What it Really Means to “Use Your Core”

by Admin3. February 2014 11:39

By Katherine Moore of Dance Informa.

"Use your core, engage your abdominals, suck in your belly.... " These are all phrases that dancers hear over and over again. The idea of "using of your abs" seems fairly straight forward. Just contract your abdominals, right?

One of the difficult things about understanding the core muscles is that they are not easily seen. But wait, you're asking, what about all those images of men and women with 6-packs? Don't those people have strong cores? They might, but a visible 6-pack doesn't necessarily mean that a person has a good understanding of their core and how to use it. It does mean that they have very little body fat on their belly and that their rectus abdominus muscle is strong. What many people do not consider is that their core strength involves strength and coordination in many more muscles than the rectus abdominus.

Battling Misconceptions

When teachers refer to "using your core," they are actually referring to a coordinated muscular effort of several muscles in the abdomen, back, and sometimes even the legs. All of these muscles work together to assist with what fitness trainers, yoga teachers, and Pilates teachers often refer to as "core integration."

To understand core integration, it's helpful to know some basic anatomy. If you begin at the outermost layer of the abdomen, your rectus abdominus runs down the front of the belly from the rib cage all the way to pubic bone. This muscle is primarily responsible for postural support and spinal flexion, which modern dancers might have some familiarity with in the form of a "contraction." Below the rectus abdominus are the external and internal obliques, which run in diagonals along the sides of the abdomen to the front of the body and these muscles assist with side bending and twisting, among other actions. Finally, below the obliques is the powerful transverse abdominus. This muscle is often compared to a corset because it wraps all the way around from the back of the body to the front and aids with the compression of internal organs, breathing, and stabilization of the spine.

Additionally, core integration involves many muscles of the back, such as the quadratus lumborum, which runs from the base of the rib cage to the top of the pelvis. This muscle moves and stabilizes the spine in coordination with the eight erector spinae muscles that run up the vertebrae from the sacrum to the back of the skull. Likewise, certain leg muscles, such as the hamstrings, quads, or psoas, may be considered part of the core, depending on the movement. A grand battement to the front, for example, requires a great deal of strength in the psoas and hamstrings, in addition to abdominal support, in order to lift the leg above 90 degrees.  Finally, in coordination with all of these muscular actions, a pulling up of the muscles in the pelvic floor is also essential because it contributes to the internal compression that stabilizes the spine.

Considerations and Real Life Applications

Ok, so now that you know some of the muscles in your core, how do you use them?

One common mistake in dancers when they are told to "use their abs" is to contract their rectus abdominus so tightly, as well as their gluteal muscles, that their freedom of movement is actually limited. This often causes the pelvis to be "tucked," where the tailbone curves more foreword than is necessary. For most warm-up exercises in ballet and other dance styles, working with a "neutral" pelvis, where the sitting bones of the pelvis are pointed directly towards the floor and the spine retains its natural curves, allows for safe but free movement. Core integration should not restrict movement to the point of blocking mobility, but restrict movement only to the point of protecting the spine, pelvis, and surrounding muscles.

The key to finding proper muscular engagement in your core is often one of proper imagery and use of breath. For example, if you are standing in first position, instead of thinking of the front of your belly contracting, you can imagine that your belly button is sliding in towards your spine as you exhale, and then maintain that engagement while continuing to breathe normally. If you are unable to breathe normally, then you are either contracting too hard or not engaging the proper muscles. In fact, the additional compression that occurs in the abdominal muscles while doing this should allow the diaphragm to move more freely, and thus, allow for easier breathing.

Another important consideration when working on the core is the lower back. Similar to over-engaging the front of the belly, dancers often contract the muscles in the lower back too tightly, which can limit range movement and place the lumbar and sacral joints at risk for injury. In this instance, the tendency is to "tip" the pelvis forward and point the tail bone farther back than its neutral alignment. Once again, finding a neutral pelvis and spine is key to properly engaging the core.

For example, when doing a demi plié in first position, instead of thinking of tightening up around your lower back, first imagine that the front of your hip bones are narrowing towards each other  and that the pelvic floor is lifting. Then, as you begin to bend the knees, you can allow the back of the pelvis and the lower back to actually widen, creating more space around the sensitive places in the lower back while supporting the spine as you descend towards the ground. To come up, use your exhale as you lengthen the legs. 

Is Dance Enough?

If you are training regularly with knowledgeable teachers, a regular dance routine may be enough to achieve the core strength you require for your dance technique. However, it is not unusual to find that regular dance training isn't doing quite enough for your core to get you where you want. If you notice that your extensions are not as high as you'd like, your plies not as deep, or your upper body strength inadequate for partnering, it might be appropriate to consider alternative methods of training.

Cross training has long been recommended for dancers to combat injuries and provide extra care to their bodies. Taking on a regular Pilates or yoga class will most certainly help strengthen your core and your understanding of core integration. As with anything in life, consistent and regular practice will make the most difference, so it is important to set a schedule for yourself. Make sure that any class you take is taught by a certified teacher who understands the anatomical principles and the breath coordination necessary for core engagement. 

_____________________________________________________________

Sources:

Perri, TaraMarie. Class Lectures. Mind ® Body Dancer 200-hour Teaching Training Course. September- May, 2013.

Martin, Lynn. Guest Lecture. Mind ® Body Dancer 200-hour Teaching Training Course. January 2013.

Deitzel, Rebecca. Guest Lecture. Mind ® Body Dancer 200-hour Teaching Training Course. December 2013.

