Jayme Thornton

In our "Dear Katie" series, former NYCB soloist Kathryn Morgan answers your pressing dance questions. Have something you want to ask Katie? Email dearkatie@dancespirit.com for a chance to be featured!

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Susan Pilarre leading a class at the School of American Ballet (Ellen Crane, courtesy SAB)

As dancers, we're always trying to take our dancing up a notch, to improve our technique and artistry. Here are six crucial things that'll make all the difference in your training this year. Check them out!

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Jayme Thornton

In our "Dear Katie" series, former NYCB soloist Kathryn Morgan answers your pressing dance questions. Have something you want to ask Katie? Email dearkatie@dancespirit.com for a chance to be featured!

Keep reading... Show less

(Thinkstock)

Dancers are famous (notorious?) for pushing themselves to the limit. We're always trying for more, so it can be difficult to figure out just when, where and—honestly—why we should take time to care for our bodies. The truth is, dancers can put off necessary care if they're afraid it might mean taking a break. So here are seven New Year's health and wellness mantras for a strong, centered 2017 (and 12 more ideas for a year full of breakthroughs).

I will: Cross-train, cross-train, cross-train.

We've said it once, we'll say it again: Cross-training is essential to the longevity of your dance career. But where to begin? First, think about what you actually like to do outside of the studio. Cross-training doesn't have to mean mindless miles on the treadmill and it will be a lot easier to stick with if you enjoy it. Check out these three pros, who found unique methods to spice up their routines.

I will: Listen to pain.

Sprains, strains and fractures are your body's way of forcing you to rest. Never push through the sudden onset of pain, something that feels sharp or cracking, or pain that persists for more than a few days. Resolve to tell your teacher or coach when something hurts, instead of shrugging it off. That kind of communication doesn't mean you're whiny or weak. You're taking responsibility for your own career and training.

I will: Actually go to the doctor.

Trust us, we know how difficult it can be to squeeze in a doctor's appointment when you're already over-scheduled. But your pediatrician can take an objective view of your overall health, noting things that might seem normal for a dancer, but unusual for a pre-teen (tendonitis flare-ups, anyone?). That said, your doc might be totally mystified when it comes to dance. Here are our best tips for speaking "dance" with your MD.

I will: Face my perfectionist tendencies.

Lots of dancers are "type A." We're organized, driven and goal-oriented. Learn to recognize the difference between healthy self-criticism (which helps you grow) and unhealthy perfectionism (which beats you down).

I will: Conquer stage fright.

Say it loud, say it proud: "This year I will not be paralyzed by stage fright!" And you can do it, by identifying what level of fright you have, and then taking concrete steps to address it. A few butterflies in your stomach before you perform are totally normal. Even pros still get nervous! But if your stage fright is interfering with your love of dance, it's time to tackle it head-on.

I will: Find the food that best fuels my body.

Hungry, cranky dancers can't focus, are more prone to injury and can't recover properly. Don't be that dancer. Instead, experiment with your meals to find foods that satisfy you emotionally (chocolate), nutritionally (broccoli) or both (mmm...STRAWBERRIES!). Take a peek at these four pros, who've found the right combinations to power through busy rehearsal and performance schedules.

I will: Give myself the R&R I deserve.

Face it. You may feel like Wonder Woman onstage, but you have to rest like any other mere mortal. That's why it's essential to schedule in some down time. Take a bubble bath, try these relaxing yoga poses, read a new book, catch up with a friend...there are a million ways to thank your body for helping you chase your dance dreams!

Here's to a fabulous 2017!

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As a teenager, contemporary dancer Eveline Kleinjans felt like nothing she did was good enough. Auditioning for university dance programs paralyzed her: “I was so focused on every move I made and what people would think that I wasn't able to be free, to be myself," she says. And her intense perfectionism had real repercussions. “I'd get negative feedback saying, 'We don't see you.' "

Perfectionism is extremely common in the dance world, because dancers hold themselves to terrifically high standards. It's easy to get a little discouraged when you aren't improving as quickly as you want. But there's a difference between healthy self-criticism and an unhealthy obsession with perfection. How can you tell when your drive to be better has crossed the line—and what can you do to get back on track?

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Thinkstock

Floorcraft: It sounds like some kind of dancer magic, but it's actually a technical term describing the essential ability to avoid collisions with other couples on the ballroom dance floor. Because success in ballroom doesn't just come down to masterful technique, great choreography, stellar musicality, chemistry between partners and magnetic performance quality—it also requires gracefully navigating a packed floor of competitors.

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Jayme Thornton

In our "Dear Katie" series, former NYCB soloist Kathryn Morgan answers your pressing dance questions. Have something you want to ask Katie? Email dearkatie@dancespirit.com for a chance to be featured!

Keep reading... Show less
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Gisele Bethea stands in the center of a rehearsal studio at American Ballet Theatre's headquarters, breathing hard. The ABT apprentice (who was then a member of the ABT Studio Company) and her partner have just finished running a pas de deux from La Bayadère. With her impossibly long legs and regal bearing, Gisele makes a picture-perfect Gamzatti, the ballet's spurned princess. But while she executes the choreography beautifully, the good-natured dancer has a harder time capturing Gamzatti's devious personality. “Remember, she's not sweet," says ballet mistress Nancy Raffa. “She just came out of a big catfight!"

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