit with a grain or protein if you need more energy.

#8. Don’t overconsume sugary beverages, coffee drinks or alcohol. This includes “energy drinks”. Some special holiday coffee beverages can have up to 600 calories. Consider them like a dessert. Fine on occasion but not something to have every day.

#9. Do keep up with your vitamins and supplements, particularly vitamin D. Since you’re not getting as much sun in the winter, it’s often necessary to supplement this one. Vitamin D is not only important in bone strength, but it’s also a hormone that boosts the immune system, mental health and focus.

#10. Don’t forget to continue to cross-train when you’re taking a break from dance. It’s a great way to keep supporting muscles strong and reduce injury risk when you return in January. 

Emily Harrison.

By Emily C. Harrison MS, RDN, LDN of Nutrition for Great Performances.

Emily Cook Harrison MS, RD, LD 
Emily is a registered dietitian and holds both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in nutrition from Georgia State University, USA. Her master’s thesis research was on elite level ballet dancers and nutrition and she has experience providing nutrition services for weight management, sports nutrition, disordered eating, disease prevention, and food allergies. Emily was a professional dancer for eleven years with the Atlanta Ballet and several other companies. She is a dance educator and the mother of two young children. She now runs the Centre for Dance Nutrition and Healthy Lifestyles. She can be reached at

The post Top 10 holiday dos and don’ts for keeping the body healthy appeared first on Dance Informa Magazine.

Let’s talk about stage fright. Whether you’re new to performing or you’ve been in front of audiences for years, everybody can admit it’s at least a little nerve-wracking. And yet, it’s the culmination of all the work dancers do! So, as a teacher or studio owner who teaches your dancers all about technique and artistry, how can you coach them through the practicalities of performing, like performance anxiety? 

Andrea Kolbe, studio owner of Art in Motion Dance Center in Long Island, New York, shares how she spots and soothes students who are feeling nervous. We also spoke with Chicago-based dance/movement therapist Erica Hornthal, author of Body Aware.

Andrea Kolbe.
Andrea Kolbe.

Step one is definitely identifying the problem – and it can start even before you get to the theater. Nerves might be affecting your dancer onstage, backstage or even in the studio well before the performance. Is one of your dancers wobblier than usual the week before? Has their attitude changed in rehearsals?

Kolbe says, “When we have our recitals, I can typically tell when the dancers are nervous because of the look on their face and being super jittery. Some will talk excessively, while others will be super quiet and focus inward. I also have some of the dancers verbalize that they are nervous to me or the other instructors backstage.”

If dancers can recognize for themselves and express to you that they’re not feeling their best, that’s fantastic. But it’s important to remember that nerves will look different on everyone. Different methods of dealing with those nerves might work better for some dancers, and other methods for others. Most dancers feel better after testing their shoes onstage and having time to try the choreography in the space. Some may need time and space to focus alone. Others might benefit from a connecting pre-show ritual with their group, like a huddle and pep-talk backstage to connect with their peers.

“Group camaraderie and teamwork definitely ease onstage jitters and nervousness,” notes Kolbe. “I’ve noticed over the past 13 years of teaching in a studio setting that dancers are much more nervous when they are performing a solo on stage.” In the scenario of solos, maybe take your dancer aside and learn what they personally need, whether that’s to burn off some energy, talk it out or do some breathwork.

Erica Hornthal.
Erica Hornthal.

We asked dance/movement therapist Erica Hornthal for her top three tips on dealing with those pesky jitters in the wings, or nervousness leading up to that moment. Her take?

#1. “Meet your emotions. Identify what/how you feel physically.”

#2. “Notice what the timing, rhythm and intensity of this emotion is. This will help you express it.”

#3. “Express it. This can be through shaking, tapping, jumping, bouncing, etc. There is no wrong movement when it comes to expressing how an emotion feels in your body.”

A simple 1 2 3, right? Well, if you want to make this method its most effective, it takes some practice. Mental health can’t only be addressed by three “top tips” when you’re already in the wings.

“Practice the above sequence at times when you are not feeling stressed, anxious or overwhelmed,” Hornthal encourages. “This will allow you to use it when you really need it.” Some of her other suggestions include moving in unfamiliar ways to build a greater emotional capacity, and checking in with your body regularly to identify emotions as they arise.

Andrea Kolbe backstage with students. Photo courtesy of Kolbe.
Andrea Kolbe backstage with students. Photo courtesy of Kolbe.

It’s about building good mental health habits. Be sure to introduce this to your students before the big day. When they’re feeling fear creep in at the studio, or before bed on recital eve or even when they’re not feeling stressed at all, they should use this method consistently so they know they can rely on it when they’re stepping onstage.

What does Hornthal feel is overlooked about performance anxiety? “Anxiety is a feeling. It’s normal,” she says. “You will never eliminate it. The key is noticing it, understanding it, even befriending it so we can dispel the fear and release the control it has over you. It is not something to be avoided, but rather confronted in a safe and compassionate manner.”

