Saturday, December 31, 2011

Healthy Supplements for Dancers

I can't really say I believe in taking food supplements. I really think that the healthiest way to get all your essential nutrients is from real food, not from a pill. However, sometimes it's the easiest way to get nutrients, or maybe you need more of something in particular, or maybe you just don't like the way a particular food tastes. Here are some things that I take/have taken, or have heard good things about:

Fish Oil
Omega 3 fatty acids are extremely important to your metabolism. The worst thing? Your body doesn't produce omega 3's. A few ounces of fish per week is recommended at a minimum to get your omega 3's. Other alternatives include flax seeds, walnuts, and kale (recently described as a "super food" by Dance Magazine). Of course, if you don't like any of these foods, the pills are easy enough to take.

This may or may not be one you've heard of, although your parents might have. It's actually the most common non-vitamin, non-mineral dietary supplement. What is it? Glucosamine is a component of healthy cartilage and is used to treat osteoarthritis, especially for the knees. Your body does make glucosamine when you're young, but natural production will stop at some point. I take glucosamine currently because my ligaments are too stretchy - extra glucosamine stabilizes my joints and ligaments.

If you eat curry, you're good here. Turmeric is a powdery spice noted for it's sharp flavor and ochre color. It is an anti-inflammatory agent, anti-bacterial, likely to help prevent several different cancers and diseases, a natural liver detoxifier, speeds healing, and is a natural painkiller. I first started taking turmeric pills (you could eat the powder straight, but good luck with the taste) to fight acne, but even Dance Magazine has mentioned the many health benefits of turmeric. You really have no reason to not want to take it.

For disease prevention: Elderberry and Garlic
Students of any kind are around disease literally all the time. Professionals don't have time to be sick. You can fight the common cold and flu with garlic tablets, orange juice, and Emergen-C. I'm currently battling diseases around me - my best friend, both my parents, and the dance department I left behind have given me germs that my immune system has not yet submitted to (knock on wood), but I know my body is straining. I've been supplementing the past few days with Rainbow Light's Get Well Soon, which is good for both prevention and soothing symptoms. These tablets deliver both symptom relief and an immune system boost, strengthening your body's natural defenses so that it can fight better and faster.

My last warning is be careful of the supplements you take. Some of them may help, some may not. It is always better to eat the actual food than take a concentrated pill form. Why? There's a reason these compounds aren't found by themselves in nature - an orange contains a lot of vitamin C, but there are other elements and compounds in the orange that will simultaneously nourish the body and help it to process and use the vitamin C to its fullest potential. You get lots of fiber, some vitamin A, and a wee bit of iron - a combination that may give your body more than just a concentrated heap of vitamin C. This idea was introduced to me by someone I respect very much, and while I have no scientific evidence to back it, I think it makes sense. Sure, I can take a fish oil pill, but I'd rather eat the actual fish. It's the way nature intended food and nutrition to be.

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year to all the lovely dancers of the world :)!
I'm spending my new year's eve at home this year, curling up on the couch with my dog, my family, and Dick Clark's Rockin' New Year's Eve, watching the ball drop in Times Square! May 2012 bring you all of the goals, dreams, desires, wishes, and gigs that you set/dreamed about in 2011! Hope 2011 was a lovely year for you, and hope that 2012 is even better.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Dance Resolutions for 2012

I hope everyone had wonderful Christmases, if you celebrate, and if you don't, I hope you're having wonderful holidays and breaks. My Christmas was a lovely, relaxing day...

Clara & the Nutcracker on my tree
So now that the new year is approaching, I have some dance-related resolutions to make:

#1) Get in shape, lose weight
Classic, right? Almost every girl wants to lose weight. But as dancers, it's not just part of looking good - it's part of the profession, the demand comes with the territory. To achieve this, I'm going to create a diet that works for me, go to the gym (which I have yet to set foot in) and ride the stationary bike or use the elliptical, and stretch after (almost) every shower. In turn, losing weight will not only help me feel physically better, but also will help me develop a stronger body/self image of myself as a dancer and person. I was lucky enough to get a bike as a gift, so I'll be using that over breaks to get my exercise when I'm not in class.