Dowd, Irene. Taking to Root to Fly: Articles on Functional Anatomy. New York, 1995.

Clippinger, Karen. Dance Anatomy and KinesiologyPrinciples and Exercises for Improving Technique and Avoiding Common Injuries. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics, 2007.

Tags:

Genevieve Eveleigh's health and dance tips

by Admin17. January 2014 14:49

We’ve asked Capezio Brand Ambassador and student at the Royal Ballet School Genevieve Eveleigh to share with us some of her health & dance tips. Check out her answers below!

Name: Genevieve Grace Eveleigh
Years Dancing:
I’ve been dancing since I was around 3 years old but I only started taking it seriously when I was 13 and was accepted into the Royal Ballet Mid Associates.
Dance Discipline: Ballet
Dance school: Royal Ballet School

Typical food menu for a long day at school: For breakfast, I would have granola and yoghurt with some kind of fruit. My favourites are pomegranate, kiwi or an assorted range of berries. Then for lunch, I would have a pasta dish that I would make before class, something simple like pasta with salmon or chicken. Id also have an apple or another fruit as its a light but filling lunch. Sometimes after class, we go for a frozen yogurt to fill a whole and as a little treat.


Favourite healthy recipe:
I absolutely LOVE smoothies! Theyre tasty and hydrating. My top two smoothies would have to be 1. Raspberry and mango 2. Strawberry and watermelon!

Favourite Capezio product to dance in: Tights. I couldn’t live without them. I don’t buy any other brand!

Favourite song to warm up withReally inspirational music gets me pumped for class. I really like listening to 'Rudimentals' songs as they have really great stories and words behind them. But to be honest, there is nothing I love more than a good Disney song before an audition; they put me in a great mind-set and it makes me so happy!


Showing that you love to dance is really all its about. Class is for technique and perfection but when youre on stage, I kind of have to push that aside and just feel the passion. The more you enjoy yourself, the more the audience will enjoy watching you.

 

Tags:

Capezio Athletes Share New Year’s Resolutions

by Admin13. January 2014 09:24

By Tara Sheena of Dance Informa.

Hear from your favorite dance artists and be inspired for 2014!

What’s your New Year’s Resolution? Do you make goals for yourself at the start of a new year, in the hope of becoming a better dancer, choreographer, or teacher? Even the industry’s most renowned dance artists set new goals for the New Year.  Dance Informa spoke to four of our favourite Capezio Athletes about their plans for 2014...

Tiffany Hedman

“What's next for me is actually a big question. I'm not someone who is complacent and satisfied staying at one even level in any area of my life. I want to be constantly enriching my life both on and off stage. I've decided to relocate and embark on a new adventure with a different artistic home for this new season ahead of us. I am taking steps forward to reach my ultimate goal and although it is hard to leave behind such wonderful memories, I take all of it with me in my heart.”

Sarah Hay

Sarah Hay. Photo by Ian Whalen.

“My hopes and dreams are to have my family healthy and happy, to find peace in my life and to inspire others as well as be inspired. I don't have any resolutions that are just for the New Year, I like to constantly be challenging myself all year long to achieve what I have set out to.”

Sarah Hay

“I think 2013 was a year of big personal growth for me.  I am very happy to be where I am and I am very fortunate to have everything that I have.  My goals for the future are almost the same every year.  I hope this year brings new experiences and more good work to be done.  I also wish to become even more of an open book to connect with the audiences.  I want the audience to be able to feel my emotions.  What I love about this career is that there are always things to improve and discover which will make personal growth a goal for me until the end of it.”

Sabra Johnson

“I'm in my third year of dancing with a dance theater company - Tanz Theater Darmstadt in Germany.  When I started I had no idea what that was.  Turns out it's extremely eclectic and entertaining!”

Adrienne Canterna. Photo courtesy of Adrienne Canterna.

Adrienne Canterna. Photo courtesy of Adrienne Canterna.

“My director, Mei Hong Lin, is fantastic— she is demanding but has a clear vision.  She gives us a basis for our character or scene and then complete freedom of choreography.  I have found it exciting, fun, and interesting, but mostly it can drive me CRAZY having to continually recreate myself!   But that is exactly the best part.  I grow and grow and grow, and in other ways I would not have foreseen. But when I look back I know I've learned, and that is satisfying.  I'm not sure what this new year will bring, but I'm hoping I can be better yet!”

Adrienne Canterna

“I'm so excited for 2014. What a blessing it is to be given a new year to dream, live, love, work and grow! In 2014, I will watch my sweet little girl graduate from kindergarten, start 1st grade and hopefully continue to excel in dance and gymnastics!”

“I will continue to tour the world with my company Rasta Thomas' Bad Boys of Dance with our two shows, ROCK the Ballet and Romeo & Juliet. We will tour over 10 countries and countless cities, giving up to eight shows a week throughout the year. What a joy it is, to share the gift of dance to fans across the globe!”

Tags:

5 Foods That Dancers Must Eat

by Admin7. January 2014 13:30

By Emily C. Harrison MS, RD, LD for Dance Informa

Dancers are performing athletes. As a former professional ballet dancer myself, I wish I had better understood what a big impact eating good food can have on performance, risk for injuries, and of course, how we look in a pair of tights. Now as a nutritionist for dancers, my message is always to eat well and choose foods wisely. But how is a dancer to know what good choices are? Here are my tips for the top 5 foods (or food groups) that dancers must eat.

