Former ABT principal and Tony nominee Ashley Tuttle—pictured here as the Sugar Plum Fairy for Evansville Ballet Theatre's 2012 production of "The Nutcracker"—urges dancers to know their bodies, and do let them do their job. (Photo via Evansville Courier & Press)
Getting injured can seem like the end of the world. As dancers, we're hesitant to take even a week off. Tell us we need to take several months off, and we launch into full-blown panic mode.
Last night, The School at Steps in NYC hosted its annual "Injury Prevention Workshop" as a part of their Complete Dancer Series. This year's panel of experts included registered dietitian Rachel Fine, Emily Sandow of the Harkness Center for Dancer Injuries, Orthopedic Surgeon Dr. Andrew Price, Pilates instructor Robin Powell and former American Ballet Theatre principal/Tony nominee Ashley Tuttle. The panel also included one of Steps' pre-professional students, Lucy Panush, who shared her story of injury recovery.
As a sponsor of the event, Dance Spirit was lucky enough to get a front row seat, where we soaked in all the info the pros had to offer. Without further a do, here are seven somewhat surprising things we learned at this year's workshop:
1. You can (and should!) get a free injury prevention screening. Basically, a physical trainer will evaluate your whole body, looking for things like muscular imbalances or skeletal irregularities. Using this info, they can help you predict and prevent future injuries. If you're in NYC, you can get your free screening at Harkness Center for Dance Injuries. If not, chances are, you can find a clinic near you that offers similar services.
2. Dancers are poorly conditioned. WHAT?! That's right—according to Dr. Price, most dancers lack endurance for aerobic exercise (exercises that require oxygen, aka "cardio"). Think about the last time you did a crazy petit allegro, or a super-fast tap combo. Did you find yourself huffing and puffing at the end? Your body probably wasn't getting enough oxygen. Without it, your body turns to the sugars in your muscles for energy—which isn't so good for your muscles. "In the ideal world, I'd have every dancer on the stationary bike for 30 minutes, three times a week to build up their endurance," Dr. Price says.
3. Healthy fats (think: nuts, olive oil or fatty fish) are necessary for muscle recovery. They're packed with antioxidants, which help repair your cells after a workout.
4. When your teachers correct your technique, it's not just about the way it looks. "Proper technique isn't just an aesthetic," Dr. Price says. "It prevents injury by making sure the body works correctly."
5. Step away from the dead pointe shoes! They may feel sooo much comfier than the brand-spankin' new pair in your dance bag, but they won't give your feet the support they need. The same goes for old tap shoes, character shoes, jazz shoes...all of the shoes.
6. There's never an excuse not to do Pilates. "It's non-weight bearing, and very straight-forward to modify," says Powell. "Even injured dancers can participate." Pilates also teaches dancers how to adjust their movement both on and off the mat—and it helps even out muscular imbalances that could lead to injury down the road.
7. Getting injured could be a blessing in disguise. "Being forced to take a break from dance gives you time to enhance yourself as an artist," Tuttle says. She recommends dancers spend their time off learning about other forms of art. "It will make you a more well-rounded artist, while helping you maintain a healthy spirit of optimism," she says. "There is a light at the end of the tunnel."
Headed to The Big Apple? The endless number of studios, shops, shows and restaurants can seem overwhelming. Let Dance Spirit and a few NYC dance insiders be your guides.
Clockwise from top left: Alex Lopez/NYC & Company, Clayton Cotterell/NYC & Company, Alex Lopez/NYC & Company, Joe Buglewicz/NYC & Company, Marley White/NYC & Company, Joe Buglewicz/NYC & Company
(Photo by Peter Hurley, courtesy Paloma Garcia-Lee)
Paloma Garcia-Lee: Broadway dancer Garcia-Lee has performed in Phantom of the Opera and Nice Work If You Can Get It. She says: “Follow your workouts with sweaty Yin yoga classes at Modo Yoga NYC. Some of the instructors are also dancers, so you might end up taking with someone you’ll see onstage.”
