Dear Katie: How Do I Strengthen My Super-Archy Feet?
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!
I have super-archy feet, which is great—sometimes. But they're hard to control because they're so flexible. How can I make them stronger and easier to work with? I have a hard time even standing properly in pointe shoes.
While I'm sure many of your fellow dancers envy you, having beautiful feet can be tough! The first thing to do is to make sure you have the right pointe shoe. You need a good, strong shank to support that arch, but not a rock-hard shoe that'll keep your feet from getting stronger. Go to your local dance store and try everything. Having the right shoe can do wonders!
Establish a daily Thera-Band routine. Your super-flexible feet will need a really high-resistance band—I'd suggest either a black, gray or blue band. Do lots of simple push-through-the-feet exercises to build stability in your ankles and metatarsals.
Once you're in your pointe shoes, add extra relevés, élevés and balances to your pre-class warm-up to improve your strength. Even doing simple tendu and dégagé exercises in your pointe shoes, focusing on pushing through your metatarsals, will help your feet and ankles learn to stabilize the rest of your body. It's all about repetition and time!
Using a Thera-Band every day is super important.Photo by Nathan Sayers
I've loved dance for as long as I can remember, and I want to pursue it professionally. But lately, I haven't felt
the same joy when I dance. I'm always sad at the studio, and I'm not even sure why. I miss the old me. What should I do?
Many dancers go through a "burnout" period, either in their training or once they become professionals. Think back to why you started dancing in the first place. Was it the music? The freedom of the movement? Reconnecting with those initial feelings can help you find your joy again.
We dancers also tend to get caught up in the pursuit of perfection, and that can mess with your head. Scary as it sounds, try taking a few days, or even a week, away from dance. (Pick a time when not a lot is going on at the studio, so you won't be missing any performances or other important opportunities.) Odds are, just putting a little space—mentally and physically—between you and the dance world for a while will allow you to come back to class newly energized and excited.
However, if that time away leads you to realize that you no longer want to dance, that's OK too! It doesn't make you a failure. It just means your passions and goals have changed. And if that's the case, it's better to realize it now than 10 years down the road.
I just got a big part in my school's musical. There's a lot of dancing, which I'm not worried about at all—but I also have to sing and speak. I'm not used to using my voice onstage! What can I do to get comfortable?
The first time I had to speak and sing onstage, I was terrified. Thankfully, I had some great coaching. I'll pass along the wisdom I received!
Dancers are taught to lift up through their bodies. But if you lift up while singing, you'll run out of air. Instead, during singing and speaking passages, focus on staying grounded. Let your body relax and your weight drop into the floor—foreign as that might feel.
Be sure to actively enunciate every lyric or line of dialogue, too. In normal speech, eliding your words, so they slur together a bit, is OK. But onstage, it's not—the audience has to hear everything clearly to be able to understand you. You might feel silly hitting every "t" and "d" hard, but it's important!
Finally, focus on projecting your voice, just as you project your dancing up and out. The people in the back row have to hear you as well as see you! Well-supported breathing, using your diaphragm, will help your voice carry to the far reaches of the theater.
For more of Katie's helpful tips and advice, click here.
Much of Janelle Ginestra's career has been about helping others shine. She's dedicated herself to supporting and cheerleading her partner, WilldaBeast Adams; the emerging talents in their dance company, ImmaBEAST; and the countless dancers she inspires at master classes and conventions. Her YouTube channel has become a launching pad for young talents like "Fraternal Twins" Larsen Thompson and Taylor Hatala, thanks to viral videos featuring Ginestra's creative vision.
But Ginestra's a skyrocketing success in her own right—an in-demand choreographer, a social media influencer, and a dance entrepreneur, building a legacy one eight-count at a time. It's time for her turn in the spotlight. And she's more than ready. "I want to be a legend in whatever I do," she says. We'd argue that she already is.
Daphne Lee is a queen, and not just in the "OMG Girl Boss Alert" sense of the word. She's an actual queen—a beauty queen. Crowned Miss Black USA in August, she's been doing double duty as she continues to dance with the Memphis based dance company, Collage Dance Collective. Lee's new title has given her the means to encourage other black girls and boys to pursue their dreams, while also pursuing dreams of her own. The scholarship money awarded with the pageant title will assist her as she earns a Masters of Fine Arts degree at Hollins University.
When a choreographer finds a composer whose music truly inspires her, it can feel like a match made in dance heaven. Some choreographers work with the same composers so frequently that they become known for their partnerships. New York City Ballet soloist and resident choreographer Justin Peck, for example, has tapped composer Sufjan Stevens numerous times (last spring, the two premiered The Decalogue at NYCB, to rave reviews); L.A. Dance Project's Benjamin Millepied's working relationship with composer Nico Muhly has spanned a decade and two continents; and when tap dancer Michelle Dorrance premiered the first-ever Works & Process Rotunda Project, a site-specific work for New York City's Guggenheim Museum, last year, percussionist Nicholas Van Young was by her side as an equal partner. Successful collaborations require compatibility between artists, direct and honest communication, and flexible, open minds. But when the stars align, working with a composer can be extremely rewarding.
For ballerinas, it's the dream role to end all dream roles: Odette/Odile in Swan Lake, the type of part dancers spend years preparing for and whole careers perfecting. And it's a role that New York City Ballet principal Tiler Peck never thought she'd dance. Though Peck is one of the world's preeminent ballerinas, her short stature made Odette/Odile, typically performed by longer, leggier dancers, seem (almost literally) out of reach.
Then—surprise!—her name popped up on the cast list for NYCB's fall season run of Swan Lake.
Lani Dickinson's power, grace, and raw presence make her a standout with AXIS Dance Company, whose mission is to change the face of dance and disability by featuring a mix of disabled and non-disabled performers. Born in China, Dickinson was adopted by an American couple and started dancing at 8 in Towson, MD. She attended the Boston Ballet School for two summers, studied at the Idyllwild Arts Academy for the last two years of high school, and graduated with a dance degree from Alonzo King LINES Ballet's BFA program with Dominican University of California. In 2015, she joined AXIS and won a Princess Grace Award. Catch her this month during AXIS Dance Company's 30th-anniversary season—and read on for The Dirt!