Remember To Breathe: Stepping Up Your Stamina

You can practice breathing techniques anywhere! Doing this has helped me in other pursuits like hiking mountains!

You can practice breathing techniques anywhere! Doing this has helped me in other pursuits like hiking mountains!

by Alessa Rogers

Effortless grace.

That is what people think of when they think of ballet. And that is what we strive to be, with our tutus and tiaras and sweat and…wait what? Yes, dancers sweat, and we also curse sometimes too. Ballet is hard work after all!

But–back to effortless grace.

Yes, that is what we are. At least- that is–until halfway through Tharp’s In the Upper Room or maybe David Parson’s Caught or the Don Quixote third act pas de deux, when we are gasping for air like a fish out of water, with a variation and a coda left to go (and don’t forget those pesky bows that are next to impossible after a three hour long ballet).

No one wants to be that dancer that is visibly out of breath and increasingly out of control, making the audience worry if they need to call a doctor. But dancers for the most part tend to forget about stamina, focusing instead on technique and shape and choreography and musicality–and even injury prevention. These are all very important to consider, of course, but if a dancer is too exhausted to get through a piece then technique just isn’t going to be useful. Actually, as a dancer gets more tired, technique gets sloppy, choreography becomes harder to learn, and it’s definitely the time when injuries happen.

So a few years ago I set out to consciously improve my stamina. It was mostly out of necessity; a high-profile world premiere was looming where I would be onstage for all but four minutes of the entire full-length, no intermissions, ballet (and those off-stage minutes were for stressful costume changes!). A lot of the work was running and jumping. The first time I ran through the full ballet in the studio I went home and passed out at about 7 o’clock. I knew I had to get myself in shape.

Wouldn’t it be nice if dancers had trainers the way professional sports stars and Olympics athletes do–with scientists, analysts, nutritionists and trainers at our disposal? But we don’t. We only have ourselves, and our acute sensitivity to our bodies, to decide what works for us individually and what doesn’t. We have only ourselves to maintain accountability, to customize a plan that works for us and turn our bodies into fine-tuned machines.

Fast forward a few years and I’d say my stamina is now one of my strengths as a dancer. Other dancers often note how when they are bent over and panting I am still standing up and smiling. None of what I do now is scientifically proven–but they are the practices I’ve discovered that work for me.

See for yourself if some of these work for you:

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Dancers: On Preparing for Nationals

"Apologize" by BdwayDiva1. Licensed under CC Attribution 2.0 Generic.

“Apologize” by BdwayDiva1. Licensed under CC Attribution 2.0 Generic.

by Karen Musey

It is amazing how fast the end of the dance season has arrived! Just when the challenges of the year are met, suddenly Nationals season arrives. For many studios it is just the beginning of a fast paced, intense week that will live on in studios’ and families’ memories for years to come.

A few tips on getting the most out of your week(s):

Rest. Make sure dancers/teachers/parents take some time out to recuperate from the year, before rehearsals and preparation for Nationals begin. After the intensity of the dance and school year and other personal challenges everyone faces, a little time off beforehand recharges students, faculty and families for the thrilling and energetic week that is Nationals. This is especially important if your studio registers for more than one Nationals. A little rest will recharge everyone’s body and spirit to be able to refocus on goals for the end of the season.

Update your goal. At the end of the season, sometimes dancers find themselves having already achieved their goals, and sometimes challenges come up that force dancers to rethink their goals. Maybe the achieved goal was to complete a clean triple pirouette. The new goal could be to make sure the movement before, during and after the triple stays emotionally connected to the piece. Make sure every team player knows what the overall team goal is, and recommit energy and focus to it. Share with each other specific, measurable goals that will feel like great achievements regardless of marks or placement.

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For Dancers: An Easy Guide To Portion Sizes


by Catherine L. Tully

What you eat matters, but so does how much you eat. Unfortunately, portion sizes can be hard to estimate. Let’s face it, nobody wants to carry around a stack of measuring cups!