If only we had access to professionals like Hornthal in our studios! Few dance schools have the budget to have a dance/movement therapist on staff, but boy would it be helpful. Kolbe agrees that having a mental health expert come to the studio and give a lecture on recital anxiety would be beneficial to her dancers. If not a guest lecturer, what other mental health resources can we provide for our students? As teachers, it’s our job to set them up to do the best they can – and in a performance art, that includes giving them tools to dance without anxiety affecting their performance.

By Holly LaRoche of Dance Informa.

The post Fighting stage fright: How to spot and soothe performance anxiety appeared first on Dance Informa Magazine.

Often times in dance, we can be very goal-oriented. We’re perfectionists, always striving for a better line, one more turn, a little longer of a balance. And sometimes we get frustrated when it feels like we aren’t achieving those things. Studios can get a bit insular when your day is spent studying yourself in the mirror.

So today we’re going to step outside of the studious studio mindset and remind you of something: you’re human! All that training you do? It has effects that can’t be seen onstage; your family, friends, classmates and coworkers see it sooner than an audience member would. Truth is, dancing doesn’t just make you a better dancer, it helps make you a more informed, creative, and well-rounded person. 

We touched base with Board Certified Dance Movement Therapist Sara R. van Koningsveld to hear how she uses dance in her therapy practice to benefit her clients. On top of her BC-DMT certification, she is also a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor (LPCC), a Graduate Laban Certified Movement Analyst (GL-CMA) and registered yoga teacher. She has a deep understanding of how and why movement helps us be better humans.

Sara R. van Koningsveld. Photo by by Chirs Ly/OddLy Captured.
Sara R. van Koningsveld. Photo by by Chirs Ly/OddLy Captured.

Dancers have our own theories. It’s hard not to dance an exercise on one side, then the other, then reverse it and not feel at least a little smart. We count ourselves to be team players when synchronizing corps de ballet choreography or mirroring fellow dancers. Creative problem solving is practically our job, especially when choreographing. Our time management tends to be on par with the best and busiest. We pride ourselves on being hardworking. Partnering encourages empathy and a sense for consent. These skills are all byproducts of the cognitive, physical, social and emotional awarenesses that van Koningsveld helps her clients access and build.

Van Koningsveld defines DMT as “the integration of body and mind, through movement.” And it isn’t limited to dance – “Movement can sometimes look more like mindfulness practices, such as walking or breathing, and/or self-awareness practices focusing on the sensations of the body.”

Some of what van Koningsveld says of DMT supports dancers’ hunches about dance sharpening their cognition and other skills. And some of it points to a lack of awareness – such intensively physical training can sometimes put the emotional and mental benefits of movement on the back burner. When we get so wrapped up in the technicality and performance of dance, we may miss out on some of its natural benefits. So van Koningsveld is here to help us reconnect with the (not so simple) foundations of movement. Let’s start with what dancers do well. We’ve got coordination literally from the tops of our head to the tips of our toes. “In dance/movement therapy, as well as other mind-body professions, we call this physical intelligence or body awareness ‘kinesthetic awareness,’” says van Koningsveld. “Kinesthetic awareness is one of the main elements of my DMT practice, because from that awareness change is possible.” Our kinesthetic awareness is well honed; we practice it daily. When a move doesn’t feel right, we practice and adjust until it does.

But we make that change in our physicality for aesthetic purposes. What about changing our physicality for emotional purposes? Here’s something dancers could build on. “For a very simple example, you notice butterflies in your stomach. Do you like them, or do you not? Are these butterflies for excitement, or is it anxiety? As a DMT client, you get to make that decision for yourself, and then decide what to do about the butterflies. We may move the butterflies or watch the butterflies. Either way, we are building kinesthetic awareness. Your body is giving you information about your current emotional state through your physical state.”

Van Koningsveld explains that Laban-Bartenieff technique takes kinesthetic awareness even further, building concepts of “body knowledge” and “body prejudice” from it.

“At any time, we can try on new movements and choose to either become conscious or remain unconscious about them. Here is another short example. In (western) culture, we do not typically bow when greeting someone; we are used to shaking hands. Imagine being in a situation where a bow is customary – we try on bowing to greet someone, and maybe it makes us uncomfortable. But do we notice that discomfort, or do we just continue about our day? To expand our body knowledge, we would acknowledge the discomfort, get curious about it and expand our self-awareness about why it’s uncomfortable. Is it because it’s something I don’t know? Or is it because I have problems with bending at my hips? We get to explore what makes bowing to someone feel so uncomfortable – physically, mentally and emotionally. Ignoring that sensation, ignoring information our bodies are giving us when we move in a new way, would lead to or reinforce body prejudice.”

Sara R. van Koningsveld. Photo by Nir Livni.
Sara R. van Koningsveld. Photo by Nir Livni.

With all the kinesthetic awareness we engrain in ourselves for dance, we can apply that awareness to our world outside of the studio. We can pay attention to our physicality and foster our body knowledge, gain insight through our body into how the environment around us is affecting us, and either change our environment or change how we’re interacting with it. We can notice other people’s physicality, and help them feel more at ease or included. All through understanding how physicality links to emotionality and mental health.

