Dancers' Body Secrets Revealed

Have you ever seen a dancer with an amazing bod and wondered how she keeps it up? While dance is one of the best ways to stay in shape, lots of professionals supplement dance classes with workouts and healthy eating habits. We got these top-shape dancers to spill their tips and tricks!

Liana Blackburn: dancer from Cirque de Soleil in CRISS ANGEL Believe.

Body Secret #1

Sweat It Out: “If you’re not sweating, you’re not working out!” Liana says. She says cardio and strength training (she prefers small reps with light weights and pilates) are especially important for dancers to do supplement classes and performances. She also does 15 minutes of cardio before shows.

Body Secret #2

Eat Often: “Snacking keeps my metabolism going even when I’m not dancing or exercising.” Her favorites? Rice cakes with peanut butter, fruit or a homemade protein shake, which keep her energy pumping.

 

Kristine Bergasse: Broadway performer and dancer with the M. Stuart Dance Theatre, based in NYC

Body Secret #1

Try an Intense Class: Kristine takes weekly kung fu classes! If she can’t make a trip to the gym, she jumps rope for 30 minutes for “an amazing full-body workout that also keeps up my stamina,” she says.

Body Secret #2

Don’t Overdo It: “Listen to your body. It’s okay to take a day or more of rest, especially if I’ve just been through an intense physical period."

Mandy Jiroux: dancer for Miley Cyrus

Body Secret #1

Eat Breakfast: “I don’t skip breakfast because it’s a really important part of the day. If you don’t have breakfast, you might eat too much later on.” Mandy’s morning choices? “Fruit, almonds, veggies and eggs.”

Body Secret #2

Exercise Outdoors: You don’t need a gym membership to work out. “I go running outside and do workouts that I’ve learned before. I actually use a lot of ballet technique to keep lean and fit!”

Jenny Mendez: Pilobolus Dancer

Body Secret #1

Detox by Sweating: Jenny takes Bikram Yoga, which is practiced in a room heated to 105 degrees!

Body Secret #2

Get Your Daily Dose: “Daily vitamins and lots of protein!”

Kelsey Hellebuyck: Boston Ballet corps dancer

Body Secret #1

Be Prepared: “Always have a healthy snack in your bag, like an apple, some nuts or a granola bar. If you let your blood sugar get too low, you’ll be so hungry that you’ll reach for whatever is near—which might not be a healthy option.”

Body Secret #2

Enjoy Yourself: Kelsey prefers exciting workouts. She chooses “anything fun and upbeat, like a cardio dance workout—something that make you break a sweat and still have a blast!”

 

Zumba Is the New Jazzercize

“Ditch the workout, join the party!” is the slogan for the newest dance-fitness craze, Zumba (ZOOM-bah). With its innovative and dynamic combination of Latin flavor and aerobic intensity, Zumba is quickly taking over gyms, studios and even physical education classes. Zumba founder Beto Perez, a Miami-based dancer/choreographer, mixed cumbia, merengue, salsa, reggaetón, hip hop, mambo, rumba, flamenco, calypso and salsaton to create one of the spiciest dance concoctions. The hour-long cardio dance routine helps tone, stretch and sculpt your body. Instructor Melissa Marcketta says an average class can burn 500 to 800 calories and noted that cheering is highly encouraged! Log on to zumba.com to watch videos, search for classes near you and even find Instructor Training Classes to add to your dance resumé. You can also check out Zumba Toning, a sculpting program using weighted sticks that sound like maracas. —Marnie Fish

 

Did You Know?

Three more reasons to choose carrots over chips for a crunchy snack:

  1. A carrot provides more than 200 percent of the recommended daily dose of vitamin A, which prevents “night blindness.”
  2. Carrots have no fat content.
  3. Carrots are 90 percent water.

Munch away!

Herbal ice cubes recipe: Brew chamomile tea, fill an ice tray with it and freeze. Post-dance, rub the cubes around your face and neck to cool off.

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Don't worry—you won't have to shoulder the load alone. Dance Spirit spoke with two physical therapists who specialize in working with dancers to find out what dance bag is best.

What should dancers look for in a dance bag?

Dr. Meghan Gearhart, physical therapist and owner of Head2Toe Physical Therapy in Charlotte, NC, recommends dancers opt for a backpack-style dance bag rather than a duffel or cross-body bag.

"A bag that pulls the weight all to one side creates a side bend and rotation in the trunk," Gearhart says. "That is going to lead to muscle imbalances that will affect dancers while they're dancing, as well as just in regular everyday life." Muscle imbalances can mean limited mobility on one side of your body, as the muscles on one side are overly contracted and the other side is overly extended to compensate.

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Dr. Bridget Kelly Sinha, physical therapist and founder of Balanced Physical Therapy and Dance Wellness in Matthews, NC, emphasizes the importance of finding an even weight distribution when choosing a dance bag.

"If a dancer has a lot to bring, like when heading to the theater for a full day of rehearsals and performances, then I recommend a rolling suitcase to offset the load," Sinha says.

How should dancers wear their bags?

Even if you've selected the perfect dance bag, it's important to be mindful of how you wear it.

Gearhart advocates wearing both straps when carrying your backpack. She also suggests placing heavier items towards the back of the bag, where they will sit closer to your body. A bag with straps that are too loose (or a bag that is too heavy) can create an increased arch in the lower back or cause a dancer to compensate for the weight by leaning forward. Ideally, Gearhart recommends a dancer's dance bag weighing no more than 10 to 15 percent of their body weight.

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And if you think your bad dance-bag habits have given you alignment issues, seek out a dance physical therapist to prevent further injuries.

"As a dancer, your body is working so hard all day," Sinha says. "It does not need excess strain from your bag."

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