Dear Katie

(Photo by Nathan Sayers)

Dear Katie,

My hamstrings are so tight! They’re limiting my extension. Do you know of any good stretches to loosen them up? —Cara

Dear Cara,

Tight hamstrings are so frustrating! Luckily, stretching really does help. The first exercise I’d recommend is something you probably already do—stretching with your leg in front of you on the barre—but there’s a trick to it. After about 10 seconds of stretching forward, straighten up a bit and push your leg down hard into the barre, engaging your hamstrings for another few seconds. Then relax and lean forward to stretch again. You should be able to go a bit further than you did before.

The other key to loosening your hamstrings is massage. You can massage the muscle with your fingers, starting at the back of the knee and working up toward the hip. But a tennis ball is especially effective. Sit on the floor and move the ball around under your leg to locate your tightest spots (you’ll definitely feel them!). When you find a knot, hold the ball in place for 15 seconds to help the muscle release.

Dear Katie,

I went to a great ballet summer program last year, and they asked me to stay for the fall term. I said no, because I thought I was too young. If they ask me again next year, should I go? —Trinity

Dear Trinity,

It’s hard to know what’s “the right time” to leave home. I started at the School of American Ballet’s year-round program when I was 15. But my mom moved to NYC with me, and my dad commuted there on weekends, so I still felt like I had a normal home life. Most students, though, live in dorms. And while ballet programs usually do a fantastic job caring for their students, it can be difficult to live by yourself. I think it’s a matter of personality. If you’re an independent person, you can probably handle moving away at a younger age; if you’re a homebody, you may want to wait longer.

The great thing about going away to a big ballet school is that it really will benefit your career. My dancing reached new heights at SAB. The level of talent I saw was mind-blowing, and I was constantly inspired because everyone there wanted the same thing I did. It made me want to work even harder and be even better.

The most important thing is to discuss your options with your family. This is something all of you should be on the same page about. Your family needs to be ready to let you go—and you need to be ready to work harder than you ever have.

Dear Katie,

My nondance friends don’t take my dancing seriously. They don’t understand why I can’t always hang out—and sometimes they hint that they don’t think what I do is difficult, or even athletic. I’m tired of explaining myself, but I don’t want to lose my friends! What should I do? —Alyssa

Dear Alyssa,

I had such a problem with this when I was younger. None of my “friends” could understand why I’d want to miss a football game or sleepover for ballet. People constantly made fun of me. Eventually, I realized that these people were never going to change their opinions—because they weren’t even trying to understand what dance meant to me. I came to the conclusion that they weren’t actually my friends. A true friend supports you no matter what, and at least makes an effort to “get” you. She doesn’t put you down because you’re different.

But I know how hard it is to let go of friendships, even toxic ones. Evaluate your friends honestly. If they don’t come to see you perform or constantly brush you off, start to distance yourself from them. Try making new friends at your studio, since the people there will better understand your passion. And you can always turn to family. It’ll get better, I promise!

Curious about cross-training with weights? Click here to watch Katie break down dancer-specific exercises.

Latest Posts

Protocol like mandatory face masks, temperature checks, and careful class staging have become the norm at comps and conventions like NYCDA (Evolve Photo & Video, courtesy NYCDA)

4 Industry Leaders Walk Us Through the State of the Competition/ Convention World

After a year of tumult, virtual events and constantly moving targets, it's more than reasonable to wonder: What exactly is the state of the competition world?

For months, we didn't see our favorite friends and teachers unless it was through a screen—now, against all odds, programs are rising from the ashes to bring you meaningful training and performance opportunities both in person and online. We asked four prominent competition/convention directors to give you the inside scoop on what to expect from this season (and, yes, that includes Nationals).

Keep Reading SHOW LESS
Photo by Matthew Karas/MOVE|NYC|

Blu Furutate is Your March Cover Model Search Editors' Choice Winner

Congratulations to the March Cover Model Search Editors' Choice video winner, Blu Furutate! Watch her solo below, and be sure to enter the Cover Model Search here.

Keep Reading SHOW LESS
Students at NYU Tisch School of the Arts (Clara Reed, courtesy NYU Tisch School of the Arts)

How College Seniors Can Make the Best of Graduating During a Pandemic

If you're a college student, there are some guarantees. The dining hall food will be bad. Your communal shower will be gross. You will sleep through class (at least) once. And at the end of it all, you will walk across a stage and move the tassel on your hat and—finally!—graduate.

But not even college traditions are immune to the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic. Because while dining hall food may remain terrible, communal bathrooms disgusting and alarm clocks just a little too quiet, graduating in the midst of a global pandemic will be different.

And that's not just because, at many schools, COVID protocols will require that your graduation be held virtually. Dancers today are graduating into a different job market—one plagued by company closures, performance cancellations, and significant challenges facing the arts industry as a whole.

We know, we know. It sounds pretty bleak. But with vaccination rates rising and live performances slowly returning to stages, there is a light at the end of the pandemic tunnel. And to make sure you're ready for graduation (even in a time that nobody could have prepared for), we spoke with faculty at two top dance schools about what students can do differently this year to prep for life postgrad.

Keep Reading SHOW LESS

Editors' Picks

Enter the Cover Model Search