For such a human capability, it feels almost like a superpower. Does it sound too ‘out there?’ What if you paid attention to what constitutes the absolute best hug, how it feels to be wrapped in the most comforting embrace you can imagine? That kinesthetic awareness, that almost choreographic understanding of an everyday gesture, can help you provide that comfort to other people.

Professional dancers of this day and age are considered athletes, and rightly so. But thinking solely in physical terms can limit the benefits movement has to offer. Dance is also emotional and creative. Of course moving your body has physical benefits, but it also gives you a sense you can tap into that provides feedback on how you feel. So every so often, dance outside of the mirror, and instead of thinking about how it looks, notice how it feels. If you’re looking for guidance on how to hone that superpower, talk to a Dance Movement Therapist like van Koningsveld about using DMT to care for your mental health, or even just to learn more about yourself.

By Holly LaRoche of Dance Informa.

The post How dance can make us better people appeared first on Dance Informa Magazine.

With the recent SAG-AFTRA strike, we checked in with our neighbors north of the border, who are voting on a strike of their own. What do unions look like in Canada? Well, Canadian dancers now have a stronger voice in the British Columbia region, thanks to a recently formed Dance Committee under the established Film and TV union there, UBCP-ACTRA.

We sat down with Louise Hradsky in Vancouver, Canada, who is co-chair of the Dance Committee. Hradsky is a choreographer, dancer and advocate for dancers in the BC film industry – where many American shows get filmed.

Louise Hradsky. Photo by Karolina Turek.
Louise Hradsky. Photo by Karolina Turek.

Hradsky is accomplished, having choreographed for productions like To All The Boys: Always and Forever and Charmed. Her committee co-chairs Jeffrey Mortensen and Melena Rounis are equally accomplished, with credits on shows like Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist and Peacemaker, respectively. Most recently, Hradsky and Mortensen won a LEO award and have been nominated for an Emmy for their work as choreographers on Grease: Rise of the Pink Ladies. This is clearly an experienced group, but when did they finally feel established enough to take on this leadership role?

“For me, it was around my 15-year mark of being in film and TV,” says Hradsky. “Since my first job, I had been hearing dancers voice issues, but only amongst themselves, always maintaining this culture of ‘keep your head down, work hard, and don’t complain.’ I strongly believe it’s possible for dancers to maintain the great work ethic we’re known for, while professionally communicating certain basics required to do a quality job. Whether it’s appropriate rates or rehearsal time, discussing what’s needed to deliver high caliber work is important. After 15 years, I realized I was in a place as a leader in the community to foster something.”

In late 2020, the UBCP film union contacted their choreographer and dance members about forming a focus group, before heading into negotiations with producers for the British Columbia Master Production Agreement. The BCMPA establishes protocols and minimum rates for cast and some crew in BC Film and Television. These negotiations only happen once every three years. 

“Some key members showed up enthusiastic and prepared for the focus group,” explains Hradsky. “We were articulate and concise with our discussion points. It became clear to UBCP, and to us, that we could really benefit from working together. Formation of our committee snowballed from there; we started chatting with different dancers and choreographers in our community, and had informal meetings on Zoom. We had incredible guidance from UBCP, and modeled the structure of our committee off of the existing UBCP Stunt Committee.”

The Stunt Committee is a force – when safety is on the line, voices need to be heard and respected. Stunts carry the risk of high impact accidents – but much like dance, it also affects your body over time, resulting in ‘wear and tear’ injuries. While dancers might not seek the same hazard pay stunt performers require, a bump in pay to account for the necessary physiotherapy, chiropractic and other body maintenance seems like a reasonable ask. 

Louise Hradsky leading a warm-up. Photo by Jeffrey Mortensen.
Louise Hradsky leading a warm-up. Photo by Jeffrey Mortensen.

Hradsky, an active member of the stunt community herself, was inspired by how much ground they’ve covered by coming together. “Other than risk, the job we do is very similar. You have to be able to learn choreography, perform for camera and figure out all the physical logistics. When I saw that parallel, and how cohesive the stunt community is, it inspired me.”

While Hradsky includes pay increases in her goals for industry reform, she makes clear that pay isn’t the only inequity that needs attending.

“Sometimes, there’s a feeling of disconnect with other departments on what dancers and choreographers bring to the table. I had run into dismissive attitudes towards our contribution many times, but all that changes once they see what we bring to a scene,” Hradsky notes. The Dance Committee seeks to solve that with education and representation, but also by shifting the culture inside the dance community itself. 

“Professionalism on set is critical. In many cases, there’s an inherent youthfulness to dance which can be perceived as play instead of work,” Hradsky says. “We’ve trained our whole lives to do this, though, and we have a responsibility to conduct ourselves in a way that represents that to other departments, producers and directors.” Historically, infantizing dancers is a common issue, and with that comes silencing or disregarding their voices. But on a film set where there are so many moving parts, if you don’t learn to speak up, you won’t get what you need. 

And choreographers are the designated spokesmen. “What we have to understand is the choreographer is the supervisor, the head of department for all the dancers. That means you’re responsible for their safety and wellbeing,” Hradsky says. “It’s something no one teaches you, but is critical to get a sense for.” Dancers need to feel safe voicing concerns to their choreographer, and choreographers need to feel comfortable addressing them with production so that they can be resolved.