Apples, blueberries, pineapple, and pretty much all fruits

Fruit is the perfectly portable pre-rehearsal snack. Having trouble remembering that ballet you learned last year? Flavonoid-rich foods like blueberries have been shown to enhance spatial memory and speed rates of learning. The dark red skins of apples and grapes contain polyphenols, which have a protective effect against oxidative stress. Pineapple has been shown to reduce inflammation.

These high-water content foods, which are packed with fiber, vitamins and phytonutrients, are low in calories and have almost no fat. The body absorbs Vitamin C much better from an actual piece of fruit than some mega-dose powdered mix. Fruits have been given a bad rap for their sugar, but it is naturally occurring fructose not the processed sugar you find in bars or beverages. The quick burst of energy they give you can be a good thing when eaten during a short break or intermission. Avoid fruit juice and stick to the whole fruit.

Beets, greens, and other performance enhancing veggies

A certain cyclist may have taken the term “performance enhancing” to a different level, but in sports nutrition we know that certain veggies do actually help athletic performance. All veggies contain bioactive compounds such as polyphenols, flavonoids, carotenoids and lycopene. Sure they fight cancer and all, but they can also help you on stage today. Naturally occurring nitrates in foods like beets, arugula, spinach and rhubarb have been shown to significantly improve performance with better power output and speed. Dancers might see benefits by eating more of these veggies and/or drinking beetroot juice. Nitrates help the body deliver more oxygen to working muscles and increase muscle endurance. Nitrates from pills have not shown the same benefits as eating the actual veggie containing them. Regularly eating beets, kale and other veggies will help you get through those tough pieces of choreography.

Quinoa

Quinoa is a grain with a long history, but it is becoming very popular today. It is one of the only grains that is a complete protein. It also cooks faster than rice, absorbs flavors nicely, is cheap and a great source of energy promoting carbs. Carbohydrates are the preferred source of fuel for all athletic activity so dancers should be trying to get a broad range of carbs from whole grains like quinoa, brown rice, wheat, barley, rye and oats. Cook quinoa in water on the stove just like you cook rice - one cup of quinoa to two cups water or vegetable broth. 

Almond Milk

Dancers are at higher than average risk for stress fractures. It’s time for dancers to think outside of the (milk) box for getting more of their crucial calcium and Vitamin D. One cup of a leading brand vanilla almond milk contains 45 percent daily value of calcium and 25 percent daily value of Vitamin D. Plus, it is a beautiful source of Vitamin E, which is often lacking in dancers’ low fat diets. It also has zinc and Vitamin A, which are both important for a strong immune system. Keep in mind that bone health is more than just calcium and Vitamin D. Did you know that Vitamin K is important for strong bones, prevention of stress fractures and osteoporosis? Good sources are leafy greens like kale, spinach, chard and even broccoli - yet another reason to love greens!

Black Beans

Getting more of your protein from plant-based sources and eating less meat is the single most important thing you can do for prevention of disease. I consider this right up there with not smoking. Beans are a very inexpensive and easy way to consume protein, iron, zinc, fiber and disease-fighting phytonutrients. For example, one half cup of black beans has only 114 calories but about eight grams of protein. Dancers need multiple sources of protein but don’t have money to spare. You can make a great pot of three-bean chili in a slow cooker for less than $2 per serving. A full cup of organic pinto beans only costs $0.33. Throw all the ingredients together in the morning and your slow cooker will take care of the rest.

How do you put all this in practice? Here is my Protein Packed Quinoa recipe which uses most of these ingredients. Drink a side of Almond milk and you will feel and dance great.

Ingredients:
1 cup uncooked quinoa

1 cup cooked black beans
½  pineapple chopped into small pieces
2 mangos chopped into small pieces
2 limes, squeeze the juice into separate bowl
1.5 Tbs olive oil
1/2 cup cilantro chopped
1 tsp salt
½ tsp red pepper flakes
2 cups water

Preparation:

Boil 2 cups of water in medium pot. Add quinoa and reduce heat to simmer. Cook uncovered for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Transfer cooked quinoa to large bowl and add pre-cooked black beans, pineapple and mango. In a separate smaller bowl, whisk dressing together using lime juice, olive oil, cilantro, salt and red pepper. Mix well. Add dressing and mix well.

Tags:

Nutrition

Drinks that Dancers Should Avoid

by Admin7. January 2014 13:05

By Emily C. Harrison MS, RD, LD for Dance Informa.

Dancing is thirsty work! We all know that hydration is important, but you shouldn’t drink just anything. If you’re serious about your dancing and your health it’s important to select the right drinks to quench your thirst. Generally, most things in moderation are fine.  However, some drinks can have serious health effects and should be avoided.

Avoid Energy Drinks

Now more than a 5.7 billion dollar per year industry1, the FDA is investigating reported deaths and injuries possibly associated with these caffeine bombs. In the US, the FDA is considering action limiting energy drinks and some of their false marketing2,3.  One energy drink has about the same sugar as 30 jelly beans, but the jolt of “energy” that you get isn’t so much from the sugar as it is from the 200-350 mg of caffeine in each can. Real energy to dance only comes from when you eat and metabolize actual food.  The high sugar in some of these products does give you a short burst of quick energy, but it’s the caffeine that stimulates the central nervous system.  Certainly, a little caffeine is fine and can make you more alert.  However, excess caffeine each and every day places dancers at higher risk for injury for three main reasons.
- Caffeine is an appetite suppressant and it makes you jittery, so dancers might accidently or intentionally exercise without enough real fuel (calories) which can lead to an injury.
- Energy drinks lead to increased fluid losses from the body and the first two signs of dehydration are fatigue and poor balance.
- Energy drinks and other drinks with high caffeine are often acidic which can lead to increased calcium loss from bones, placing dancers at higher risk for stress fractures long term.