(Photo by Paul B Goode, courtesy Kaitlyn Gilliland)
Kaitlyn Gilliland: A former New York City Ballet corps member, Gilliland dances with Ballet Next. Her food picks: “Kefi is a great Greek restaurant on the Upper West Side, and Good Enough to Eat is a brunch favorite.”
(Photo courtesy Paul Taylor Dance Company)
Laura Halzack: Halzack is a member of Paul Taylor DanceCompany. Her cure for a sweet tooth: “You have to go to Doughnut Plant near the Taylor Studios at least once. I could eat one of their doughnuts every day—they have unique flavors.”
(Photo by Mathieu Young/FOX, courtesy Alex Wong)
Alex Wong: A “So You Think You Can Dance” All-Star, Wong is a former Newsies dancer. His training tip: “Broadway Dance Center has an ever-changing list of guest teachers. It’s a great way to take class from working choreographers who aren’t always in town.
Are you a ballet dancer? Start your uptown adventure here.
You wake up in the morning craving…
…something hearty. Head to one of NYC’s top bagel joints, ABSOLUTE BAGELS (Broadway, btwn W 107th and W 108th Sts)…something light and nutritious. Grab a cold-pressed juice and a yogurt parfait from JUICE PRESS (W 82nd St, btwn Columbus Ave and Central Park West).
(Logo courtesy Steps on Broadway)
You’re ready for your first class of the day. You head…
…right to the barre. “Take advanced ballet with Wilhelm Burmann or Nancy Bielski at STEPS ON BROADWAY,” Gilliland says (W 74th St and Broadway)…to Pilates first. Take a mat class at UPTOWN PILATES (W 72nd St, btwn Amsterdam and Columbus Aves). Now I’m ready for ballet...Take Kathryn Sullivan’s class at STEPS ON BROADWAY. She stresses proper placement and quick footwork.
How’s the weather today?
The sun is shining. Catch some rays in RIVERSIDE PARK on Manhattan’s West Side (Along Riverside Dr, from W 72nd to W 158th Sts). It’s raining. Head to PINKY’S SALON, Gilliland’s favorite spot for a manicure (Columbus Ave, btwn W 74th and W 75th Sts). Hot! But it’s perfect in the shade. Walk to CENTRAL PARK. Stroll through John Lennon’s memorial, Strawberry Fields, for a break from NYC’s hustle and bustle (Near W 72nd St and Central Park West).
Metropolitan Museum of Art (photo by Joe Buglewicz/NYC & Company)
Is that your stomach grumbling?
Let’s stay in the neighborhood. “ ’WICHCRAFT, across from the David H. Koch Theater, serves indulgent sandwiches and tasty cookies,” Gilliland says (W 62nd St and Broadway). I want to explore the East Side. Grab a falafel from a street vendor and have lunch on the stairs of THE METROPOLITAN MUSEUM OF ART—then head inside to see some of the exhibits (5th Ave and E 82nd St).
When it comes to afternoon adventures, you prefer to…
…stay outdoors. Walk to the BOAT BASIN CAFE and enjoy a lemonade while looking
out over the Hudson River (W 79th St, in Riverside Park)…find the nearest museum. Visit the Hayden Planetarium at the AMERICAN MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY (Central Park West and W 79th St)…get sweaty! Sign up for a “Figure 4 Barre” conditioning class at PURE YOGA, where many of the instructors are former dancers (E 86th St, btwn 2nd and 3rd Aves).
Let’s stop for an afternoon pick-me-up.
Indulge my sweet tooth! Stop by TREAT HOUSE and grab some gourmet crispy treats (Amsterdam Ave, btwn W 81st and W 82nd Sts). I’m thirsty. Sip an iced tea at CAFE LALO (W 83rd St, btwn Broadway and Amsterdam Aves).
Ready for an early dinner before a show?
I want lots of options. Head to ZABAR’S CAFE for some tasty deli specialties (Broadway and W 81st St). I’m on a tight budget. Grab a $1 hot dog (or two!) at GRAY’S PAPAYA (Broadway and W 72 St).