Hradsky has built a reputation for taking care of her performers, advocating for what they need while working with production to make it happen. From figuring out the logistics of pointe shoes with the costume department, to ensuring her dancers aren’t asked to repeat demanding choreography without adequate breaks. The committee accomplishes this on a larger scale.

She notes that only pushing for change every three years when the BCMPA gets renegotiated isn’t an effective path forward. “What is effective is if we come together and decide what we want to work towards. Even if it never makes it into the written agreement, if all the choreographers agree that this should be standard, and all of the dancers understand that their choreographers should be providing that for them, then we are moving in a positive direction.”

Louise Hradsky at UBCP/ACTRA dance committee 2023 mixer. Photo by Emilie Grace Photography.
Louise Hradsky at UBCP/ACTRA dance committee 2023 mixer. Photo by Emilie Grace Photography.

Then by the time that three year re-negotiation rolls around, there’s precedent established in the community already. “It’s important we’re all on a similar page about what it takes to deliver a job,” Hradsky says. “Contracts can vary depending on experience level and production budget, but if we can pin certain things as standard, we’ll gain power through consistency, regardless if they’re in the written agreement or not.”

These goals are similar to the ones the American WGA and SAG strikes are working toward. Hradsky recognizes, “I have some incredible friends and colleagues in the U.S. who are helping make huge moves. They’ve just formed the Choreographers Guild, so for the first time film and TV choreographers have the consistent opportunity to be unionized, which has been a big difference between working in the United States and Canada.”

The Canadian film and TV market is competitive in the global scene, and is taking steps for their dancers to maintain competitive compensation. “As Canadians, it’s easy to have stars in our eyes for other big cities in the world in terms of the caliber of dance and professionalism,” Hradsky says. “However, cities like Vancouver and Toronto have so much work flowing through them, so many artists gaining extensive flight time and experience. We have an incredible community of professionals, and the work we’re delivering on camera is second to none. The other layer to this is, what can we do to advance the perspective of what choreographers and dancers bring to projects.”

And that’s a global moral for dancers everywhere. We have to recognize our own value in order for others to see it, too. Organize within your community and advocate together – committees are formed from communities.

By Holly LaRoche of Dance Informa. 

The post Dance committees: How community commitment can make a difference appeared first on Dance Informa Magazine.

Does it feel too soon to think about your pointe shoes and back-to-school? It’s understandable that it might be daunting to think about the upcoming ballet season, but it’s never too early to reassess your shoes and get ahead of your fall classes. It might help to think of it as a tune-up for your feet, and what better time than in between summer programs and the start of fall classes?

Summer dance camps don’t offer a lot of free time to analyze what is happening with your pointe shoes, and when fall classes begin, there are loads of things to think about, including school and homework. That makes late summer the perfect time to take a good look and re-evaluate for the upcoming season because pumpkin spice lattes and Nutcracker rehearsals are just around the corner.

Approach your analysis like a lab experiment. Think of yourself like a scientist searching for the truth; rigorous testing is necessary to figure out what works for you and what does not. Start by finding some quiet time so you can focus without any distractions. Going through this process while you have free time helps you think through what it was about a particular style that worked or didn’t.

Dancer in pointe shoes.

Take all of the pointe shoes you wore over the summer, even the ones that didn’t work for you, and place them in separate piles labeled “yes,” “no” and “maybe.” Set up your “lab” by using good mirrors, or several mirrors at different angles, along with a ballet barre so you can do classroom steps in each pair of shoes.

One great way to see yourself is to take short videos doing relevé, échappés and pirouettes. You can shoot into a mirror to get good angles in poses and during movement. The videos shouldn’t be for social media; think of them as a way for you to watch yourself in a completely candid way without the pressure of trying to look perfect.

Create a document that you can easily edit and take detailed notes. You can organize it by the date, including the season, and each pair of pointe shoes can have a section that breaks down what happened when you wore them. You may find these guidelines helpful for your evaluation:

#1. How did the shoes fit?

  • Was the size the best for you, or was there an issue?
  • Too big is just as bad as too tight; it is important to figure out if you hit a growth spurt during the summer and adjust your size accordingly.
  • Calluses, blisters and some bruising go with the territory; however, the amount of pain should be manageable.
  • Pointe shoes are supposed to be snug, but if you have to keep stuffing the shoes with padding, that is a sign of a problem.
  • Pay special attention to what happened when the shoes were worn a few times.
  • If you are in so much discomfort you cannot get onto pointe, that signals that something is just not right.

#2. Were you able to execute the steps given in classes?

  • If pointe shoes are unsupportive, you can’t do a proper relevé.
  • If they are too hard, you can’t get over enough to feel all of your turnout muscles or fully stretch your lines.
  • If something didn’t work for a pas de deux class, maybe it will work for a Bournonville variation. If a pair was good for a challenging variation, maybe it won’t work for the Willis in Act II Giselle
Tip of a pointe shoe.

#3. Was it supportive in the box and arch?

