Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Ideal Dancer's Body: Sensitive

As employees of a profession that requires you to have perfect command of your body at all times, dancers need to be able to listen to their bodies and adapt. Obviously, part of this is stopping or modifying movement when pain becomes noticeable and chronic, but there are other components to listening to what your body is saying.

One aspect is nutrition. One dancer may function just fine after she eats a banana for breakfast, but maybe you need to eat a bowl of oatmeal with a spoonful of sugar, raisins, and a glass of milk. Maybe you need eggs and bacon. One dancer never eats chocolate before she dances because she claims that it causes her muscles to have less stretch. No one can tell you what's right for your body, because only you know. But that's another problem - how do you know?
  1. keep a food diary - write down the foods you eat every meal for a week or two and observe how you feel one, two, and three hours after. Were you more ready to warm up and stretch after you ate a full meal or with just a small snack? Did more protein or more carbs or more veggies/fruits help you to keep your energy up? What kept you fuller for the longest period of time? What times of the day were best for you to eat?
  2. observe and make changes - if you don't keep the diary, observe how you feel from day to day or meal to meal. I realized that I feel much fuller for much longer if I include a fruit or vegetable at every meal (usually both at lunch) and carry a baggie of almonds with me (a handful of almonds can hold me for an hour).
Another is temperature. I don't necessarily like dancing in a room that has no air conditioning (it gets so sweaty and stinky so fast), but I've noticed that I feel much warmer, stretchier, and more willing to dance if I am in a warm room. When the air is cool, sweat on your shirt chills your skin and muscles and they won't be as ready to dance - you can hurt yourself that way.
  1. bring an extra shirt - one for warm up, one for the rest of class. A boy in my class does this every day, and I used to think it was silly until I realized how chilly my skin got when we started learning the combinations.
  2. bring a sweat towel - for ballet, mostly, when you can't just change your leotard. Keep a towel with you at the barre to prevent sweat from drying (can also help prevent breakouts).
  3. wear pants and jackets for warm up, or put them back on when you get cold - I didn't notice how important this one was until I got to 18. When I was 16, I could plop into the splits regardless of where I was or what I was doing. And now, it's even worse - starting class in booty shorts and a sports bra is really hard for me. I always have a pair of jazz pants or sweats with me to keep my hamstrings from pulling.
Quite obviously, a third is pain. If you're hurting, do something about it. I've preached this one enough, so I don't think I need to repeat myself, but if I do, here's some of my old articles on this topic:
  1. Pet Peeve: Pain = Battle Scar
  2. Ideal Dancer's Body - Painless
  3. Ideal Dancer's Body - Injury-Free
  4. Take Care Of Your Body
  5. Caring for Your Feet as a Pointe Dancer
Stay healthy, especially now during the holidays and towards the end of the semester with breaks coming up!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Making Your Life Healthier: Nutrition

Everyone wants easy, painless ways to make their lives healthier to stay fit and strong. Wouldn't it be great if we didn't have to sacrifice taste for nutrition? Alas, such is not usually the case, but there are some things easy things that can help.
  1. Drink water until dinner: treat yourself to some juice, soda, or other drinks at dinnertime. Otherwise, stick to water - it will help you stay hydrated throughout the day, flush out toxins, and help you to lose weight. Avoid caffeine as much as you can: caffeine is a diruetic, so not only will you be dehydrated, but you'll also retain water and those other toxins. If you need something other than water to keep you awake, try some green or herbal teas. Remember, even juices contain a whole lot more sugar (sometimes added) and no fiber compared to their whole fruit counterparts.
  2. Choose whole wheat/grain options: when you order a sandwich or wrap, when you're buying cereal, bread, rice, and pasta, ask and look for healthier options. Whole wheat breads and wraps, whole grain cereals, brown rice, quinoa, wheat berries, and whole wheat spaghetti are great alternatives to their less healthy, white cousins (not being racist, I swear). White grains are processed to take out all the shells and hulls, which contain all the fiber and vitamins.
  3. When eating out, make one healthy sacrifice or leave something out: like cheese, sour cream, salt, larger portions, and cream sauces. Choose tomato sauce on pizzas and pastas (cream sauces have tons of butter, salt, dairy - saturated fat!), leave out the cheese (or ask for only 1 slice instead of 2) when ordering a burger, or choose a burrito bowl instead of a burrito (with the tortilla) when at Chipotle. Ask for your local fast food place for no salt on your French fries - not only will they cook you a new batch so that they have no salt (yes, fresh fries!), you can decide how much salt to add later yourself. I guarantee you it will be less.
  4. Add veggies: when eating a burger, add tomato, lettuce, onions, pickles, and mustard. Leave out the cheese (or add less), mayo, or animal style (West coast!). When cooking pasta for yourself, add some raw veggies when cooking the sauce, like mushrooms, small broccoli florets, and bell peppers.
  5. Make a plan for your daily eating: get your body into a routine of when you're eating and what size meal you eat. The most important thing is to get in a habit of designating one time a day for a treat: a glass of wine after dinner (for those 21 and older), dessert after dinner, maybe a fun snack like potato chips mid-afternoon. That way you won't crave those foods at other times.
  6. Eat more, smaller meals: not always possible, but it's much healthier for your body to eat small portions throughout the day. That way, your blood glucose levels never spike, you never feel ravenous, and you generally eat less than you would with three full meals. Your body is designed to store about 4 hours of energy - if you don't eat every four hours, you're technically starving!
  7. Eat breakfast: it doesn't really make sense when you first hear it, but eating breakfast can help you lose weight. Studies have shown that people who eat breakfast jumpstart their metabolism at the beginning of the day so they are more productive and awake, burn more calories throughout the day, and generally eat less at other meals because their body is more attuned to feeling when they are full. Even if it's a banana and a glass of milk, or a sugary bowl of cereal, breakfast is important. A nutritionally-packed one is better (of course).