Avoid Juices, Powders and Shakes with Excessive Doses of Vitamins    

Generally the body doesn't absorb nutrients well when they are taken in unnaturally high doses all at one time.  Our bodies absorb nutrients best when obtained from real food because food contains other co-factors in just the right amounts that help vitamins absorb into our systems the way they were meant to. Dancers should take supplements with caution, including drinks containing supplements.

B vitamins are often added to juices, bars, and energy drinks.  But very few people are actually deficient in B vitamins when they eat a normal diet.  B vitamins themselves don’t give you energy; it’s the carbs, fat, and protein that do that.

Be careful of vitamin C drink powders.  We typically need between 45-85 mg of vitamin C per day, not 1000mg!  All that vitamin C is in the form of ascorbic acid, which if taken in high doses results in calcium loss from the bones.

Some supplements are OK and can be needed. Vitamin D, for example, is hard to get from your diet and dancers aren’t always out in the sun. So dancers might need to supplement with 400-600 IU.  But don’t go overboard! Vitamin D in extremely high doses can be toxic.  Talk with a dietitian to see what you personally need and in what quantity.

Avoid Sugary Beverages

Dancers can’t afford to drink empty calories.  Many sodas, teas, and juices can have more sugar than a bag of candy.  Diet or sugar-free drinks have artificial sweeteners that can be up to 600 times sweeter than regular table sugar.  They change our perception of what sweet tastes like by tricking the taste receptors in the mouth.  So we lose the sweet joy of a summer strawberry or winter carrot.

Sugar alcohols (xylitol, sorbitol, etc) are also low-calorie but can cause stomach upset and gas if you consume too much of them.  Even many so called natural sweeteners are still processed. Don’t be fooled by the term “natural”, it is quite meaningless when it comes to drinks and most foods. This word is only legally defined when it comes to meat, chicken, or eggs.

Women who regularly drink sugary beverages might be at higher risk for heart disease and stroke, even if they don't gain weight. Sugary drinks are a factor in a woman's waist size getting larger, even if her weight stays the same. Just making a small change to drinking mostly water can make a big difference over time4.

_______________________________________________________

Sources:

1. Malinauskas BM et al.  A survey of energy drink consumption patterns among college students. 2007  www.nutritionj.com/content/6/1/35

2. www.nytimes.com/2012/11/16/business/scrutiny-of-energy-drinks-grows.html

3. FDA Investigation into adverse effects of energy drinks. www.fda.gov/downloads/AboutFDA/CentersOffices/OfficeofFoods/CFSAN/CFSANFOIAElectronicReadingRoom/UCM328270.pdf
www.fda.gov/Food/NewsEvents/ucm328536.htm

4. Tufts University Health and Nutrition Newsletter 2013.

Tags:

Nutrition

Understanding Yoga for Dancers

by Admin3. January 2014 13:08

By Katherine Moore of Dance Informa.

It seems that everyone is doing yoga these days, and dancers are no exception. In New York City, yoga studios are cropping up on every corner, offering a myriad of class options and styles, all with a different heritage and place within the tradition of the yoga practice.

Despite differences in approach – most forms of yoga are in contemporary – western life all promise the benefits of improved strength and flexibility, which also happens to be two of the most common cornerstones of most dance techniques. It’s no wonder that the physical component of the yoga practice is a natural draw for many dancers to get on the mat. But you might ask – what keeps them there? How does yoga actually contribute to a dancer’s technique and performance skills? Is there something more to the picture than the physical training?

Making Observations

TaraMarie Perri, an experienced yoga practitioner and certified teacher, is also a lifelong dancer and faculty member at the Dance Department of New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. While pursuing her MFA in Dance Performance and Choreography at NYU, Perri began looking for outlets to experience her body in new ways. Perri, a self-professed “nature nut,” had always been interested in alternative practices of connecting to nature and energy, and she reasoned that the physical element of yoga would probably pique her artistic and athletic curiosities as a dancer. But when she took her first yoga class at a studio in New York’s East Village, she did not expect that a whole new world of understanding the mind and the body would become available to her.

Yoga for dancers“Yoga was way more intellectual than I’d ever imagined. It was so vast. It taught me about my body in a different language,” says Perri.

This language proved to be a new and valuable tool she could use on the mat in yoga practice, or off the mat in dance class or performance. Eventually, Perri received her yoga teaching certification, and when she began teaching, she realized that there was an opportunity and need to share this valuable information to performers and non-performers alike.

“When I started teaching yoga, I started to realize there were some core lessons and ways to compartmentalize the information to share with others,” Perri says.

In 2009, Perri founded Mind Body Dancer ®, “a community for teachers and students of yoga.” Offering classes and workshops internationally, around the country, and throughout the city in studios such as Steps on Broadway, Mark Morris Dance Center and Broadway Dance Center, Mind Body Dancer ® specializes in teaching mindful, Vinyasa-style yoga classes that emphasize sustainable movement pathways and overall mind/body wellness. Mind Body Dancer ® is also part of the curriculum at the dance department of NYU. With ongoing research and education in the arts and sciences and an active teacher-training program, Mind Body Dancer® offers dancers, and non-dancers, the opportunity to observe and learn about their bodies and minds in a safe environment.

Perri says, “While dance training can often be product-oriented, yoga can be more experiential. It can give dancers a new framework to view their instrument, which frees up the performer self to be an artist.”

TaraMarie Perri

TaraMarie Perri. Photo by Matthew Murphy.

