by Lissa Smith
For a dancer, staying strong and healthy is key to a long career. Though mine has only just begun, I take very seriously the care and upkeep of my body. I am still learning many things in the areas of daily diet, warm-up regimens and exercises, but I’m happy to offer here some insights, tips and tricks that have helped thus far with the demands and challenges that come with being a member of Hubbard Street 2.
A moderate menu
When it comes to eating, after much experimentation throughout the years, I have come to realize that moderation is answer — too much of anything is not a good thing. A healthy balance of all food groups is what fuels and propels me at work, and allows me to do my best. Eating every three to four hours keeps my metabolism on pace. I try to include a carbohydrate, healthy fat, protein, vegetable and fruit at each meal. Carbs that I have grown to love are oatmeal (whole grain rolled oats), quinoa (high in protein), sprouted bread and brown rice cakes.
Healthy fats that I incorporate into my daily diet are avocados, nuts, nut butters, flaxseeds and chia seeds. When it comes to fruit, my favorites are berries (high in antioxidants), grapefruits, apples and bananas (a great source of potassium). I need protein, and fish, egg whites, Greek yogurt and turkey and chicken breast provide lots of it! I can’t even begin to list all of the veggies I love — this post would go on forever.
Of course, like everyone else, I do love to indulge. My favorites are frozen yogurt and — on occasion — white chocolate caramel macadamia nut cheesecake from the Cheesecake Factory.
Morning moves and pedal passion
Every morning before company class, I like to arrive at the studios early. I have a set combination of warm-up, strengthening and stretching exercises. I always start with my back on a foam roller, then massage my feet with a Foot Rubz ball (rubber and knobby) and a Therapro foot roller (wooden with ridges). That leads into my routine of abdominal work and upper body strengthening: leg exercises, bridges, planks, “clams” — an opening and closing of the hips to work the glutes — and Theraband resistance exercises for my feet, ankles and upper body. I prepare mentally as well, for the specific works that I’ll be rehearsing that day.
Outside of the studio, I’ve found indoor cycling not only to be a great workout, but something I’m really passionate about. Spinning, under dimmed lights with music playing full blast, is both therapeutic and extremely fun. I only recently discovered this love of cycling, when I took my first spin class in May; I immediately hopped on the bandwagon, attending classes whenever I could! While dancing in New York this summer, I rode frequently at Soul Cycle and, after coming back to Chicago to start our ’13–’14 season at Hubbard Street 2, I tried Flywheel — and have been obsessed ever since.
The ritual ring
Before each performance and sometimes joined by our director, Terence Marling, Hubbard Street 2 “circles up,” a rather unique pre-performance ritual dating back to the early days of the main company. Some of the details have to remain confidential…but what I can tell you is, each dancer puts one foot and one hand into the center of the circle. We then each take a turn to punch into the center, adding a small gesture or bit of choreography. It’s a fun, slightly silly thing we do to “get ourselves together,” that gives us an opportunity to connect with each other, on the stage, before we perform.
I always look forward to “circling up,” especially when we’re on tour and in a theater that’s new to us. Afterwards, we tell each other merde — the dancer’s traditional good-luck wish — and share hugs until our stage manager calls “places for the top of the show.”
Hubbard Street’s fifth year of on-site presentations at the Art Institute of Chicago begins November 14 with Hubbard Street 2 dancers including Lissa Smith, and a focus on the museum’s renowned collection of paintings by Old Masters. The one-hour event starts with a special presentation in Fullerton Hall at 6pm, then proceeds to the galleries, where attendees can experience dance among works by artists such as El Greco, Tiepolo, Titian and de la Tour. Hubbard Street 2 at the Art Institute is free with museum admission; further details are online here. The company returns January 12, 2014 to the Skirball Center for the Performing Arts in New York City, and presents two world premieres in Bloomington, Illinois on February 1, by National Choreographic Competition winners Loni Landon and Alex Soares. Visit hubbardstreetdance.com for a complete touring schedule, artist profiles and more.
Contributor Lissa Smith, age 21, was born and raised in Miami, Florida. She is currently dancing with Hubbard Street 2 of Hubbard Street Dance Chicago. She attended The Boston Conservatory where she was both a Dance Conservatory Scholarship recipient and Jan Veen Dance Scholarship recipient.
Lissa has trained at the prestigious Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, The Juilliard School, Alonzo King’s Lines Ballet, The Martha Graham School, The Joffrey Ballet School and The Joffrey Midwest Workshop. Lissa has worked with world renowned choreographers such as: Thang Dao, Peter London, Alberto Del Saz, Maurya Kerr, Clébio Oliveira, Penny Saunders, Hofesh Shecter, Didy Veldman, Uri Sands, Gregory Dawson, Stephen Pier, John Magnus, Josée Garant, Viktor Plotnikov, Robyn Mineko Williams, Tony Fabre, and Judith Jamison. She has danced principal roles such as: “Yellow Girl” in “Diversion of Angels”, “Conversation of Lovers” within “Acts of Light” and “Frontier”, the solo choreographed by Martha Graham and staged by Yuriko and Susan Kikuchi along with Yasuko Tokunaga.
Lissa was the soloist lead dancer in both Thang Dao’s contemporary ballet, “Foil” and Greg Dawson’s contemporary ballet, “Eclipsing Venus”. She has also performed Jose Limon’s “Choreographic Offerings” staged by Jennifer Scanlon and Libby Nye. Lissa has performed the “Doll with Broken Head” solo from within “Mechanical Organ” choreographed by Alwin Nikolais, staged by Alberto Del Saz. Lissa received the “Modern Dance Award” and the “Dean’s Dance Award” upon her graduation from New World School of the Arts High School in June 2009 and won the “Arts For Life!” dance scholarship in 2009 presented by Former First Lady Columba Bush.
In 2012, Lissa was awarded the Martha Hill Young Professional Award.
Lissa’s posts on 4dancers are her own opinion and in no way reflect the thoughts or opinions of her employer, Hubbard Street 2.