On clear summer nights, enjoy a free LINCOLN CENTER OUT OF DOORS show with music and dance from around the globe (Columbus Ave at W 63rd St).
Do you dream of Broadway? Start your midtown tour here.
What’s your preferred morning meal?
I’m a full-breakfast kind of girl. Try a savory breakfast pie from PIE FACE (Broadway and W 53rd St). Something small and to-go. Order a croissant from GREGORYS COFFEE—one of Garcia-Lee’s favorite spots for a morning fix (W 44th St and 6th Ave).
Whether I’ll be tapping, strutting or popping…
…I need a soothing warm-up. Wake up your senses in a Gyrotonic session at CIRCULAR POWER INC (7th Ave, btwn W 54th and W 55th Sts)…my day starts with an intense workout. Sweat, tone and feel the burn in a dance-inspired PHYSIQUE 57 class (W 57th St, btwn 5th and 6th Aves)…nothing gets me centered like a ballet class. Take Deborah Wingert’s class at MANHATTAN MOVEMENT & ARTS CENTER. “I always take ballet at MMAC,” Wong says. “The studios are beautiful” (W 60th St, btwn Amsterdam and 11th Aves).
Now I’m warm!
(Logo courtesy Broadway Dance Center)
I want to really let go. Learn a detailed contemporary jazz combo in Slam’s mid-morning class at BROADWAY DANCE CENTER (W 45th St, btwn 8th and 9th Aves). I want a technical challenge. Take Sue Samuels’ Broadway jazz class at BROADWAY DANCE CENTER.
Yes! Let’s get lunch. “GREEN SYMPHONY is my favorite quick stop,” says Garcia-Lee. Try a veggie wrap or a kale salad (W 43rd St, btwn 7th and 8th Aves). I could go for a small snack. Head to the signature NYC grocery store DEAN & DELUCA (W 56th St, btwn 6th and 7th Aves).
Time for some sightseeing.
Let’s stay outside. Tour the CENTRAL PARK ZOO and visit the two super-cute snow leopard cubs (E 64th St and 5th Ave). Let’s go to a museum. Soak in the bizarre and the beautiful at THE MUSEUM OF MODERN ART (W 53rd St, btwn 5th and 6th Aves).
What’s on your afternoon agenda?
I can’t leave NYC without doing a little window shopping. Stroll down 5TH AVE for the best displays in town (5th Ave, btwn E 59th and E 42nd Sts). I’m ready for some fun cardio. While THE AILEY SCHOOL is known as a mecca for modern dance, its ZUMBA FITNESS classes are some of the most popular in NYC (W 55th St and 9th Ave). I want to get cheap Broadway tickets. Head to the TKTS BOOTH in Times Square. Garcia-Lee’s advice: “Get in line early!” (Broadway and 47th St).
I’m starving! Before a night on the town, I want…
…a trendy dinner. “Get the Adobe Salad from EATERY,” says Garcia-Lee. “It’s my favorite salad in Hell’s Kitchen” (W 53rd and 9th Ave)…a classic pastrami sandwich. Go to CARNEGIE DELI for sandwiches big enough to split with a friend (W 55th St and 7th Ave).
New York City Center (photo by Aislinn Weidele/Ennead Architects)
Head to THE GREAT WHITE WAY. Check out our “Broadway Show Guide” to see what’s playing. See what musicals may be Broadway-bound at “Encores! Off-Center” at NEW YORK CITY CENTER (W 55th St, btwn 6th and 7th Aves).
Are you a downtown diva? Modern or contemporary dancers, start here.
I always start the day with…
…fruits and veggies. Try a PB Açai Bowl and a green juice from JUICE GENERATION (Prince and Crosby Sts, in the Equinox Gym)…a protein-filled punch. Head to DAVID’S BAGELS for one of the city’s best egg-and-cheese sandwiches (1st Ave, btwn E 15th and E 16th Sts).
Let’s get moving!