Finding Balance

One of the ways in which this framework can help dancers is an understanding of individual anatomy and how it functions uniquely for each person. Perri recommends that, even though the student is ultimately responsible for his or her own body in any class, it is important to practice yoga with a teacher who understands anatomical alignment and the limitations that are possible. This will allow students to learn about anatomy with a fresh perspective outside of dance vocabulary, and it will also help students to find a balance between strength and flexibility, which can combat the repetitive stress training that sometimes occurs in dance.

For example, Perri looks to the hips and a classically-trained dancer’s constant concern with turnout: “Alignment-based teachers know that external rotation of the femur in the hip joint does not equal turnout. There are many possibilities between internal and external rotation, and within that range you can find stability in the joints. It’s about protecting your alignment AND finding better function. Where can you function best within your rotation and still maintain the aesthetic of the dance form you are in? It’s about finding the balance and intentionally standing there that way,” she says.

Beyond the hips, Perri acknowledges yoga’s power to support dancing bodies in a myriad of ways. A consistent yoga practice can teach students how to stabilize their joints at the barre, how to harness the upper body’s strength in floor work and partnering choreography, and how to tell the difference between hypermobile joints and true muscular flexibility. In effect, moving through a balanced, creatively-sequenced Vinyasa class ends up working the entire body.

Perri says, “Take the feet, for example. Through the cycle of postures, especially the Warrior postures, the foot works in so many angles, and the foot is taught proper support and stability. The foot gets a chance to move in all the ways that it can, which can support dancers of all training and backgrounds.”

Additionally, the yoga practice teaches the coordination of the breath with movement, so that breathing and movement become a dynamic system that work together to support the body and the mind.

Yoga for dancersMaking Connections

“Part of yoga is training the body, part is training the mind, but training the mind body connection is a different instrument,” Perri says.

With this perspective, Perri affirms that there is much more to yoga than understanding anatomy and the physical body.

“The yoga practice should be viewed as support for life, as opposed to support for dance training. It is cross training, but it’s also something else. Looking at it simply as cross training limits yoga’s capacity to go into cultivating the artistic side of the dancer…There is an energetic, subtle metaphysical experience that can happen that is not at all about cross training,” she says.

For dancers of all ages, whether their dance study is recreational or professional, a life in dance can be full of stress, pressure and demanding schedules. So while the additional physical support that yoga can bring dance students is important, Perri recommends that students practice yoga that includes restorative postures, breath work and lessons in self-care.

“A dancer’s life is crazy and erratic. It’s hard to manage class and rehearsal with school or work. Skipping the self-care aspect of the yoga practice will lead to injury. A power yoga class will teach the same information that dancers are already receiving in their dance training. The best compliment to a long day of dancing is restoration and care,” she says.

Perri also brings up some special concerns for young performers. In most dance training, teachers and directors expect progress in a student’s technique to be linear, but adolescent dancers are going through growth spurts and hormonal changes that may affect how their dance technique progresses. Yoga can be a place where linear goals are replaced with experiential learning that teaches dancers about their changing bodies while giving them a place to also learn about their minds. Additionally, there can be a lot of pressure on young students to begin deciding if dance is a recreational or professional path. Perri says that the yoga practice can help young performers manage the stresses and trials along the path of a possible dance career.

For dancers of any age, but perhaps especially for experienced veterans, Perri asserts that yoga can also be a way to become re-inspired. Dancers are typically not strangers to difficulty, so the yoga practice can feed their love of challenge. In a Vinyasa class dancers can find real enjoyment and comfort in the connected movement from posture to posture, not unlike a dance sequence. The lessons in mindfulness and observation can directly translate to a dancer’s experience on the stage and open up a new awareness of performing. At any point in a performing career, professional or otherwise, yoga can feed and care for the total artist.

Perri says, “Yoga can awaken you if you’ve felt bored. You become curious about digging in. It can be this playground you can always come back to that is endlessly fascinating.”

Tags:

Nutrition for the New Year: Small Changes = Big Impact

by Admin2. January 2014 10:00

The dancer’s dietitian shares her top ways to get to a healthy weight without going hungry.

By Emily C. Harrison MS, RD, LD of Dance Informa and DancerNutrition.com.

Too often people start off the New Year with plans for big, sweeping changes. Big goals are great; however, real lasting change can be more effectively tackled by making small changes overtime. Little changes add up, leading to big results that are easier to sustain.

Pledge to eat breakfast

Meal timing matters in metabolism! Jump-start your metabolism by eating breakfast within one hour of waking. You are coming off an overnight fast. Eating a healthy breakfast sends an important message to your body’s metabolism. Breakfast eaters have lower body weight and body fat percentage. In a weight loss study, big breakfast eaters were shown to have lost more weight and inches from their waist than those who didn’t eat breakfast and got more of their calories at night1. Another study reported that participants burned more fat and had increased satiety when they ate a low glycemic index breakfast pre-exercise2. The body needs carbohydrate in the system to burn fat, and carbs increase athletic performance so the morning is the best time to eat whole grains. Don’t use your busy schedule as an excuse. Get up five minutes earlier and eat!

