(Photo by Nathan Sayers)
My hamstrings are so tight! They’re limiting my extension. Do you know of any good stretches to loosen them up? —Cara
Tight hamstrings are so frustrating! Luckily, stretching really does help. The first exercise I’d recommend is something you probably already do—stretching with your leg in front of you on the barre—but there’s a trick to it. After about 10 seconds of stretching forward, straighten up a bit and push your leg down hard into the barre, engaging your hamstrings for another few seconds. Then relax and lean forward to stretch again. You should be able to go a bit further than you did before.
The other key to loosening your hamstrings is massage. You can massage the muscle with your fingers, starting at the back of the knee and working up toward the hip. But a tennis ball is especially effective. Sit on the floor and move the ball around under your leg to locate your tightest spots (you’ll definitely feel them!). When you find a knot, hold the ball in place for 15 seconds to help the muscle release.
I went to a great ballet summer program last year, and they asked me to stay for the fall term. I said no, because I thought I was too young. If they ask me again next year, should I go? —Trinity
It’s hard to know what’s “the right time” to leave home. I started at the School of American Ballet’s year-round program when I was 15. But my mom moved to NYC with me, and my dad commuted there on weekends, so I still felt like I had a normal home life. Most students, though, live in dorms. And while ballet programs usually do a fantastic job caring for their students, it can be difficult to live by yourself. I think it’s a matter of personality. If you’re an independent person, you can probably handle moving away at a younger age; if you’re a homebody, you may want to wait longer.
The great thing about going away to a big ballet school is that it really will benefit your career. My dancing reached new heights at SAB. The level of talent I saw was mind-blowing, and I was constantly inspired because everyone there wanted the same thing I did. It made me want to work even harder and be even better.
The most important thing is to discuss your options with your family. This is something all of you should be on the same page about. Your family needs to be ready to let you go—and you need to be ready to work harder than you ever have.
My nondance friends don’t take my dancing seriously. They don’t understand why I can’t always hang out—and sometimes they hint that they don’t think what I do is difficult, or even athletic. I’m tired of explaining myself, but I don’t want to lose my friends! What should I do? —Alyssa
I had such a problem with this when I was younger. None of my “friends” could understand why I’d want to miss a football game or sleepover for ballet. People constantly made fun of me. Eventually, I realized that these people were never going to change their opinions—because they weren’t even trying to understand what dance meant to me. I came to the conclusion that they weren’t actually my friends. A true friend supports you no matter what, and at least makes an effort to “get” you. She doesn’t put you down because you’re different.
But I know how hard it is to let go of friendships, even toxic ones. Evaluate your friends honestly. If they don’t come to see you perform or constantly brush you off, start to distance yourself from them. Try making new friends at your studio, since the people there will better understand your passion. And you can always turn to family. It’ll get better, I promise!
Curious about cross-training with weights? Click here to watch Katie break down dancer-specific exercises.
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.
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!
Summer intensive auditions can be nerve-racking. A panel of directors is watching your every move, and you're not even sure if you can be seen among the hundreds of other dancers in the room. We asked five summer intensive directors for their input on how dancers can make a positive impression—and even be remembered next year.
We always love a good halftime performance. And we LIVE for halftime performances involving talented kids. (Fingers and toes crossed that Justin Timberlake follows Missy Elliott's lead and invites some fabulous littles to share his Super Bowl stage.)
So obviously, our hearts completely melted for 5-year-old Tavaris Jones. Tavaris may have just started kindergarten, but during Monday night's game between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors, the Detroit native danced with the panache of a veteran pro at halftime.
The coolest place she's ever performed:
I'd have to say the Super Bowl. The field was so cool, and Katy Perry was right there. And there were so many eyes—definitely the most eyes I've ever performed for!
Something she's constantly working on:
My feet. I'm flat-footed, so I'm always hearing, 'Point your toes!' And I'm like, 'I am!'
My hair! That, and a pair of leggings with a T-shirt or tank top.
In our "Dear Katie" series, former NYCB soloist Kathryn Morgan answers your pressing dance questions. Have something you want to ask Katie? Email email@example.com for a chance to be featured!
For a long time, I was the strongest dancer at my studio. But this year there's a new girl in my class who's very talented, and my teacher's attention has definitely shifted to her. I'm trying not to feel jealous or discouraged, but it seems like my whole dance world has changed. Help!
In the dance world, Mandy Moore has long been a go-to name, but in 2017, the success of her choreography for La La Land made the rest of the world stop and take notice. After whirlwind seasons as choreographer and producer on both "Dancing with the Stars" and "So You Think You Can Dance," she capped off the year with two Emmy Award nominations—and her first win. Dance Magazine caught up with her to find out how she's balancing all of her dance projects.