Happy Thanksgiving!

To all my lovely US readers, happy turkey day! Everyone else, happy Thursday? On this day (and every other day), I am so thankful for so many things:
  1. all of you! Thank you for encouraging me to write and for continuing to read!
  2. My parents. They're so supportive of everything I do, especially my career choices. They've flown to my school to see all of my performances. I couldn't ask for more.
  3. The chance to attend college. Not all people do, especially dancers. Many dancers don't feel it's necessary, but college is an important period of growth, learning, and developing the identity you will carry for the rest of your life.
  4. Dance. There's nothing I love more and nothing I would rather do than dance for the rest of my days. It's my first and only love, and it has given me so much.
  5. Health. I'm not always in the best of condition (currently dealing with a sprained/compressed back and rehearsals for a concert next week), but I can get out of my bed every day and go to class. I can afford fruits and veggies so that I can cook myself healthy, varied meals every day.
  6. Little things. Fresh fuji apples off our family tree in the garden, crisp weather and sunny days, fuzzy jackets and socks, delicious baked things, the Internet, stealing bites of stuffing before it's stuffed in the turkey...
  7. On that note, I'm also thankful for tears when cutting the onion for stuffing, eating white bread while tearing it apart for stuffing (never get white bread!), peeling potatoes, and licking the bowl of mashed potatoes with my dog when they go into the oven.
  8. My friends. This year has been one of the best in my memory, and they've been a huge part of it.
There are so many others!
PS: did anyone catch the Rockettes this morning in Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade? Their choreography was so modernized yet still within the theme of precision that the Rockettes have always had. Loving this new look! What did you think?

Thursday, November 15, 2012

ABDC Cancelled?!

So I've been a bad blogger. Very bad blogger. 2 weeks with no post. I'm sorry. Happy early Thanksgiving?!

Anyhow, I got this news a few days ago: ABDC got cancelled after 7 seasons. What?! Some of America's best crews were discovered from that show. The most famous, celebrated, and successful hip hop crew of all time (aka. the Jabbawockeez - winners of Season 1) came from that show. So many of my Youtube hours were spent poring over that show. My favorite hip hop dancers Ian Eastwood (Mos Wanted), DTrix and Hok (Quest Crew), and all the members of I.aM.mE were launched into fame (or even more fame than before) by that show.

What really makes me sad is that shows like Dancing with the Stars remain strong after 15 seasons. DWTS makes already famous people even more famous. ABDC discovers new talent. DWTS is ballroom-exclusive. ABDC is hip hop, America's current dance obsession and the dance style of this generation. Tell me again why DWTS is more popular and deserves to be on the air more than ABDC?

I'm not saying that ballroom doesn't deserve it's spotlight or isn't as worthy or good as hip hop - I think it's great that ballroom is making a comeback in mainstream culture. I love that the general public is being taught to love all forms of dance, especially something "old fashioned" like ballroom. DWTS is a great way to educate the current generation about some of the culture that built the America we know today. I'm just sad that ABDC won't continue to be a part of that education.

How do you feel about ABDC getting cancelled? Did you like or watch the show?

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Interesting Links 6

Suzanne Cleary & Peter Harding - Hands - Up & Over It (Dance Version)
Some people tap with their feet. They can tap with their hands. What's your point?

Komal Takkar for DanceSpirit - College Confessions: Being a UArts Dancer
A quick look for those who are now applying to and trying to decide on colleges.

Margaret Fuhrer for DanceSpirit - This B-Boy Will Blow You Away
Uh, did you guys know Red Bull hosts an international b-boy competition? Plus, the "Mountain Halo" is ridiculously amazing.

Katie from This Chick Cooks - Slow Cooker Hummus
Hummus is a delicious, healthy, and nutrient-packed snack. Unfortunately, you can add "expensive" to that list of adjectives. Did you ever really think about it though? Chickpeas, cumin, oil, salt, garlic...what's so hard?

Dance Magazine - Choreography Knocks
Maybe you've got a piece that you're proud of! My first ever dance competition was a local choreography competition where I submitted my first piece of choreography (and won 3rd place and $200, what?). Some of these are great opportunities!