A modern class starts my day on a positive note. Take class from Paul Taylor Dance Company members at THE TAYLOR SCHOOL (Grand St, btwn Jackson and Lewis Sts). I’m craving a full-body workout. Hop into a conditioning session with Rachel Piskin at CHAISEFITNESS (E 23rd St, btwn Madison and Park Aves). I want to sweat before dance class. Try a spin class at SOULCYCLE (SoHo location: Crosby St, btwn Spring and Broome Sts).
(Logo courtesy Gibney Dance)
Now I’m ready for class.
I want to explore a postmodern style. See who’s leading a contemporary workshop at the new downtown GIBNEY DANCE CENTER (Broadway and Chambers St).
(Photo courtesy Peridance Capezio Center)
I want something classic. Get a lesson in Limón Technique at THE PERIDANCE CAPEZIO CENTER (E 13th St, btwn 3rd and 4th Aves).
Time for lunch!
Let’s get a burger. Head to SHAKE SHACK—and try a custard, too. “My favorite is the Urban Lumber-Shack,” says Wong. “It’s vanilla custard with Belgian waffles, bananas, bacon and peanut brittle” (Madison Square Park, E 23rd St and Madison Ave). I love PB & Js. Try a crazy concoction from PEANUT BUTTER & CO., like The Heat Is On Sandwich: spicy peanut butter with grilled chicken and pineapple jam (Sullivan St, btwn Bleecker and W 3rd Sts).
Let’s get lunch outside.
I want to head downtown. Take the subway to the newly renovated SOUTH STREET SEAPORT (Pier 17, at Fulton and Front Sts). I want something fresh. Taste locally sourced produce and baked goods as you stroll through the UNION SQUARE GREENMARKET (E 14th St and Broadway). OK, but let’s go for a ride first. Pedal a CitiBike across the BROOKLYN BRIDGE and get a pizza from GRIMALDI’S (Front
and Old Fulton Sts).
Next, I’d like to...
…take a moment to reflect. Visit the new WORLD TRADE CENTER and The National September 11 Memorial & Museum (Albany and Greenwich Sts)… see the sights. You can take the free ferry to Staten Island and enjoy incredible views of THE STATUE OF LIBERTY (Hop the 1 train to South Ferry station).
For an afternoon break, I want to…
Washington Square Park (photo by LittleNY/Thinkstock)
…hang out with friends. Listen to street musicians in WASHINGTON SQUARE PARK (5th Ave, btwn W 4th St and Waverly Pl)…get something sweet. Visit the home of the original cronut—a croissant and doughnut hybrid—DOMINIQUE ANSEL BAKERY (Spring St, btwn Sullivan and Thompson Sts).
Before a show, I want…
…something hearty. “THE MEATBALL SHOP is fun, and not crazy-expensive,” says Halzack. “I love the traditional Bolognese Ball” (Greenwich Ave, btwn W 11th and Perry Sts)…dessert for dinner! “CHIKALICIOUS DESSERT BAR in the East Village has the best desserts in the world,” says Wong. “And the owners are big dance supporters” (E 10th St, btwn 1st and 2nd Aves).
See companies including Pilobolus and RIOULT Dance NY this summer at THE JOYCE THEATER (8th Ave, btwn W 18th and W 19th Sts). For the latest postmodern and contemporary work, head to DANSPACE PROJECT (E 10th St and 2nd Ave).
Trying to decide which college or university to attend can be daunting. But meeting admissions counselors and dance department representatives can help you make an informed choice.
That's where The School at Step's Complete Dancer Series comes in. This year, the program has two components: College Day, on November 13 and the Pointe Shoe Workshop and Fair in April, 2017. Reps from 12 of the best dance schools in the country will be present on College Day, including those from NYU's Tisch School of the Arts, Boston Conservatory at Berklee and more.
We <3 Steps' light-drenched studios (photo by Sofia Negron Photography)
The event promises to be comprehensive, including panel discussions covering admissions information and audition advice, as well as time to talk to the school reps.
College Day tickets are $15 per person and are available here. Admission is free for students registered at the School at Steps, and studio discounts are available to teachers, students and studio owners who purchase five or more tickets.