#2) Post more on both this blog and my Youtube channel
I said I'd post at least once a week on this blog, and even though few people read it, I'm glad I can help a few people out there who might be looking for specific things. I started this blog in order to motivate myself to keep up with the dance world, to watch dance, to stay inspired, and I kind of lost my way in the past few months. Likewise, I posted my last video on my Youtube channel at the end of the summer, and even with as few views as I get, it's another motivation for me to keep creating dance.

I also have a goal to convince some of my friends to guest post on this blog! I'm sure more than one perspective will be a welcome change.

#3) Do pointe more
My college doesn't offer a pointe class, sadly. However, we're allowed to do pointe at the barre during normal ballet classes. I only do it once every few weeks, but starting next semester, I'll be taking ballet 4 days a week. My goal is to do the barre en pointe at least once a week from now on.

#4) Keep sleeping!
I got so much sleep this semester - the most sleep I've gotten each night since before high school, I'm sure. It was glorious - even if I'm still tired a lot of the time, I have energy to do things and pay full attention in class. My dancing benefits from 7+ hours of sleep a night too. Even though I am taking a much harder load next semester, my goal is to sleep at least 6.5-7 hours a night (even though studies show that teenagers need 8-9 hours, 7 is better than the 4 I got in high school).

#5) Drink more water.
 It promotes health, clear skin, proper bodily functioning, disease prevention, etc etc...basically, life. I don't drink nearly enough. 'Nuff said.

That's about all, I think! Of course, there are lots of smaller goals, but these are goals for the rest of my school year. What are yours?

Monday, December 19, 2011

Christmas Gift List for Dancers

So you've only got days left until Christmas and you're missing some gifts (who isn't?). Are a few of them dancer friends? Knock a few of them out with this list! Here's some great ideas for gifts for dancers that you can find (hopefully!) in normal stores (not online, not dance-specific shops). Hope this helps/gets you going!

Essie nail polish in Ballet Shoes - Target
I've seen this polish in several Targets, so you should be able to find it anywhere. It's a cute idea and super dancer-inspired, without being pricey or predictable. Pair with a bottle of base coat and/or top coat, or a cute printed nail file, nail buffer, or nail clipper. Just the name will make her smile.

Legwarmers or crew-cut socks
Crew-cut socks (or thigh-high socks for that matter) have been hot for dancers in the past few years. Legwarmers are always a great, fun item for dancers. Both come in lots of colors, patterns, are relatively inexpensive, and don't need to be purchased in specialty shops. Target, Walmart, and regular clothing stores will have them, so you don't need to make a special trip!

Crop tops
Another item that's been super fashionable for dancers, especially in the past year. Cute, inexpensive tops can be found at Forever 21 and H&M. Bonus? If you order from F21, they're offering free 2 day shipping, and H&M has some awesome sales going on.

Hair Embellishments
Fancy, sparkly, big, flowery, feathery, glamorous. You can get hairties, headbands, and hair clips that will make any dancer stand out and feel great about themselves. Claire's/Icing isn't just for little girls - they've got great stuff for girls of all ages! Forever 21, again, has some clips as well.

Even if the dancer in your life isn't a makeup fanatic, she can't say no to some good stage makeup, false lashes, stick-on rhinestones, eyeliner, or even a good bottle of primer and makeup remover for her shows, performances, and competitions. She'll get use out of them no matter what you get her - trust me on this!

Baggy sweatpants and sweatshirts/hoodies
Dancers are known to wear the baggiest, most comfortable, most shapeless clothing imaginable over their sports bras and booty shorts. Encourage your dancer not to let herself get cold when she's not moving with some comfy sweats.

Reusable water bottle
Water is essential, and not just to dancers. This one is great for girls and guys, because water bottles come in all shapes, sizes, colors, and patterns! This filtered water bottle is a great idea for dancers, who may not always be around a water fountain.

And when all else
Trail mixes, homemade jerky, Luna bars. My lovely roommate introduced me to Xocai healthy chocolate (although, that one you're going to need time for shipping). I recently discovered gopicnic (sold at Target, find them next to the easymac), a ready-to-eat box of prepackaged food that doesn't need to be refrigerated. Even better, they come in all different varieties (even vegan/gluten free), and all of them are under 400 calories! Maybe a dancer's cookbook, for the dancer who has a second love of cooking.

Christmas for Dancers!

It's been a few weeks...I know.'m sorry. Busy. But I'm back! Just in time to talk about winter break, when all of your studios are closed and college has ended for 2 or more weeks!