  • It takes time to figure out if the shoe is losing support in the arch or in the box.
  • Everyone knows that shoes that break down after two barre exercises aren’t going to cut it in the long run.
  • Did you do everything you could with the shoes — gluing and drying out?
  • Maybe your ribbon placement could have helped with the support.
  • Did you buy square shoes even though you have a tapered foot? How did that work out for you?
  • It is important during this assessment that you are honest with yourself.
  • Sometimes things can be fixed with a harder, more supportive shoe, and sometimes something completely new is needed.

#4. What about your alignment? Did the shoes get in the way of you being up and on your legs?

  • Were you able to properly lift out of the shoe while still maintaining the feeling of the floor?
  • Were you able to be up on top of your hips and lengthen your spine, or did the shoe feel like it got in the way?

#5. Ballet aesthetics require a beautiful line.

  • Did the shoe augment your line, or did it look more like a street shoe?
  • Did you purchase a particular pair or brand because a famous dancer or influencer posted it on TikTok?
  • The best shoes enhance the leg line and give an ethereal look that is unique to each individual.

Finally, seek out someone you trust who will give you an honest, unbiased opinion. This could be a teacher, professional fitter or a mentor who understands the challenges of finding a good shoe. Dancewear companies are always coming out with new styles and innovations to help you and your technique. The plus side is that there are so many options that there is a pointe shoe style out there for everyone. The downside is that just because something is shiny and new doesn’t mean it will work for you. A good pointe shoe should make you feel like things are possible and not out of reach, and your notes and analysis will help you make sense of what is optimal.  Finding the best shoe can be a career-long process, so don’t get discouraged if it takes awhile to figure it all out. 

By Mary Carpenter of Dancewithmary NYC.

Mary Carpenter.

Mary Carpenter is a former professional ballet dancer who began her studies at CCM, the official school for the Cincinnati Ballet Company, and was on scholarship at the David Howard Dance Center. Mary also holds a BA with high honors in dance from Butler University. She has danced for the Metropolitan Opera Ballet, Ohio Dance Theatre, Granite State Ballet, Maryland Ballet, Lexington Ballet and Charleston Ballet, and performed in numerous off-Broadway shows. Mary has contributed to the dance community as a dedicated instructor in ballet, Pilates and Progressing Ballet Technique (PBT), and served on the faculty of Broadway Dance Center, the Ballet Hispánico School of Dance, Barnard College and The New School University. She is current faculty for Ballet Academy East and the world-famous Steps on Broadway. Her classes for adult beginners are available virtually on the website.

With over three decades of experience, Mary has become a highly skilled pointe shoe fitter. She has worked with dancers from prestigious companies such as American Ballet Theatre (ABT), The Royal Ballet and New York City Ballet. Her expertise in fitting pointe shoes has led her to give lectures at renowned summer programs, including ABT/JKO, Dance Theatre of Harlem, NYSSSA and Oklahoma Summer Arts in Quartz. In 2015, Mary launched her YouTube channel, “Dancewithmary NYC,” where she shares her knowledge and expertise on pointe shoes through monthly segments. Her channel has become a valuable resource for dancers and teachers seeking guidance and advice.

The post Back to school: Pointe shoe tune-up  appeared first on Dance Informa Magazine.

Going hard in the studio and performing, and then weeks or months off: that’s the dance sector phenomenon of layoffs, one that seems largely underdiscussed. These periods can bring myriad challenges. Physically, it can benefit dancers to give their body rest, but it also behooves them not to be back to the studio in a way that takes them from 0 to 60. That can be a tough balance to strike. Mentally and emotionally, navigating one’s energy and time can be difficult – not to mention that dancer identity dynamic. (“If I’m not dancing right now, what am I doing…who even am I?)

At the same time, layoffs can be time for dancers to cultivate their interests, relationships and capacities outside of performing – perhaps entirely outside of dance, and even outside the arts more broadly. There can be opportunity in the adversity of time away from rehearsing and performing. To learn more about all of these dynamics, Dance Informa speaks with “The Broadway PT” Dr. Megan Wise (PT, DPT), dance career mentor “The Brainy Ballerina” Caitlin Sloan and NYC-based freelance dancer Kirsten Evans. Without further ado, let’s jump in!  

The physical: Giving your body rest but staying ready for the studio 

Dr. Wise gives a concrete and helpful timing guideline. If your layoff is less than a month, “take the rest,” she advises. “You’re not going to lose your fitness in that amount of time – and, in fact, having that rest might allow you to come back even better.” If it’s longer than a month, then it’s best for one to consider cross-training and getting back into class. It could actually be a great time to try a new training program or fitness form that sparks your interest. For example, if you’re not currently dancing, your body might have an easier time adjusting to using new muscles in new ways, Dr. Wise points out. You can even make a list of movement/fitness forms that you’d like to give a try, she suggests. 

Caitlin Sloan. Photo by Nichole Manner.
Caitlin Sloan. Photo by Nichole Manner.