Ballet dancers never, never, NEVER tire of discussing their pointe shoes—what brand and make they wear, how they discovered their perfect fit, their most innovative/bizarre padding strategies, their latest gross/amazing foot deformities. Pointe shoes are the tools of our art, the means by which we (hopefully) achieve beautiful ends. Of course we're obsessed with them: They're THAT important.
Because they're so important, they can be sources of serious anxiety for a lot of dancers, especially those just entering the world of pointe. But fear not, anxious pointe-ers: The School at Steps Pointe Shoe Workshop & Fair is here to address all your shoe-related worries.
Boston Ballet principal Lia Cirio's shoes (Lauren Pajer, courtesy Boston Ballet)
The annual workshop will be held at NYC's Steps on Broadway on Sunday, February 7. (Sponsored by our friends at Pointe magazine, it's part of Steps' Complete Dancer Series, which is all-around awesome—more info here.) The fun kicks off at 6:30 pm with a panel of experts discussing shoe fitting and foot care. And we do mean experts: Current American Ballet Theatre principal Stella Abrera, former ABT principal Ashley Tuttle, a pointe shoe fitter, a professor of orthopedic surgery, and Pointe editor in chief Amy Brandt will all be on hand to offer words of wisdom. Then, newly informed, you'll have a chance to try on pointe shoes from a range of manufacturers, including Capezio, Chacott, Gaynor Minden and Grishko.
Tickets are just $15 and sure to go quickly—get 'em here. Not a New Yorker but still eager for pointe advice? Take a look at our story about what to expect at your first pointe shoe fitting, for starters. And make sure you'll be getting our March Ballet Issue, which features expert tips from six ballerinas about how to find the perfect pair.
Oh, dance #pranks!
Maksim Chmerkovskiy and Peta Murgatroyd, as if it needs to be said, are incredible ballroom dancers with multiple "Dancing with the Stars" championships to their names. (They're also a smokin'-hot offstage couple.) But what if Maks and Peta were just two not-so-talented olds trying to shuffle their way through an open dance class?
That's the question "Good Morning America" posed this week. For a special "GMA Undercover" segment, the show put Maks and Peta in some pretty effective disguises—fake bellies and aggressive wigs were involved—and dropped them into a musical theater class at NYC's Steps on Broadway, where the duo did their best bad dancing.
Maks and Peta's alter egos (via @petamurgatroyd)
Basically, they tried to look like Aunt Linda and Uncle Jerry* on the dance floor at cousin Ashley's wedding—and because they're overachievers in everything they do, they were darn convincing. Not that it was easy for them to go against all their better dance instincts. “I was trying not to laugh at the people who were laughing at me,” Murgatroyd said. “It was kind of hard to be off beat, actually.”
Eventually Maks and Peta couldn't help but bust out a fabulous little salsa number, cluing in their legitimately clueless classmates. You just can't keep world-class dancers down.
Enjoy all the delightful awkwardness:
*For the record, their official code names were Bob and Ronda. Which is amazing.
Speak up about any pain you might be feeling and get it checked by a professional.
Photo by Nanette Grebe/Thinkstock
Do you ever wonder if you are getting enough calcium? What about enough sleep? Did you know it's possible overstretch your legs to the point of injury?
Those were just a few of the topics addressed at last night's Injury Prevention Workshop, part of the Complete Dancer Series at the School at Steps in NYC. During the event, we heard from a professor of orthopedic surgery, a representative from the Harkness Center for Dance Injuries, a Pilates instructor and New York City Ballet principal Sara Mearns about what dancers can do to prevent injuries and enjoy long, strong and healthy careers. Dance Spirit was there to get the lowdown:
- Women accrue more than half of their skeletal mass during puberty. What does this mean? We need to increase our calcium intake as much as possible since it can help prevent stress fractures now, and osteoporosis later. We also need lots of protein. Now, this doesn't mean you need to scarf down a hamburger and seven glasses of milk with dinner each night. Green leafy veggies are a better source of calcium than milk. Try adding some kale to your morning smoothies—you won't even know it's in there.