Pledge to choose beverages thoughtfully

Just 100 extra calories per day can potentially lead to 10 pounds of weight gain in a year. In the U.S., people on average get an additional 155 empty calories per day from sweetened beverages including soda, coffee drinks, energy drinks and sugar-laced smoothies3. A popular coffee chain’s Egg Nog Latte has 460 calories and 21 grams of fat. It is nice to have an occasional warm winter treat. A quick check discovered that the regular Hot Chocolate has 120 calories less than the White Hot Chocolate at this same coffee shop4. Brewed coffee doesn’t have any calories. Check the nutrition facts for your favorite beverages and watch portions. Beverages with added protein can be a very high calorie (and expensive) way to get protein. At a national chain, even the “lean” smoothies have 300 calories. The high protein smoothies have between 400-800 calories with 30-40 grams of powdered protein. The muscle building response to protein intake is shown to be good up to 20 grams per meal/ snack, but protein is not used for muscle building at the 30-40 gram range. Excess protein at higher levels is burned for energy or stored as fat5. Distribute protein from real food throughout the day and drink lots of water, not sugary beverages.

Pledge to join the Meatless Monday movement

This global movement started in 2003 and has grown to become a hip, star-studded thing to do6. But don’t go meatless on Mondays just to be cool. Even if you aren’t ready to become a flag waving vegan, avoiding meat and dairy even just once a week is one of those small changes with big impact. Eat more plant-based foods because non-meat eaters’ weight and Body Mass Index are significantly lower than meat eaters. They have an easier time with weight management. Non-meat eaters have lower levels of C-reactive protein, which is a measure of inflammation and a factor in chronic disease. They have the lowest risk for heart disease which is the number one killer of women in the U.S. They have significantly lower risk for cancer and diabetes. Groundbreaking research by Dr. Neal Barnard has shown that plant-based eating is better for the brain, and has a memory protective effect. Choosing plant-based foods is also one of the best ways to save the planet. Greenhouse gas emissions for a vegan diet are 41.7 percent lower than a typical meat laden Western diet7. Don’t worry, non-meat eaters still get plenty of protein from beans, nuts, seeds, vegetables and grains. Plant-based recipes are delicious, filling, low cost and easy to prepare.  

Make your health a priority this New Year by pledging to fuel your body with food that doesn’t come from a box, a powder, a bar or passed through a car window. Pledge to get a new cookbook and take a moment to scroll the recipes on the Meatless Monday’s website. Yes, it takes a little planning, and a little extra time, but it is possible. We all lead busy lives in this hectic modern world.  “Those who think they have no time for healthy eating, will sooner or later have to find time for illness”8.  You are worth it.

Emily Cook Harrison MS, RD, LD 
Emily is a registered dietitian and holds both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in nutrition from Georgia State University. Her master’s thesis research was on elite level ballet dancers and nutrition and she has experience providing nutrition services for weight management, sports nutrition, disordered eating, disease prevention, and food allergies. Emily was a professional dancer for eleven years with the Atlanta Ballet and several other companies. She is a dance educator and the mother of two young children. She now runs the Centre for Dance Nutrition and Healthy Lifestyles. She can be reached at emily@dancernutrition.com www.dancernutrition.com

_______________________________________________________________
Sources:

1. Masheb RM, Grilo CM. High Caloric intake at breakfast vs. dinner differentially influences weight loss of overweight and obese women. Obesity. 2013 Dec; 21(12):2504-12.
2.Stevenson EJ, Astbury NM, Simpson EJ, Taylor MA, Macdonald IA. Fat oxidation during exercise and satiety during recovery are increased following a low-glycemic index breakfast in sedentary women. J. Nutr. 139: 890–897, 2009
3. Trends in sugar-sweetened beverage consumption among youth and adults in the United States: 1999-2010.  www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23676424
4. Starbucks' menu items: www.starbucks.com/menu/catalog/nutrition?drink=all#drink=all&page=2
5. Tipton, KD. Protein Nutrition and Exercise: What’s the Latest? SCAN’S Pulse. Spring 2011. Vol.30,No2.
6. The Meatless Monday Movement: www.meatlessmonday.com
7. Palmer S. Go Plant Based for Health. Environmental Nutrition Newsletter. Vol.36, iss12. Dec 2013.
8. Quote attributed to Edward Stanley and is modified from its original.

Tags:

Nutrition

CRAFT | Capezio Paper Ballerina Decoration

by Admin20. December 2013 10:36

And the countdown begins... Only 5 days left until Christmas! To celebrate, we thought we'd put together a fun and easy craft for you to do before the big day to share your love for ballet with your friends and family.

Today, we're showing you how to make a cute Capezio Paper Ballerina decoration for your Christmas tree or your bedroom. Let’s get started!

You will need:

 

- one of our ballerina template (attached at the end of the blog post)

- a square piece of paper to make the tutu

- a pair of scissors

- a piece of string. You can use your Capezio Bunheads stitch kit if you have one.

- a pencil

 

Instructions:

1/ Download, print and cut the ballerina shape out of one of our templates if you haven't already.

2/ Take your square piece of paper and fold it into a triangle. Repeat two more times.

3/ Cut a curved shape on the folded edge of your triangle using your scissors. 

4/ Draw a pattern with your pencil on the triangle. We went for snowflakes for a more festive feel.  Don't draw anything too close to the middle, as you will need to use this area at a later stage. We also recommend not drawing your lines too close to each other or you will struggle with step 5.

 

5/ Cut out the pattern off your triangle.

 

6/ Unfold carefully your piece and fold it back in half. 

7/ Cut a small split in the middle.

8/ Insert carefully your ballerina through the split.

9/ Make a very small hole in the head of the paper ballerina.

10/ Insert your piece of string and tie a knot. If you’re struggling to insert the string, just pass it through the head with the needle from your stitch kit

Et voila! You’ve made yourself a lovely Capezio paper ballerina! 

