Need a Breather?
Do you get nervous or overwhelmed when auditioning, performing or taking an intimidating class? Relax! Stress can hinder your performance and even cause injury. DS asked Rebecca Dietzel, an anatomist and former dancer who teaches for The Ailey/Fordham BFA program, for some simple breathing exercises that will help you control your nerves and stay focused. Try them the moment you start to feel anxious or stressed.
You’re backstage waiting to perform and feeling jittery and shaky.
• Using your thumb, gently press on the outside of your nose, blocking your right nostril. Slowly inhale and exhale through your left nostril.
• Repeat on opposite side.
• Repeat as necessary.
You’re in bed the night before a big audition, but you can’t seem to calm your mind and fall asleep.
• Lie flat on your back and place your palms on your lower abdomen.
• As you inhale slowly through your nose, allow your abdomen to rise.
• As you exhale, concentrate on slowly lowering your abdomen. Be sure not to force the air out at the very end.
• Repeat as necessary.
Your back-to-back classes are overwhelming and you feel tense.
• Stand with your feet slightly apart and your arms at your sides.
• While inhaling, slowly raise your arms above your head with your palms facing up and clasp your fingers. Exhale in this position.
• Inhale again, stretching upward while keeping your hands clasped and raising your shoulders.
• Exhale, letting your arms and shoulders fall slowly, while keeping your rib cage lengthened and expanded.
• Repeat as necessary.
We all know that salads are healthy and nutritious and that we should be eating them often, but sometimes they just aren’t filling enough. Instead of piling on croutons, cheese and salad dressings, which are high in fat and contain preservatives and additives, opt for some garbanzo beans (a.k.a. chickpeas). Garbanzo beans have a nutty, buttery flavor that makes a salad heartier and more satisfying. Plus, these powerful little beans are high in protein, fiber and energy-boosting minerals. So dig in!
Did You Know?
The tight, confined, sweaty space in your pointe shoe is the ideal breeding ground for odor-causing bacteria. Try soaking your feet in cool tea for 15 minutes a day for one week, or sprinkle some crushed sage leaves into your pointe shoes before you dance. Tea and sage are high in tannic acid, which reduces sweating and odor significantly.
Quick Tip: Stretching not only improves your flexibility, but also helps deliver oxygen and important nutrients to your muscles. Plus, it makes it easier to burn calories during exercise. So reserve a few minutes before rehearsal and after class to stretch.
Harper Watters is a ballet dancer for today's generation. A social media maestro and a charismatic performer, the Houston Ballet soloist is equally at home in front of the camera hosting his hit YouTube series, "The Pre Show"; interacting with fans on his crazy-popular Instagram account; or showing off his beautiful classical technique onstage. It's a multifaceted identity that's proven to be invaluable to his career—and it's taking him to places he never even dreamed of.
Getting corrections from our dance instructors is how we grow, and as students, it's important that we do our best to apply every correction right away. But sometimes—whether it's because we're in physical pain, or have a lot on our minds, or are just not paying attention—those corrections don't sink in. And from a teacher's standpoint, giving the same corrections time and time again gets old very fast. Here are 10 important corrections dance teachers are tired of giving. Take them to heart!
The dancers who take our breath away are the risk-takers, the ones who appear completely fearless onstage. "When you see somebody trying to travel more, go farther, push the limits of their physical abilities, that's always going to be inspiring," says Ballet BC dancer Alexis Fletcher.
But dance training can feel like it's in conflict with that idea. We spend thousands of hours in the studio trying to do steps perfectly, and that pursuit of perfection can make us anxious about taking risks. What if we fail? What if we fall?
Luckily, fearlessness is a mental skill that you can work on, just as you work on your technique. Here's how you can learn to push yourself past your limits.
When we think of a dancer who's broken barriers, American Ballet Theatre principal Misty Copeland tends to be the name that comes to mind. And though Copeland has been a crucial advocate for equality in the world of ballet, Raven Wilkinson—a mentor of Copeland's—is considered one of the original pioneers of the movement.
In 1955, Wilkinson became the first African American to dance with the renowned Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo. Her fortitude in the face of bigotry and hate cemented her legacy. Now, with the release of the new children's book Trailblazer: The Story of Ballerina Raven Wilkinson, a new generation of dancers will be inspired by her tale of overcoming obstacles to achieve a dream.
The book details Wilkinson's life, from her experience as a young dancer training in Harlem, to her run-ins with the Ku Klux Klan while on tour with Ballet Russe, to her later ballet career in Europe. "There were times where my heart really hurt because of the situations I had to deal with," she says. "But I always had faith that I was made to be a dancer and that I was gonna dance."
Dance Spirit spoke with Wilkinson to discuss the new book and get her take on racial equality within the ballet world.
Postmodern pioneer Trisha Brown redefined how dance is seen and felt. A founding member of Judson Dance Theater, Brown frequently collaborated with other experimental artists like Yvonne Rainer, Merce Cunningham, Twyla Tharp, and Steve Paxton.
She embraced pedestrian movement, pairing everyday gesture with rhythm and fluidity. "It's liquid," says Wendy Perron, who danced with Brown in the '60s and '70s. "Like a river with many tributaries, water coming out of a faucet, or being on a raft and seeing the water move away in different directions." Brown also pushed beyond stages with choreography in fields, museums—even on the sides of buildings.
There's a common misconception that a dancer's body has to be thin. But the truth is that talent knows no body type, and the number on the scale never determines an artist's capabilities. Here are some extraordinary dancers fighting the stereotype of what a dancer "should" look like.