New Year, New Goals

January 1 is the perfect time to hit the “refresh" button on your dance training and shake off whatever was holding you back last year. It might be hard to believe, but even the most amazing dancers use this time of year to look for ways they can improve and set new goals. Here are 10 pros' resolutions.

Photo by Gene Schiavone

Whitney Jensen, Boston Ballet Soloist

“I want to focus on being more creative in the roles I dance and the way I approach the process of taking on a character. Also, I'd like to start doing more choreography. We have a lot of amazing young choreographers at Boston Ballet, and right now I'm working with Paolo Arrais on a contemporary pas de deux. The experience has inspired me to begin working on a piece of my own."

Courtesy Fox

Sasha Mallory, “So You Think You Can Dance" Season 8 Runner-Up

“My New Year's Resolution is to push hard, to grow and to create, whether in my choreography, teaching, performing or personal relationships. I try to learn from every

experience. For example, if I went to my little cousin's play, I'd see what I could learn from the kids, because kids are always inventing new ways to perform. You can learn from anything if you're aware."

Photo by Gene Schiavone

Sam Black, Mark Morris Dance Company

“I'd like to go see more shows. There are so many great shows to see in NYC. It's important for me to see what my friends and peers are doing—supporting other people helps me to be a part of the bigger dance community. I live in Brooklyn, so I plan to go to shows at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. They host a lot of international companies and have a range from well-known, established choreographers to lesser-known choreographers that need exposure and audiences."

Photo by Leopoldo Bayol

Martin and Facundo Lombard, aka “The Lombard Twins," Tap and “Free Expression" Artists

“Right now, we're writing a script for a feature film called Dreamers. It's an autobiographical drama with a lot of dancing and it's based on a play that we wrote a few years ago and toured Europe with. Our goal for next year is to finish the script and sell it. Then, we're going to go to every producer and production company in L.A., and we're going to knock on doors and tell people about it. That's what we used to do when we were younger—that's how we ended up performing with Michael Jackson and James Brown, and how we got into Step Up 3D. When you have a dream, you just have to go for it."

Photo by Todd Rosenberg

Alice Klock, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago

“I'd like to become more bold in my dancing, and to do my best with real conviction whether I feel confident about it or not. I just joined Hubbard Street in August, so I learned a lot of repertory in a short amount of time. I worried about doing everything correctly, so I would pull things back a bit and focus more on the steps than the feeling of the piece. By performance time, I finally got to that feeling, but if I had really danced right off the bat and made the mistakes I was so worried about making, the rehearsal director might have been able to help me more. I think if you just put out everything you have in rehearsal, that's when you can be the most productive."

Photo by Melissa Hamburg/Courtesy Broadway Dance Center

Jared Grimes, Tap Instructor at Broadway Dance Center

“I have the same resolution every year: to be on time. I've gotten a lot better, but punctuality is tough for me. I have a crazy schedule, with training and rehearsals and shows, and it's getting busier. This year, it's all about staying on schedule."

Photo by Derek White

Shonica Gooden, Bring It On: The Musical

“Sometimes I find myself being so much of a perfectionist when I'm dancing that I forget to have fun with it. As part of the Bring It On cast, I've learned that I have to find a happy medium between being a professional and enjoying myself. Our profession is work, but it's also a lot of fun. I think sometimes we think 'professional' means 'no mistakes' and that we're not still learning. When I tell myself to just let loose and enjoy a class, it's so much easier to do the movement. My resolution is to be a healthy perfectionist: to keep myself on my toes and remain humble, but also to enjoy the process."

Photo by Old Hat Creative

Marisa Viestenz, Oklahoma City Thunder Girls

“I want to run a half marathon. We [the Thunder Girls] work with our trainer, Steve Clausen, year-round both as a group and on our own. He makes us do some tough stuff—like rolling tires across the floor—that helps us get stronger and keeps us in shape. I never liked running before, but I enjoy it now. This year, I'll follow one of his training guidelines for running."

Photo by Erik Tomasson

Lorena Feijoo, San Francisco Ballet Principal Dancer

“This year, I want to make an effort to spend more time with people who are important in my life. Every time I do, it grounds me and helps me put things in perspective. To be great at anything, you need to be a great human being first."

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For the young child, it was love at first sight.

"I saw a beautiful, black Clara," Ashton says, "and I wanted to be just like her."

Ashton has dedicated 14 years of ballet training in pursuit of that childhood dream. But all the technical prowess in the world can't help Ashton surmount the biggest hurdle—this aspiring dancer was assigned male at birth, and for the vast majority of boys and men, performing in pointe shoes hasn't been a career option. But Ashton Edwards, who uses the pronouns "he" and "they," says it's high time to break down ballet's gender barrier, and their teachers and mentors believe this passionate dancer is just the person to lead the charge.

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Don't worry—you won't have to shoulder the load alone. Dance Spirit spoke with two physical therapists who specialize in working with dancers to find out what dance bag is best.

What should dancers look for in a dance bag?

Dr. Meghan Gearhart, physical therapist and owner of Head2Toe Physical Therapy in Charlotte, NC, recommends dancers opt for a backpack-style dance bag rather than a duffel or cross-body bag.

"A bag that pulls the weight all to one side creates a side bend and rotation in the trunk," Gearhart says. "That is going to lead to muscle imbalances that will affect dancers while they're dancing, as well as just in regular everyday life." Muscle imbalances can mean limited mobility on one side of your body, as the muscles on one side are overly contracted and the other side is overly extended to compensate.

Gearhart suggests dancers pick a backpack made from a lightweight yet durable and breathable material, such as cotton, linen, nylon or polyester. Straps should be wide enough to not dig into your shoulder muscles, so avoid drawstring styles with rope straps. Adjustable and padded straps are best, so you can wear the straps at a length where the bag rests at the middle of your back.

Dr. Bridget Kelly Sinha, physical therapist and founder of Balanced Physical Therapy and Dance Wellness in Matthews, NC, emphasizes the importance of finding an even weight distribution when choosing a dance bag.

"If a dancer has a lot to bring, like when heading to the theater for a full day of rehearsals and performances, then I recommend a rolling suitcase to offset the load," Sinha says.

How should dancers wear their bags?

Even if you've selected the perfect dance bag, it's important to be mindful of how you wear it.

Gearhart advocates wearing both straps when carrying your backpack. She also suggests placing heavier items towards the back of the bag, where they will sit closer to your body. A bag with straps that are too loose (or a bag that is too heavy) can create an increased arch in the lower back or cause a dancer to compensate for the weight by leaning forward. Ideally, Gearhart recommends a dancer's dance bag weighing no more than 10 to 15 percent of their body weight.

"I usually tell dancers to use their common sense. If you don't have tap today, you don't need to bring the tap shoes," she says. "If your water bottle makes the bag too heavy, just carry it." If your studio offers lockers, take advantage of that storage space to lessen the number of clothes, shoes, and dance accessories that live in your dance bag.

And if you think your bad dance-bag habits have given you alignment issues, seek out a dance physical therapist to prevent further injuries.

"As a dancer, your body is working so hard all day," Sinha says. "It does not need excess strain from your bag."

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