- According to The Harkness Center, 60 percent of all dance injuries are chronic—caused by overuse (or misuse) over a long period of time—like tendonitis, bursitis, or stress fractures. (Compare that to 35 percent of acute injuries—one-and-done-type injuries, like ankle sprains.) So this means three things:
Robin Powell leads a Pilates demonstration.
Photo by A. Greenwald, courtesy The School at Steps.
Working correctly with proper technique and alignment, plus dancing on good flooring, can help prevent chronic injuries caused by misuse. Think about this: One dancer does 200 jumps in one class. Umm...that's a lot of stress on your joints!
- Taking class all the time without any other activity is not healthy. Work in parallel, too—not only turnout. Play sports. Go to yoga class. If you do the same motions over and over again, you're creating muscular imbalances which can lead to injury. Strengthen your whole body—not just a few select muscles.
- Fatigue is a HUGE cause of injury. You get injured when you're tired—when your muscles and joints are tired and when YOU are tired. So...
- Get lots of sleep. Teen dancers need 9.25 hours every night. It may seem like a lot, but it can help.
From left: Dr. Andrew Price, Leigh Heflin, Robin Powell, Sara Mearns and Kate Thomas.
Photo by A. Greenwald, courtesy of The School at Steps.
As dancers, we are often "Type A" people—and perfectionists. Stress can be a healthy motivator for us. But stress also makes us tired. So remember that our parents and our teachers are our allies, not our enemies. If you feel extremely tired in class one day—maybe you woke up four times the night before and then didn't get to eat breakfast—tell someone! If you try to push through a hard class and you're not all "there," you could be putting yourself at risk for injury.
- Think of your muscles like Play Dough. When it's cold and right out of the tub, the dough breaks easily when stretched. You have to mush it and mold it before it becomes pliable and stretchable. So after a long day of class and rehearsal, don't go home and stretch more—you'll be too cold. Plus, your body needs time to repair so you can be at your best the next day. Eat, do your homework and chill out. Save the stretching for the studio.
- If you feel something, say something. If something hurts, speak up and tell your teacher. Overuse injuries are often easier to fix if they're caught early on. Of course, lots of times dancers are just sore. So how do you know when "sore" is really an injury? A good rule of thumb is that if it hurts for more than five days, see a doctor or medical professional. Chronic injuries are hard to detect, but if the soreness keeps happening, or it goes away and comes back more intense, there's cause for concern. Make an appointment ASAP—sometimes you won't be able to be seen for a few more days—and tell your teachers.
- Take time off. It's suggested that all athletes need three months off to perform at their highest level. This doesn't mean you have to suddenly become a couch potato for three months each summer. But schedule a week here or there when you don't dance. Take Pilates, do yoga, go bike riding. Stay active, but stay out of the dance studio. It may sound blasphemous, but it can really help in the long run.
Sara Mearns spoke about her injury prevention regimen: a full-body massage using foam rollers and balls every morning following a hot shower.
Photo by A. Greenwald, courtesy The School at Steps.
Want to find out more? The Harkness Center for Dance Injuries (in NYC) offers one-on-one injury prevention assessments. They're free! You can make an appointment to look at your flexibility, strength, mobility or hypermobility and discuss what you need to stay healthy. Check their website for more info and details.
Sara Mearns and Chase Finlay in Polyphonia
Photo by Paul Kolnik
There's a saying for dancers: Our bodies are our instruments. But what's one thing dancers do that musicians rarely do? We beat up our instruments. We sometimes forget—or even neglect—the daily maintenance necessary for a long and healthy career. But we only get one body, right? So let's take care of it.
This Sunday (April 6) at 6:30 pm, The School at Steps in NYC is hosting an injury prevention workshop. There's going to be a whole panel of experts—including a Pilates instructor, a professor of orthopedic surgery and a representative from The Harkness Center for Dance Injuries—who will give plenty of tips for taking care of our bodies. Plus, New York City Ballet principal Sara Mearns(!!) will also be there!
So come with your questions and bring a notebook to jot down all the advice. You can purchase event tickets here ($10 for students, and teachers receive a 20 percent discount if they purchase five or more tickets). Can't make it? Look out for a recap of the event next week.