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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Mind
"When I would get competitive over every little thing, my teachers would remind me that there is no perfect dancer out there," says ballet student Alina Taratorin. (Photo by Oliver Endahl, courtesy Taratorin)

Ballet dancer Alina Taratorin has struggled to control her competitive nature for years. "When I was younger," the 17-year-old Bayer Ballet Academy student says, "I would get so intimidated by the other dancers at competitions. If someone made a nasty face at me or did intimidating stretches, I would actually shake and fall onstage because of it." Her desire to win was strong, but rather than channeling that desire in a productive way, she'd attack herself. "I tend to overanalyze everything," she says. "I had to learn to control my own mind."

These days, Alina uses an array of mental tricks to perform at her peak without getting psyched out by the competition. Are you struggling with overly competitive tendencies? Try these tips from the experts to bring balance to your dancing life.

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Mind
Photo by Erin Baiano

If there's one thing every dancer is always working on, it's her pirouette. It's no secret that this skill takes years of honing and practice. But in addition to solid technique, perfect pirouettes require a lot of strength. We turned to Roman Zhurbin, soloist with American Ballet Theatre and owner of Roman Empire Fitness, for a breakdown of the best ways to strengthen the muscles used in a pirouette.

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Fitness Tutorials

Dagmar Sternad is a professor of biology, physics, and electrical and computer engineering at Northeastern University. She's also a bit of a dance obsessive. And her innovative work with ballet dancers could have far-ranging implications for the worlds of both medicine and robotics.

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Health & Body
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 in recovery from a binge-eating disorder. While I'm doing much better than before, I'm still really insecure about my body, and am always comparing myself to others. How can I reset my perspective?

Alyson

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Dear Katie

As a dedicated dancer, you're probably pretty proud of the number of hours you spend in the studio. You may even feel guilty whenever you divert from your normal non-stop routine. But time spent outside the studio can actually be super beneficial for your dancing.

Here are seven non-dance activities that can help you become a better dancer.

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Health & Body
Photo by Erin Baiano

When it comes to injury-prone body parts, knees reign supreme for dancers. But a little strengthening can go a long way in preventing painful outcomes. We turned to Dirk Hartog, a physical therapist with Westside Dance Physical Therapy in NYC, for three exercises that'll support and stabilize your knees.

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Fitness
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Dancers are naturally "in their heads" all the time—but not always in productive ways. Long days of receiving and applying corrections, taking class, and performing can get to even the most composed individuals. What should you do when you feel like your mind is just as busy as your rehearsal schedule? Try meditation. Dance Spirit turned to Adreanna Limbach, a head teacher at NYC-based meditation studio MNDFL, for a breakdown of this highly beneficial practice.

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Mind
Dancers celebrating National Dance Day (via Instagram)

Back in 2010, "So You Think You Can Dance" producer Nigel Lythgoe established National Dance Day, an annual celebration of all things dance and a fundraiser for the dance education nonprofit then known as the Dizzy Feet Foundation. Since then, NDD has become a phenomenon. Each year, dancers and dance fans have learned an official NDD routine, showed up in droves for high-profile NDD events at the Kennedy Center and Segerstrom Center for the Arts, and hosted countless NDD parties of their own—always on the last Saturday in July.

But there are big changes afoot (see what we did there?) this year. The 2019 celebration will jump forward a few months on the calendar, to Saturday, September 21st. And Dizzy Feet has undergone an evolution of its own, with a new focus on the health benefits of dance, a new collaboration with the American Heart Association, and a new name: American Dance Movement.

We caught up with Lythgoe to talk about the reasons for all the ch-ch-ch-ch-changes.

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Dance News
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Chances are, you're regrettably familiar with those unpleasant pre-period symptoms known as premenstrual syndrome, or PMS. PMS is a sign of a healthy, functioning body, but it's still frustrating to deal with every month—especially during long Nationals rehearsals or summer intensive classes. Dance Spirit turned to Dr. Lauren Streicher, a gynecologist and clinical professor at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine, for advice on all things PMS.

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Body Buzz
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Tackling an exercise regimen with focus and dedication can really pay off in your dance career, and there's a definite thrill associated with seeing your technique, strength, and stamina improve. But what happens when your drive morphs into something that's driving you? That's what exercise addiction feels like: a sense that you have to do more. "Exercise addiction controls you," says Diane Israel, a psychotherapist who specializes in body image and is an adjunct professor at Naropa University. Israel is also an exercise addiction survivor and a former world-class runner and triathlete. "It has a different quality than exercise that's joyful, and that you know is good for you," she says.

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Mind
Photo by Erin Baiano

In our "Dear Katie" series, MCB 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 14 and have been studying ballet seriously for about three years. Even though I feel ready, my teachers haven't put me on pointe yet. Am I doing something wrong? Should I ask them about it, or is it pointe-less?

Leilani

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Dear Katie
Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater's Samantha Figgins (Andrew Eccles)

Samantha Figgins is currently in her fifth season with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater (and was a Dance Spirit cover girl back in 2013!). But what many people don't know is that the gorgeous dancer suffers from single-sided deafness. As a baby, Figgins contracted spinal meningitis, which caused her to lose all hearing in her right ear. She never gave up on her dance dreams, though, and fought her way through uncomfortable situations, never missing an opportunity to learn and grow. Now, after getting her first pair of hearing aids, she opens up about her path to success. —(As told to Courtney Celeste Spears)

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Off the Record
For the love of all that is beautiful, STOP before you pop! (Getty Images)

It's the day before your big recital and you've won the battle against your breakout—only to be left with the parting gift of unsightly dark marks in its place. While acne scarring can be challenging to treat, it's easy to prevent. Dance Spirit turned to Dr. Yunyoung Claire Chang, a board-certified cosmetic dermatologist in NYC, for advice on combatting this frustrating issue.

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Beauty

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