A longer layoff could also offer time for physical rehab, or even “prehab” (injury prevention work), Dr. Wise notes – just be sure to work with your physical therapist to determine if the time you have is enough to do the work within best practice guidelines. No matter what, keep rest a priority – especially if it’s the only time that you’ll get for it in a long while, Dr. Wise adds. She also encourages, for those longer layoff periods that call for more than pure rest, goal-setting — be it with flexibility or an aspect of technique or any other dancer skill. 

Sloan has experienced both longer and shorter layoffs, she shares – and, indeed, she approached them differently. At Ballet Tucson, the scheduling was typically four to five weeks on and four to five weeks off. She’d do her best to take class during that period, but she also tried to prioritize making income at a second job. Another challenge was feeling like she was just getting her momentum really going when layoff came. Taking class during layoff did help her keep that momentum up, somewhat, she notes.

At Mareck Dance (Missouri Contemporary Ballet when Sloan was dancing with the company), layoffs were longer. She even had Decembers off to fully celebrate the holidays with family and friends. The work was very athletic, and rehearsal periods had her called into the studio many hours a week, so that rest was quite welcome physically. Toward the ends of those periods, she did what she could to get those “awkward phases out” by getting back into class regularly. She knew that going from zero to full throttle wouldn’t be good news. Sloan did all that in a way that acknowledged what her body needed at any particular time, she explains – thoughtfully calibrating the physical work at hand. “Try to avoid an all-or-nothing mentality,” she advises.   

Evans details what helps her find that tricky rest/activity balance during layoffs – but also is careful to note that it’s what works well for her. Everyone is different, and no one should feel pressure to do what anyone else is doing because it’s the “right” way to do it (there really is no one “right” way!). She starts layoffs with at least one full day without any kind of physical activity – “coach potato day, soak it in.” Doing Pilates and restorative movement in the days following that “makes [her] feel really good.” 

Kirsten Evans. Photo by Jon Doucette.
Kirsten Evans. Photo by Jon Doucette.

She also tries to catch a ballet class at least once a week during layoffs, and uses the opportunity to “push a little harder in these classes than I might if I were doing a full day of rehearsals after. This is your time to really work that technique and try to correct habits that a tired in-season body might not be up for tackling. Wear the pointe shoes, do the fouettés!” 

For cross-training, she has “tried every cross-training workout from kickboxing to yoga to swimming, running, you name it” – but has really taken to Pilates. In sessions with her trainer, they “work on any weaknesses or injuries [that she] might be experiencing, and just try to build up…overall strength and stamina.” She also practices the form independently, several times a week, to stay “aligned, lengthened and strong.” 

All in all, “I just try to live an active lifestyle when it feels good and rest when I need to,” Evans says. “I love walking for my mental health, and it has the added benefit of being pretty good for your body, too!” She encourages trusting that the “body is smart and it knows what to do without controlling it all the time. Lean back a little and listen to your body; let it surprise you.”

Sloan additionally encourages taking advantage of open studio time – if it might be available to you. Even if you just do a barre, that’s something, she affirms. And, in her experience, doing a barre can often lead to doing center – maybe even a full class for yourself! “Just get the ball rolling,” she says, “and make it fun!”

The mental and emotional: Taking care of yourself out of the studio 

Dr. Megan Wise with a dancer. Photo courtesy of Wise.
Dr. Megan Wise with a dancer. Photo courtesy of Wise.

Evans offers a cogent sharing of mental/emotional challenges involved with layoffs. “Early on in my career, I viewed layoff periods mostly as a physical challenge. But with more experience, I realized the mental hurdles that come along with layoffs are just as steep — if not even more rigorous — to overcome. There’s this feeling of guilt that can come with taking time off, or even a fear that you could be missing out on an opportunity, or falling behind. But the truth is our bodies and minds need that time away to rest and reset.” 

And that’s not all that can challenge dancers mentally and emotionally during these periods. Decision-making over how to productively use your time can be a lot mentally, not to mention navigating factors like applying for unemployment or getting temporary work. On a deeper level, there’s that dancer identity piece – “who even am I if I’m not dancing?”

Evans believes that what’s sincerely helped her is a mindset of letting the “discipline serve you, not overwhelm you.“ For example, she regularly takes class during layoffs, but she also doesn’t “stress too much about missing these if life presents me with an opportunity to travel or experience something I wouldn’t typically be able to say ‘yes’ to during a dancing season.” She emphasizes how finding your ideal experience “is not linear. Try to give yourself grace. Try to have fun in the process!” 

For that guilt piece, “remember that experiencing life outside of the studio will fuel your performance onstage,” Evans notes. “Think of this as a time to expand your artistry.” She also recommends discretion with social media use; say goodbye (unfollow, anything you need to do) to anything that makes you feel “devalued.” Instead, shift your focus to being present. “Notice how being away from your usual routine makes you feel, and really observe it,” she advises.  

Sloan also encourages that sense of being present. That can, furthermore, allow new ideas to blossom; creativity can truly flow when we’re not in that daily grind. She describes how in those quiet moments, our first impulse can be to reach for our phones. Yet, it can be incredibly meaningful to take “time to be alone with our own thoughts.” Time in nature can be quite helpful for that (and summer layoffs can bring wonderful weather!). Such introspection can be incredibly valuable. “The more you know yourself, the stronger artist you’ll be,” Sloan underscores. In alignment, Dr. Wise notes how long layoffs can be an opportunity to be “human first, dancer second” — connecting with those parts of you that go much deeper than “dancer.”

