Nutcracker is always a bit of a slog. But in the days between Christmas and New Year's? Ayyyyyyyy. Sure, the end of the run is in sight, but that also means you've already put your poor feet through dozens of shows. And without all the holly-jolliness of holiday shopping and cookie baking and present wrapping to distract you from how much your body hurts, YOUR BODY HURTS SO DARN MUCH.
That's why we've rounded up our top five Nutcracker survival tips. Because you need them more this week than ever. Because with a little bit of self-care and a lotta bit of mental steeling, you can do it.
1. Eat smart. You need to fuel that aching instrument of yours properly! Try following former San Francisco Ballet and current Dutch National Ballet dancer Kristina Lind's Nutcracker diet, which involves lots of fish, fresh vegetables and healthy snacks.
2. But also, eat more cookies. Take a tip from former Boston Ballet and now American Ballet Theatre principal Jeffrey Cirio: Cookies are delicious, and boy, have you ever earned them.
3. Mix up your makeup. Have a little fun with it! Why not try out the SUPER big fake lashes for show #30? Or add a little shimmer to your skin for show #35? Boston Ballet principal Lia Cirio (yup, she and Jeff are siblings—so cute) is all about glitter: "I love getting to sparkle for the audience, especially the children."
4. Play a Nut brain game. When Kathryn Morgan was doing 40+ Nutcrackers a year with New York City Ballet, she and her castmates would fight the doldrums by thinking of a "theme" for each performance. "We might say, 'Tonight, everyone dance as your favorite Disney princess!' Or, 'Let’s be kids playing in the snow on Christmas morning!' ” How fun is that?
5. Remember that each and every show, someone in the audience is seeing ballet for the first time. More words of wisdom from Lia C: "Nutcracker helped me fall in love with ballet, and now I’m living my dream. Who knows–I could be helping someone else’s dreams come true!"
Merde, all you special Snowflakes!
You’ve been in Nutcracker rehearsals for months, and opening night is just days away. You’re confident in your ability to nail every variation—but worried about how your body (and mind) will hold up. Never fear! Here, Kristina Lind, a member of San Francisco Ballet’s corps de ballet, shares her tips for not only surviving, but thriving, during Nutcracker season.
San Francisco Ballet corps member Kristina Lind in Helgi Tómasson's Nutcracker (photo by Erik Tómasson)
Take your vitamins. “I make sure to stock up on packets of Emergen-C. The stale theater air inevitably zaps everyone’s immune system at some point, and the extra vitamin C really helps.”
Eat smart. “If I have an extra-long performance day, I like to eat fish with lots of fresh vegetables the night before. The day of the show, I make a fruit and vegetable smoothie to sip throughout the day, and I pack trail mix to munch on.”
Find inspiration. “I mentally prepare for my first—or thousandth!—Nutcracker performance by thinking about all the little girls in the audience who are experiencing the magic of the ballet for the first time.”
Focus on the positive. “Don’t think too much about the monotony of Nutcracker. Instead, focus on how good it feels to perform. When I experience the joy of being onstage, I know I’ll be able to physically and mentally survive the long run of shows.”
YOUR ACHES AND PAINS ADDRESSED: Bruised Toenails
What is it? A hematoma (blood clot) under the nail.
What causes it? When an object or shoe lands on your toenail, it can cause immediate bleeding under your nail. However, among dancers, a bruised nail is usually the result of micro-trauma—repetitive pressure to your nail. If a long toenail is pushed over the nail bed while on pointe, or if a dancer knuckles her toe while on pointe, small clots will develop under the nail, painfully lifting it away from the nail bed.
How to deal: Apply rubbing alcohol a few times daily to prevent a bacterial infection. If possible, a healthcare professional should use small needles to puncture and drain the clots. Once the blood is drained, your nail can be compressed to the nail bed with Steri-Strips. It’s best to stay off pointe for two to three days to allow your nail to properly adhere. Then, apply Microfoam tape daily before dancing to compress and cushion the nail.
How to prevent it:
•Keep your toenails cut to the edge of your toe.
•Avoid knuckling your toes. This often occurs in dancers who are compensating for weak foot muscles. Strengthen your intrinsic foot muscles and use your core muscles to pull your feet up out of your shoes.
DID YOU KNOW?
Hot yoga isn’t necessarily better for you than regular yoga. In fact, new research from the American Council on Exercise (ACE) suggests you’ll burn the same amount of calories in a cooler room as you will in an extra-steamy one. If you’ve been avoiding getting your “om” on because you dislike the heat (extreme temps can make you sick if you don’t stay hydrated), grab your mat and head for a nice, cool yoga class instead.
Having trouble sticking to healthy eating? Get more sleep! According to a new study at Uppsala University in Sweden, sleep deprivation makes you more likely to crave junk food. Get to bed early and it’ll be easier to load up on the fruits, veggies and proteins you need to power through every class.