1) Gifts for Dancers
Obviously, Christmas contains a lot of gift-giving. With Christmas only a few days away (wow, really?), I have a few items in the Etsy shop that my mom and I run, Daisy's Treasure Box, that will be perfect for the dancers (or Harry Potter freaks) in your life. There's poster prints and postcards of the "Do What You Love" poster that I drew/designed a while ago, plus a ballerina necklace. Even better, we can 99% guarantee that any order within the US will make it by Christmas!

For more practical dance gear, online stores like Discount Dance Supply are offering free shipping upgrades that will also make it by Christmas. Dancewear Solutions even offers you a gift guide to help! Capezio Dance Theater shops (physical stores) are offering 50% off on all holiday items.

2) Staying in shape without class
It's hard to keep up a regimen while there's no class to force you to do it. I personally find little motivation and a lot of yummy food when I'm home. To get some exercise and stretching, use a theraband, tennis ball, or foam roller in front of the TV. Take 5-10 minutes a day to do some yoga. Play twister with your friends and force yourself to stretch farther. Stop shopping online and go walk the mall! Go bowling or ice skating for a social activity instead of movies or dinners. Any movement beats no movement. Keep in mind that, within 4 days of stopping class, the muscle that you worked so hard to build up will start to decondition.

3) Watch dance
You're in Nutcracker season! Or maybe you're currently dancing a Nutcracker! Either way, if you have time, go and see a live performance, whether it be from your local studio or a world-class theatre. You should have time, now that you're on break!

4) Stay healthy with your food choices
It's so tempting to bake Christmas cookies and test one...or two or three. Maybe not all of that popcorn you're stringing is making it onto the string. Food is aplenty and you have so many chances to eat it! I know that I haven't been making the best choices in the past few days since I've gotten home, and it will start to show if I don't make a change. Opt for fresh fruit instead of chocolate sometimes when you get a sweet craving. Eat plain popcorn (or with a little salt/garlic powder) instead of buttered. Pass up that second cookie or second helping of casserole. It all adds up, and skipping just a few bad food choices can make a significant difference in both your self-image and in your body.

5) Give back.
If you've got the time, consider volunteering. The Christmas season is when many unfortunate folks feel the most lonely, and you can make a difference by giving up an hour or two of your time, donating clothes or toys, or $20 to a worthy charity. Consider the Make A Wish Foundation, Toys for Tots, and my personal favorite, charity: water. Maybe you and your group of friends can give up a round of grande Starbucks lattes and take the money shopping to buy toys for children in need. Social activity and good will all rolled into one :)

What I'm trying to say is stay aware this season. Be aware of your body and the choices you make for it, be aware of the people around you, be aware of world issues, be aware and thankful for the joy in your life, be aware of the dance world, and most of all, be aware of the holiday spirit! Have fun, stay safe, and have an extremely happy holidays everyone.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

College Dance Auditions Update: What to Wear

**This post is not sponsored or subsidized by any company. The opinions and promotion are my own.

So you've looked through the clothing requirements for all of the schools you're auditioning for, and they allow crazy leotards. If you're going to a live audition, you want to stand out. Sure, you could wear a flower in your hair, or you could get a new strappy leotard from Discount Dance. Believe me, once you've been to one or two auditions, you'll have seen every strappy leotard from Discount Dance, plus all of the fancy unitards and leotards from Jo + Jax. Don't get me wrong, these leotards are beautiful and will probably make you stand out anyway because they look different than regular camisole leotards, but what if three other girls are wearing the exact leotard you're wearing? I know, bummer. That's where Eleve Dancewear comes in.

from Eleve's homepage
Not only are all of the leotards and unitards unique by themselves, but you can...wait for it...customize them. With almost any fabric, any color you can think of. Granted they take 8-10 weeks to ship, but like Eleve says, they're worth it to stand out. Plus, many of their leotards are under $50.

However, this is only one approach. A colored, fancy leotard is not always good. Make sure you read the requirements closely: you don't want to be the only one in a lavender flowered leotard when everyone else is in black and pink. You'll be out of the auditioner's minds quickly just for not following directions. Also, try to get a feel for what the school focuses on. Jazz? Great, go with one of these. Modern/contemporary? Something sleek without too many straps and distractions will go better.

On the other hand, this looks like a great, fairly inexpensive Christmas gift for dancers (but you might have to give it as a "your leotard is coming in 4-6 weeks" card)!