(Photo by Nathan Sayers)
My hamstrings are so tight! They’re limiting my extension. Do you know of any good stretches to loosen them up? —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.
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
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.
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
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.
Last week Disney Channel star Sofia Wylie released a behind-the-scenes look at the making of her YouTube dance series. Along with some stellar dancing, the video shows the dance community featured in her "4k Dance Series" and the things they've learned from being a part of the dance project. And though the project features dance, we love that it also emphasizes supporting and building up fellow dancers.
Showstopper has been making its impact on the dance world since 1978. Before then, dancers didn't have a stage to perform on, the opportunity to learn from peers, or a competitive outlet like most sports. Debbie Roberts recognized this missing piece in the dance community and that is how America's first and longest running dance competition, Showstopper, was born. Debbie taught dance for over 26 years and owned and operated her own dance studio for 20 years. She is now the owner and National Director of Showstopper, along side her husband, Dave Roberts. Dancer, teacher, business owner, author, and mother, Debbie has made dance her life's career.
Sometimes, you hear talk about an upcoming class video and it sounds too good to be real. Wait: Todrick Hall made a track featuring RuPaul, and then Todrick personally asked Brian Friedman to choreograph it, and then Brian got Maddie and Charlize and Jade and Kaycee and Sean and Gabe and Larsen and Bailey to come out for the class? I just...that can't be right. Can it?
It is right, friends. It is SO RIGHT.
Team USA is totally taking over "Dancing with the Stars" this season! Casting for the upcoming athletes-only "DWTS" cycle, which kicks off April 30, was just announced. And the roster includes a whole bunch of Olympic favorites—including not one, not two, but three figure-skating standouts.
Winter is drawing to a close and you know what that means -- It's time to really kick this year into gear! Move U has done the research so you can find your best match, look good, and feel great this season with a twist unique to your team! Here are five looks to put your performance on the map in 2018.
With several Shaping Sound tours and TV credits like "So You Think You Can Dance," "Dancing with the Stars," and "Boardwalk Empire" to her name, you wouldn't expect Kate Harpootlian to be refreshingly down-to-earth. But that's exactly how she is: As soon as you start talking to the gifted dancer and choreographer, it becomes clear that she doesn't take herself too seriously. And she's happy to tell hilarious stories to prove it. (Ask her about the time she did a Mr. Peanut impression when Mia Michaels asked her to improvise, or the time she starred in a Japanese makeup commercial and had to do grand pliés wearing one pointe shoe and one flat shoe.)
That mixture of humor and grace is evident in Harpootlian's growing body of choreographic work. Her one-act show Better Late Than Never, for example, which premiered last summer, has a jazzy, West Side Story vibe, offsetting heavier moments with touches of whimsy. "There's always a balance in my work," Harpootlian says. "I want to use humor to balance out the darker aspects. It's like one of my friends once said: 'You make me laugh, and then you make me feel bad for laughing.' "
In our "Dear Katie" series, former NYCB soloist Kathryn Morgan answers your pressing dance questions. Have something you want to ask Katie? Email firstname.lastname@example.org for a chance to be featured!
I grip my quads, and I don't know how to stop. I'm totally overdeveloping my quad muscles. How can I retrain myself so I use my legs correctly? Help!
You know that pirouette dream, when your placement is so perfect you can keep turning forever? That dream is the reality for highly technical tappers, who benefit from the decreased friction of their shoes. Get the placement right and, with a strong spot, they can pirouette for days.
But turning in tap shoes isn't all easy. In fact, those delightfully friction-free shoes bring their own set of challenges, and dancers can easily fall into the spinning-top trap by letting the turn control them, rather than the other way around. Here's how to harness your tap-turning potential.
Given that we're still processing our own sadness about the recent dissolution of the couple formerly known as #TeamTatum, we can only imagine how many feelings Jenna Dewan must be feeling. But like all dancers, Dewan knows the best way to deal with big emotions is to dance through them.