Many dancers dream of going on tour and performing for packed houses in glamorous cities around the world, but touring life can also mean long days and sore muscles. The stress of travel and change in routine can take a toll on the body, and you may have to make a special effort to stay healthy, technically strong and injury-free. Here are some things to keep in mind before heading out on the road.
1: Adapt to unpredictable conditions. From delayed flights to freezing theaters, know that not everything will go as smoothly as you'd like. It's important not to get overwhelmed by the different elements you'll have to deal with, "whether it's different studio space or a time change," says San Francisco Ballet corps member Megan Low, who has toured with the company for eight seasons. Take a step back and be sensitive to how your body reacts.
2: Find an exercise routine and stick with it. Between rehearsals, shows and traveling to the next venue, it may seem like there's no time for a basic workout. The trick is to find a personalized regimen that you can do anywhere, including your hotel room, airport terminals and backstage. Try a simple ballet warm-up or a series of yoga or Pilates mat exercises. Do crunches and push-ups each night to help keep muscles toned, and stretch whenever you have a few idle minutes. (Gentle stretching is especially important after flights or bus rides, because muscles tend to stiffen after long periods of sitting.) It's up to you to take stock of what your body needs and to have the discipline to make exercise a priority.
3: Pack lots of goodies. "Many of us travel with what we call our dancer toys: Dynabands, Thera-bands, tennis balls you can roll on," says Maria Bauman of Urban Bush Women. Pack these essentials in your carry-on luggage, so that you can pull them out anywhere, even on the plane.
4: Take advantage of hotel facilities. Many hotels offer access to workout rooms, pools and saunas, so upon arrival, find out what, if any, facilities are available during your stay. If they aren't open at times convenient to your schedule, ask for extended hours.
5: Look for class opportunities. If you're touring with a ballet or modern dance company, chances are you'll have company class almost every day. Broadway touring shows, on the other hand, generally don't offer class. So where do you go to keep technique in tune? If you don't have time to leave the theater, ask to bring in a local guest teacher for the cast. Another possibility is to take class at local universities. Offer to teach a class in exchange for allowing fellow dancers to take it along with the college students. "When we were performing in college cities, we would often teach master classes at the colleges," says former Parsons Dance Company member Marty Lawson. "It was a great opportunity to work on our own skills as well."
6: Take time to relax. Don't let the hectic schedule of a performance tour wear you down. Even if you're out late after a show, stretch and relax before going to bed. If you're jet-lagged, adjust to the new time zone as soon as possible. (Don't sleep all day.) Your body will respond better to the intense demands of a tour—and you're less likely to get injured if you're well rested.
7: Eat healthy, regular meals. One of the most important elements of staying in shape is a healthy diet, but life on the road can mean fast food and few opportunities for nutritious meals. "Oftentimes, especially late at night after a performance, it's difficult to find restaurants that are open, so you just have to go with what's available," Low explains. If you're staying in a city for several days, purchase groceries and cook healthy meals in your hotel. You can even host a potluck with your fellow dancers. Keep portable snacks such as nuts and fruit on hand, so you're never caught with an empty stomach.