We hope you enjoyed this tutorial. Don’t forget to snap a photo to show us your pretty decorations. 

Ballerinasnowflake_template3_Small.jpg (687.61 kb)

How to Keep Inspired over the Holiday Break

by Admin17. December 2013 11:08

By Emily Yewell Volin of Dance Informa.

‘Tis the season to spend time outside the dance studios and theater spaces of our disciplined weekly routines. Dance Informa reached out to some pros for advice about how they stay inspired while enjoying all the joys the holidays bring.

Take a Break

Aubrey Lynch II, Director of Dance and Musical Theatre at The Harlem School of the Arts, advises dancers to “take a real break.” He said, “You will work for the rest of your life. When you get a moment, take it. We are artists and what we choose to express and how we express it is more universal if we have real deep and varied human experiences.”

Get Personal

“Perspective” is something Mari Jo Irbe, Instructor of Dance at Loyola University Chicago, also focuses on during her breaks. “The holidays are meant as a time for me to get away from dance, so to speak, and reflect. It is a time to catch-up with family, friends and loved ones,” she said.

Reconnect with the Community

“Take open classes at other studios and with other companies,” advises Joshua Carter, dancer with Giordano Dance Chicago. “As dancers we can get comfortable in our surroundings, so it’s nice to go out and get inspired by peers you don’t get the opportunity to be around everyday.”

Stay Fit

Irbe acknowledges the importance of alternative exercise during breaks by sharing, “I like to find gentle ways to keep my body in shape and remain present, such as yoga and swimming.”

“I enjoy Bikram Yoga,” adds Carter. “I love to sweat, and it’s a nice way to clear your head! Sometimes you just need a break from class and Bikram is a great way to challenge your flexibility, balance and mind.”

Indulge Reasonably

Lynch sends the gentle reminder to “Try to avoid binging.” He said, “Do we really need to eat the whole turkey at Thanksgiving? Enjoy yourself but remember we are athletes and should continue to live like them even when on holiday.”

Relax

“Whatever you do, make sure you relax,” says Lynch. “We are dedicated, passionate and sometimes obsessive people. You’ve earned the break. Take it and take care of yourself.”

Get Inspired

After a proper time of rest, dancers will likely feel the need to get back to work. As Irbe begins to feel that tug, she takes time to “research new music and watch dance videos of favorite choreographers for inspiration.”

Explore Hobbies

Lynch encourages dancers to “explore real hobbies and feed your creativity.” He said, “Keep a fun book list and explore other art forms. Dancers often have many untapped gifts. They come in handy on the other end. Dancers make great interior designers, fashion designers, composers, etc. Use your breaks to discover what other things you love so that future transitions can be filled with new life passions.”

Share Your Talents

Irbe notes the holidays provide her the time to become “revived and refreshed with perspective to start the creative and giving process again.’”

Tags:

General

Your pointe shoe questions, answered

by Admin7. November 2013 13:38

Thank you all for submitting your pointe shoe related questions to Capezio Senior Product Line Manager Paul Plesh. You will find his answers below. We hope this blog post will be helpful to you. If you would like to ask another question, please feel free to do so using the comments section or Facebook and Twitter

 

I heard that some shoes suit a more "high profile" or "low profile" foot. What does this mean? How do I know whether my foot is high or low profile?” – Sophie

Sophie, the profile of a pointe shoe is the depth from the drawstring to the shank (internal space). If there is a space between your foot and the top of the pointe shoe at the drawstring, the profile of the shoe is too high for you. A profile can be lowered by flattening the top of the pointe shoe box by hand. Use your palm not thumbs as that may crack the box. 

 

“Why is it that the first time I wear my pointe shoes they feel fantastic and the next week it feels like I've outgrown them and my toes feel squished inside the box while I'm not even on pointe?” – Aurelie

Aurelia, This sounds unusual. By any chance are you going through a growth spurt? You said your "toes feel squished inside the box" when your not on pointe. The foot is contracted (shorter) on pointe and expanded (longer) when standing flat or in plié. A good fitting pointe shoe should be a little loose at the heel on pointe (be able to pinch the back strap at the heel a little) and the heel cup of the shoe should be completely filled by the foot when standing flat (no extra room). If you fit your pointe shoes with no extra room when on pointe, your toes will be "squished" when standing flat or in plié, when the foot is expanded.

 

"What's healthier as a protection when wearing pointe shoes? Silicone pads or just a piece of paper? Thank you." - Anonymous

There are varied thought within the dance community on what padding if any should be used in a pointe shoe. Padding is a personal choice. However, your instructor may have strong opinions about what is best for you and recommend specific padding techniques. Always follow their advice. Capezio offers a range of toe pad product to suit individual dancers' needs.

A pointe shoe provides the support a dancer requires to stand on pointe. A pointe shoe should fit like a second skin being the same shape and size of the foot, to provide maximum support of the metatarsals.

A pointe shoe fit is similar to that of a cast that supports a broken bone, same shape same size. Fit this way, a little paper towel can be applied to soften the inside of the pointe shoe and to absorb perspiration. This method of padding does not alter fit and does not affect the dancers connection with the floor surface.

If silicone or other padding is used, the fit of the pointe shoe must be increased to accommodate the additional material. Regardless of the padding method you choose watch out for bulk. If you can fit a lot of padding in the shoe, a new fit might be recommended. Lastly, avoid loosing the connection with the floor. Here less is more.

