Dear Katie

(Photo by Nathan Sayers)

Dear Katie,

I can’t figure out how to spot correctly. It’s keeping me from doing more than two pirouettes, and I’m dizzy all the time. Do you have any tips that will help me spot?

Ann

Dear Ann,

You’re definitely not alone! Many people have trouble spotting. My first suggestion is to find something easily visible on the wall opposite you—a crack in the plaster, a painting—and focus your eyes on it. Hold that gaze for as long as you can during each turn before whipping your head around, refocusing on your chosen object each time. Just be sure to select something at eye level. Otherwise, you’ll throw off your balance.

The other key to spotting is to leave your head and neck loose, while making sure your shoulders, torso and legs are held firmly, so they move as a unit. Your head and neck need to be free to whip around as you spot, but if the rest of your body isn’t held, you’ll mess up your balance and lose force.

Dear Katie,

I just found out I have to have surgery on my foot. I’ll be in a boot for several months, and

I won’t be able to take class during that time. What can I do to keep myself in good dance shape?

Madeline

Dear Madeline,

I’m so sorry to hear about your surgery! Coming back from an injury is something I struggled with, too. One of the most important things is to stay positive. Whenever you’re feeling anxious about your situation, recite this mantra: “I’m giving my body the rest it needs. I’ll be able to return to dancing as soon as I heal.” I always say that coming back from an injury is 90 percent mental, so you need to work on the health of your mind as well as your body.

As for staying in shape, seek out exercises you can do without hurting your foot. A physical therapist should assist you with that process. When I was injured, I found Pilates to be really helpful, because it let me work every healthy muscle; mat classes are good for that reason. Swimming can also be a great option, because it’s gentle on your body but helps you keep up your stamina. Talk with your physical therapist to figure out what’s best for you.

Also, this sounds incredibly silly, but it works: When I was injured, I’d sit with my iPod and go through all of my ballets with just my arms, “dancing” in the chair. I probably looked funny, but it kept my brain going and engaged my sense of musicality. Plus, my arms got a fantastic workout!

Dear Katie,

I don’t have an ideal dance body, but I love dancing, and I want to make the most of what I’ve got. What can I do to show off my best features?

Elizabeth

Dear Elizabeth,

I like your attitude! Learning to appreciate the body you have is the first step toward truly loving yourself.

Start by assessing your body type. Are you broader on top, or do you have wider hips, or are you more of an hourglass? Once you’ve figured that out, it’s all about finding dance clothes that flatter your particular shape. For example, I have a very short torso and very long legs. So I try to wear leotards with higher necklines and lower leg cuts, which elongate my middle. Dancers with wide hips might try silhouettes with cap sleeves to balance them out. If you have a tiny waist, accent it with a hip-aligner belt or high-waisted shorts. Figuring out your signature “look” will be a trial-and-error process, but have fun experimenting! Knowing what works best will help you embrace everything you’ve got.

Bonus video! Click here to watch Katie demonstrate exercises that will improve your port de bras.

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