Caitlin Sloan. Photo by LG Patterson.
Caitlin Sloan. Photo by LG Patterson.

Whatever happens, however your spend your layoff time, “you don’t have to overthink it, you don’t have to feel all that pressure,” Dr. Wise reminds us. Just breathe through it and enjoy it, as best you can! Sloan also recommends letting yourself feel however you feel about layoffs. “It’s okay if you love it, it’s okay if you hate it.” Let yourself experience joy and rest as well – because those are things are important, too. “Not that things making you feel good even have to be productive,” she affirms with a smile. 

Finding the opportunity in adversity: How to leverage layoffs for growth

Yes, layoffs can come with a lot of challenge but also a lot of opportunity — discovering more of the world, as well as yourself, Evans notes. She names how dance “can be so all-consuming when you’re in it. You’re staring in the mirror analyzing your movement all day, every day, and it’s easy to forget how big the world is outside of the studio.” Explore a dance style that’s out of your typical genre, and even dig deeper into other art forms, such as going to concerts and plays, she suggests. Experience parts of life that call to you outside of the arts: from hiking to making ice cream to whatever that might be.

Layoffs can also offer opportunities to cultivate relationships – especially those outside of your company and even outside of dance, something that Dr. Wise highly recommends. As an example of that, Evans tries “to use [layoffs] as a time to say ‘yes’ to other things and spend more time being social with friends and family I don’t see as much during an on-season.” Whatever it might be, take advantage of the time you now have – because it very well may not be there when you’re back in the studio and the theater, she adds. There is “so much to explore in the layoff period, so many ways to be involved in the world; it doesn’t have to be a ‘blah’ time,” Sloan affirms. 

On a more practical bent, Dr. Wise points out the ability to cultivate new skills with layoff periods – the sort that could lead to a post-performance career. “You’re not going to be a performer forever,” she reminds us. “Hobbies can also bring more to your craft [as a dancer],” she adds. Yet, she’s also careful to point out, trying new things doesn’t have to lead to new ways to make income (any kind of “side business”), or even make you a stronger artist; it’s more than enough for it to bring you joy! “Play with something else, try something else, be a beginner at something!” she urges. “Beginner’s mind can be vulnerable but also rewarding.”

How do we manage all of that potential? A lot of possibility, in and of itself, can bring that overwhelm that Evans describes. She suggests making plans, getting something on your calendar even before layoff starts. Echoing Dr. Wise, Sloan recommends making lists of things you like doing outside of dancing (watching movies, writing poetry, listening to music, anything at all!), as well as lists for media you want to take in (books to read, shows to watch, podcasts to listen to, for instance). 

Dr. Megan Wise working with a dancer. Photo courtesy of Wise.
Dr. Megan Wise working with a dancer. Photo courtesy of Wise.

That approach can help you to jump right into those activities that help you experience the world, and learn more about yourself, rather than being stuck in “Okay, I have this time, what do I do now?” On the other end of the spectrum, another thing that can cause overwhelm – especially for goal-oriented dancers – is feeling like if you start something in your layoff period, you have to finish it. Yet, Sloan calls that into question. “Just start something – just do one thing, and it’ll come,” she urges. 

Yet, another thing that can cause overwhelm in layoff periods is time stress, something Dr. Wise notes many performers do feel — this sense that there’s so much to do in such a short amount of time until layoff ends. “Yet, there’s an abundance of time!” Dr. Wise says. Be open to how much time there really is available when you’re not in the studio, and – to the best of your ability – use it wisely, she urges. 

Sloan has some great words of wisdom to close us out. “Find what you need to strike that balance. Remember that you do have a job to get back to. What do you need to do to recover but also get back to it? Remember also that it feels different every day for a dancer in class – sometimes you’re really on your leg, feeling great, and sometimes you’re not. That applies to layoffs, and to life! Every day can feel different. With being present and listening to yourself, what you need will start to become apparent.”

By Kathryn Boland of Dance Informa. 

The post Navigating layoffs: The physical, mental, emotional and more appeared first on Dance Informa Magazine.

We’ve all been there — you see something flatly wrong on social media, and you pause for a moment. After a sigh, perhaps a facepalm, you consider a choice: do you engage, or just move on? If you do engage, what’s the best approach for pushing back against false information? As we’ve discussed in this series on an (anecdotally seen) rise in dancer injuries post-COVID lockdowns, social media (and the internet more broadly) may very well be playing a part. 

What’s the best way to push back against false information on conditioning and stretching, that seems to be guiding some dancers down dangerous roads? How do we equip dancers with the tools to spot faulty advice? How do we make mindful, intentional and informed approaches more appealing – so that they become the natural choice? How might we need to refine pedagogical practices to accommodate realities of this internet and social media age?