 

I know that every dancer’s feet are different, but by assumption what Pointe Shoe would be best for my foot type? I have a wide foot that narrows and my second toe is longer than my first. I absolutely LOVE Chacott Cinderella, Coppelia II, Freeds, Russians, and Gaynor Mindens. I'm not en Pointe yet though, just keeping shoes in mind”. From Zara

Zara, If you stand barefooted and place a pointe shoe next to your foot, the shoe's shape should generally resemble the naked foot.  Most dancers with a square foot (three toes of equal length) use a broad style pointe shoe (shoe with a broad platform or wider tip). Conversely, dancers with tapered toes (first toe longer) wear more tapered styles (shoes with a narrow platform).

The ideal toe shape for pointe work is three toes of equal length. Why? Because, the body's weight is distributed more equally across three toes of equal length. If the first toe is the longest, it's size can sustain the body's weight more effectively than a "smaller," more fragile, second toe. 

Now to address your foot. The amount of distance between your second toe and first toe is the issue. The second toe can not sustain the body's weight alone. There are two options you could try:

 1). Pad the big toe to even out the difference between the two toe's length. Make sure the compression rate of the pad does not flatten out when standing on pointe because the second toe will curl with the body's weight. With this approach a tapered style may work.

 2). If the second toe is slightly longer and the big toe is not "built up" it will curl back a bit in the shoe but that would even out the difference between the toes. Again, two toes are taking the body's weight opposed to just one, albeit one is in a slightly "crunched" position. 

Regardless of what approach you take (padding the big toe up or letting the second toe curl back) if ever the toes become three of equal length, then a broad style should be used.

When you are ready for your pointe shoes follow the advise of you teacher and the recommendation of you local retailer. You should consider Contempora or Bella in the Capezio pointe shoe line based on the description of your foot. Good luck!

 

“How do you get your pointe shoes to enhance/fit your arch shape nicely?” From Orla.

Orla, Every dancer has their own personal method which works best for them. What's key is determining where the shank should break. To see this, slip your pointe shoe on, with the back heel turned back. You will be able to see how the shank aligns up with your natural arch. Mark the inside of the shoe where your arch breaks. Take the shoe off and weaken the heel, a little at a time, till it matches your arch (starting at the heel's edge, working towards the mark you made at the arch. Keep trying on the shoe till the shank touches your arch completely. This may help you get "more over" on pointe too. If your arch is very pronounced a deeper vamp will hold you back. Don't forget to pull up.

 

“How do you suggest cleaning pointe shoes because someone suggested warm water and a toothbrush but it didn't really work. Thank you” from Esther.

You could use warm water and a mild detergent on a soft cloth to spot clean your pointe shoes, but try to wet the outer satin only. Allow enough time for the shoe to dry before wear. Be careful that you do not saturate the box toe. This will weaken the shoe if it is not completely dried before wearing.  Pointe shoes take a beating in class and rehearsals. They seldom retain their original, pristine, appearance. 

 

“Is the Tiffany pointe shoe from the US store the same as the Bella pointe shoe from the European website? The specifications are somewhat similar”. From Christina

Yes, Christina, they are similar but not exact. The European version has a cotton sock lining where the US version has a suede sock lining. All other specification are the same. Good observation.

 

"Which style is best for narrow feet with tapered toes?". From Erin.

Erin, Capezio offers Contempora and Bella which is suited for tapered toes. 

 

"I love my Capezio pointe shoes and I'd like a new pair but I can't afford the custom made ones. Is it possible to dye them? How do I do it?" From Patricia

Patricia, it is possible to dye pointe shoes. Costume managers use commercial aerosol shoe sprays to change the colour of pointe shoes for ballet production's needs. Often mixing a few layers of different colours/shades will give you the colour you desire. Watch out for water based dyes. Many of these dyes need rinsing out after dying and that is not possible with a traditional pointe shoe. These dyes will stain everything, if used without a thorough rinsing out, even though they appear dry.

 

"I want to de-shank my pointe shoes to make them demi-pointes. What's the best way to do it? Thanks." From Lauren

Lauren, All you have to do is remove the nails that secures the shank to the pointe shoe. This may be accomplished with pliers. Please ask an adult to help you with that. The nails are difficult to remove but not impossible. Capezio does manufacture a demi-pointe that does not contain a shank. It's a ballet slipper with a pointe shoe box. Check it out!

 

"I've worn several pointe shoes over the years including some of yours but the shank always end up snapping in half. Is there something I can do to prevent this?" From Barbara

Barbara, The shank is the "spine" of a pointe shoe. A misconception in the marketplace is that a shank should stay straight. A shank must confirm to the pointed foot...providing support in the arch. The heel of the foot must be able to "drop down" when on pointe. That's why so many professional dancers cut their shanks at the 3/4 or 1/2 position. This allows the shank to conform to the pointed foot and provide maximum support in the arch. Additionally, hand molding a full shank to bend at or "break" at the arch will extend the life of the shank.  The best way for you to identify where your shank should "break" is to place a pointe shoe on your foot with the heel turned back. Look at your arch. Does the shank conform to the arch? Mark the shank where it should be softened/bent to conform to the arch. Mold the shank lightly until you feel the right support in you arch.

If you go to a stronger shank the same principles mentioned above apply. The shank must conform to the pointed foot. Otherwise, it's just a matter time until the shank snaps, as you mentioned above.

The last part is how you pull up out of your pointe shoes. Teachers are always commenting to students, "Pull up!" You'll find the strength in your abdomen, your core. If a dancer "sits" in their pointe shoes, shanks will always be a problem.

At Capezio we shave our shanks to allow them to be flexible at the heel. But still, you should check where the break of the shoe is compared to you arch and adjust as needed.