Try writing down all the things you're grateful for—and realize there's even more than you thought! (Getty Images)

Gratitude practice is an exercise that's as straightforward and simple as it sounds—and it can have a major positive impact on your dancing. Here, we break down the basics, benefits, and best ways of practicing gratitude—just in time for Thanksgiving.

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Body Buzz

Traveling is just par for the course when you're a dancer. But spending hours 35,000 feet in the air on a plane can have serious side effects once you land. Here, we break down the biggest pre- and postflight dos and don'ts to help you feel ready for that first summer intensive class the minute you leave the airport.

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Health & Body
Erin Baiano

In our Dear Katie series, Miami City Ballet soloist Kathryn Morgan answers your pressing dance questions. Have something you want to ask Katie? Email dearkatie@dancespirit.com for a chance to be featured!

Dear Katie,

I think I have an eating disorder. My eating habits have been getting worse (binging and purging, fasting, all that) since I moved away from home to study dance. I know it's bad for me, but I haven't had any physical side effects that've affected my technique. I'm worried that if I tell someone, I'll be forced to stop dancing so I can recover. What should I do?

Emilie

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Dear Katie
Kylie Morton Berry performing (Richard Calmes, courtesy Berry)

When Latrice Gregory was hired to dance in a music video for the TV show "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend," she found herself in a surprisingly unfamiliar situation. The video was for show creator Rachel Bloom's song "Heavy Boobs," and "of all the dancers, I had the smallest breasts!" Gregory laughs. "I'm used to being the largest in a group. I actually felt a little inadequate!"

Dancing backup in a comedic ode to being well-endowed may have been a niche job, but Gregory has had no trouble finding mainstream work. A former Knicks City Dancer, Gregory has also worked with Beyoncé, Jennifer Hudson, and Cardi B, as well as on the shows "Fresh Off the Boat" and "Jane the Virgin." Her resumé is proof that, despite the dance world's traditional straight-and-slim aesthetic, there's room for other body types to shine.

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Dancer to Dancer
Getty Images

Let's be frank: Most dancewear isn't designed with larger breasts in mind. But that paradigm is—slowly—changing.

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Dancer to Dancer
Kylie Morton Berry in performance (Abigail Werner, courtesy Berry)

Kylie Morton Berry, principal dancer and ballet mistress with the Appalachian Ballet Company, shares her story.

I developed breasts late—around age 15—but it happened fast. By senior year of high school, I was wearing a DD-cup. I didn't grow or gain weight anywhere else, so I was very uncomfortable. I felt out of proportion. Also, I'm hypermobile, and having that much weight on the front of my body gave me lower back pain.
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Dancer to Dancer
Nanette Grebe/Getty Images

Have you heard the story about the dancer who needed a double hip replacement…at age 16?

It's not an urban legend—just ask iconic choreographer Mia Michaels. In a video series about dance injuries, produced by Apolla Performance Footwear, Michaels tells the tale of a teenage comp kid who pushed so hard she ended up in surgery.

That dancer's harrowing story was one of the inspirations for the Bridge Dance Project. The new initiative—brainchild of Jan Dunn, co-director of Denver Dance Medicine Associates, and Kaycee Cope Jones, COO of Apolla—aims to connect members of the competition and commercial dance communities with dance science experts. While many academic and professional concert dancers have benefited from recent advances in dance medicine, that information hasn't made its way to most of the young students in convention ballrooms. And as the technical demands on those students increase, so does the number of injuries.

We talked to Dunn and Jones about how the Bridge Dance Project was born, the initiative's long-term goals, and why young competition and commercial dancers should make injury prevention a priority.

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Health & Body
Don't end up out of commission because of overuse injuries. (Getty Images)

As dancers, we always want to be doing #TheMost—more turns, springier jumps, higher extensions. We want to cram as many technique classes as we can into our already-busy schedules. But our bones, muscles, and tendons can't always keep pace with those ambitious training goals. That's when overuse injuries (aka "the bane of any elite athlete's existence") tend to show up. Dance Spirit enlisted the experts to help you banish these pesky pains from your hardworking dancer bod.

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Health & Body
Because there's a right (and a wrong) way to stretch (Getty Images)

If you've seen it once, you've seen it a million times: a pic or vid of an über-flexible dancer stretching her enviably limber limbs. She's got her banana feet jammed between a portable barre and the floor, or a Gumby-esque leg propped impossibly high on a dresser. You've probably felt jealous of her wow-worthy flexibility.

But Ashley deLalla, a physical therapist and Pilates instructor with the Children's Hospital of the King's Daughters' Dance Medicine Program in Norfolk, VA, has a very different reaction. "It's cringeworthy. I find myself holding my breath, especially when you look at how young these dancers are," she says. Athletic trainer and acupuncturist Megan Richardson, who's on staff at the Harkness Center for Dance Injuries in NYC, agrees: "Overstretching—forcing yourself into an extreme position for a long time, or doing the wrong stretch for what you're trying to achieve—has always been a cultural problem in the dance world." So what is the right way to stretch? We're so glad you asked.

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Health & Body
Splish splash, you should be taking a bath! (Getty Images)

After a grueling day in the studio, it's important to give your tired muscles some extra TLC. Baths are a great way to aid recovery, but figuring out the most effective temperature can get complicated—should you go piping hot, or ice cold? Here, we break down the benefits of both.

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Health & Body
Photo by Cooper Bilington

For dancers, stretching is one of those things that fall into the "second-nature" category—at some point each day, you'll likely be found in a split, a straddle, or with your leg up on the barre. But stretching incorrectly can cause some serious problems. Dance Spirit turned to athletic trainer and acupuncturist Megan Richardson, who's on staff at the Harkness Center for Dance Injuries, for advice on how to safely execute three common dancer stretches.

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Fitness

For the longest time, dancers were expected to be thin above all. Well-meaning dance teachers used to warn against dancers "getting too bulky." A "serious" dancer wouldn't dream of partaking in any other kind of sport or physical activity—let alone (gasp!) weightlifting.

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Branch Out
Photo by Erin Baiano

In our Dear Katie series, Miami City Ballet soloist Kathryn Morgan answers your pressing dance questions. Have something you want to ask Katie? Email dearkatie@dancespirit.com for a chance to be featured!


Dear Katie,

I'm a 14-year-old dancer, and my biggest dream is to become a professional. I have pretty good technique (though I'm still a work in progress, of course). My issue is my weight. I'm not overweight at all—in the regular world, I'm quite slim—but I'm bigger than the other dancers in my class. Should I work on losing weight if I want to become a professional? Or do you think I can find a company that will take me as I am?

Elizabeth

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Dear Katie
Steven Loch with fellow soloist Leah Merchant in William Forsythe's New Suite (Angela Sterling, courtesy Pacific Northwest Ballet)

Recently, there's been a noticeable push for more education and support surrounding mental illness. And while every industry can benefit from this shift, it's especially overdue in the dance world. "We need to get rid of the stigma," says Nadine Kaslow, a psychologist who works with the dancers of Atlanta Ballet. "The fact is, when you have an ankle injury, you go to a doctor; when you have anxiety, you should go to a therapist."

Kaslow emphasizes that most disorders are treatable and episodic, and if dancers get a proper diagnosis and therapy, they'll feel better—which in turn will improve their dancing. "There is no question that physical performance is linked to mental health," Kaslow says. "If your mental health is not in shape, you're at an increased risk for injury and won't perform optimally."

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