In this third installment of this series, we’ll look at those important questions. The same experts will guide us: Sue Mayes, principal physiotherapist of The Australian Ballet; Zac Jones of Heal Yourself and Move; and Joshua Honrado, doctor of athletic training with NYU Langone’s Harkness Center for Dance Injuries. Check out Part I here and Part II here!

Pedagogical practice for 2023 

One could argue that it all starts in the classroom – so we’ll start there. Toward working against less-informed, potentially dangerous approaches, Jones starts with a fundamental question: what’s the outcome that you’re after? He’ll present that questions students and parents alike. The next question then is (as a callback to Part II): is the work that you’re doing going to get you closer to that outcome – and if not, why do it? Jones also guides students to notice the “pushback,” or response, from the body after the work at hand.

Speaking of pushback, Jones has had some candid conversations with studio directors. They agree with him that a safe, informed approach is indeed the approach to take – yet, they also have to grapple with the competition and business realities. If students want to be pushed toward the extremes that they see on social media, and where they are isn’t offering that, they’ll go elsewhere, studio owners will say.  

Yet, Jones doesn’t think that there needs to be a tension there; there are ways to teach that are aligned with the science, with important safety principles, but can also keep students continuing to come back for more. “Offer something that satisfies what the dancer is looking for, through the technique,” he councils — through the rigor of proper placement, mechanics and movement pathways. 

Attention spans are what they are these days, due to internet and social media culture, Jones also notes. He suggests checking in with students to capture their attention and re-engage them in the work of their own technical and artistic development. “Stand and deliver less,” he advocates: engaging students more and lecturing at them less. When we can engage students in these ways, they’ll gravitate toward rigor and good information – at least more consistently. The quick fixes and misinformed approaches will more often get left in the dust.

Media and scientific literacy: Spotting “red flags” and more

Pedagogical practice is one thing (a truly important thing), and what students do after they leave our class is another. We can’t control how students engage with social media when they walk out of the studio. Yet, we can arm them with the tools to recognize faulty information when it comes up in their Instagram feed or Google results. 

Honrado notes a couple of “red flags” for false information. One is if anything is promising any particular result in a certain period of time – for example, “you’ll get your splits in a month if you do [x]!”. As noted in Part II, we know that safely increasing range of motion is a long-term process and no kind of quick fix. 

Also noted in Part II is because stretching can fatigue muscles, we want to reserve deep, sustained stretching for the end of the day (remember that fatigue closely correlates with injury). Honrado notes that if resources you’re seeing are recommending that sort of deep, sustained stretching in the morning or in between classes, that’s guidance to disregard. “Anecdotally, this is [often] when we see injuries,” Honrado says — when dancers time their work in ways that fatigue muscles and don’t set them up for safe work. 

He also advises a skeptical, critical eye toward stretching and conditioning devices out there, often advertised to dancers (social media algorithms know that we’re dancers, and maybe even about our conditioning and technique goals). For example, some of these devices claim to help dancers achieve oversplits. 

Honrado underscores another important point there: the sort of hyperextension and hypermobility that we see in social media oversplit images (yes, that’s what it is, hypermobility) is actually not muscular flexibility. Dancers in these pictures are “working into joints…[whereas] you want to work into muscles,” Honrado explains. So, one could reasinably question why achieving something like such an image should be such a coveted goal anyways. 

Another path is to work on your muscular flexibility and keep your joints safe, so that you can dance long and strong. Yes, safely increasing your range of motion takes time, and it can be tempting to rush the process. “Develop your artistry within your [current] limitations,” Honrado recommends.

Balancing out the false with the true: Putting good information out there 

When it comes to reducing the harm of faulty information for dancers on social media – in addition to helping dancers have greater scientific and media literacy – we can be on social media, too, Mayes reminds us. We can share good information to, at least in part, drown out the Siren call of those flashy images. “We can join forces and have a strong voice together,” Mayes says, “and we are starting to have that strong voice!”

Toward building that strong voice even further, networking is key, adds Mayes — developing a network with people in your area but also around the world. “COVID showed us how many tools there are to connect and share information. We need to get busy getting information out there,” she says. We can also translate that information into formats that work well on social media — videos and infographics detailing the latest research, for example. 

Social media is a key way in which information disseminates nowadays, but it’s by no means the only way. Honrado advocates for dance professionals continuing to update their knowledge “on the most evidence-based practice”: through journal articles, conferences, workshops, and related forms of continuing education. 

As an example of information getting out there in those ways, Harkness offers injury prevention workshops and lectures at studios/schools and companies. It’s a key space for discourse on dancer health and wellness, Honrado believes. Important with such events is “knowing your audience,” he adds; presentations for young dance students don’t look and feel exactly like those presented to professional dancers. 

It is important for teaching artists and studio directors to keep their knowledge current in these ways – because it’s their responsibility to disseminate it to students. Yet, students have a responsibility here as well, Honrado affirms — to remain open, curious and diligent. With all of the complex factors at work in this issue – and we’ve really just scratched the surface in this three-part series – it really does come back to the technique, the artistry and the connection of teacher and student, Jones reminds us. It’s here, at the barre, as Juliette from Center Stage would remind us.    

By Kathryn Boland of Dance Informa.

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