Luckily, there’s a fairly simple way you can ballpark portions without too much trouble, and it involves something you always have with you—your hand! Use the following to keep an eye on how much you are eating—it works quite well. (Sizes are approximate.)

  • 1 serving of meat = the palm of your hand
  • 1 tablespoon = your thumb, from the second knuckle to the tip
  • 1 teaspoon = the tip of your index finger, second knuckle to the tip
  • 1 cup = the size of your fist
  • 1 ounce = your thumb, from the first knuckle to the tip
  • 1⁄2 cup = loosely cupped hand

These simple measurements can help you estimate how much you are eating and keep you from overdoing it. Keep them in mind when you head out to a restaurant, or when you are preparing meals or snacks.

Dance Advantage and 4dancers have written a guide for healthy eating, studying smart, navigating dance coursework, roommate relations and more–designed specifically for college freshmen going off to a dance program. This post is an excerpt from that e-book.

Learn more about this resource and get it for yourself or someone you know here:

College Dance Programs




Dancer Profile: Daniil Simkin

Daniil Simkin. Photograph by Rosalie O'Connor. Used with Permission from American Ballet Theatre and Rosalie O'Connor.

Daniil Simkin. Photograph by Rosalie O’Connor. Used with Permission from American Ballet Theatre and Rosalie O’Connor.

“What scares me, actually, is being too calm and not having enough nervousness to be on stage” – Daniil Simkin

Born in Russia, raised in Germany, Daniil Simkin comes from a ballet family. His mother and father were professional dancers and his older brother, Anton Alexandrov, is a member of The Hamburg Ballet.

Simkin fell in love with performing at a young age when he joined his father onstage in small parts. His dance serious training, however, did not begin until age 10 when mother started teaching him ballet in private lessons. Her regime featured two hour classes per day, six days a week. Her syllabus drew upon Russian, French, and Cuban training techniques.

Simkin continued his academic studies at a regular school and never attended a formal ballet school. He told the New York Times, “I didn’t grow up with the clichés about ballet school, the competitiveness or aggressiveness, because I was the only one. I never saw it as a mission to be a ballet dancer or make it my life.”

Simkin started competing at age 12 and went on to win prizes at on the international circuit. A tech enthusiast ahead of his time, he began sharing videos of his competition solos online before it was common for dancers to do so. As a result, he became an internet sensation in the dance world. Despite his success, he wasn’t certain he wanted to become a dancer until he won grand prix at the International Ballet Competition in 2005 at age 16.

In 2006, he joined the Vienna State Opera Ballet as a demi-soloist. In 2008, he left to become a soloist at American Ballet Theatre, one of his dream companies. Company life presented certain challenges for Simkin. Since he was privately-trained, he initially lacked partnering experience. In addition, learning many different roles at once was a stark change from his mother’s more singularly-focused lessons. Yet, Simkin adapted to the new work environment and has no regrets about his upbringing. In 2012, he was promoted to principal dancer at ABT.

One of Simkin’s goals is to use the internet and social media to try to remove the mystique surrounding ballet dancers. He says, “I am not a “special breed” of a human or some super-natural, royal person. I am a simple person, who is a dancer.”

Fun Facts:

    • He keeps cookies in the dance bag for a sugar-high.
    • His favorite choreographers are Jiri Kylian, Alexei Ratmansky. and Mats Ek.
    • If he could be a superhero, he said he would be “HappyMan”, a character possessing the ability to make people instantly happy.

Follow Simkin On:

His Website: http://www.daniilsimkin.com/
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/daniils
Twitter: https://twitter.com/daniil
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/daniilsimkin

Simkin Dancing in 2001 at Age 13 Alongside his Father:

Simkin dancing at the Helsinki International Ballet Competition in 2005:

Montage of Simkin Dancing as a Child and Today:

Simkin in the City (Humor, 2013):


Daniil Simkin, Standing Out, Reaching Out

New York Times Article on Simkin

Guest Artist Spotlight: Daniil Simkin

Simkin’s Interview With Rogue Ballerina
MEN IN TIGHTS: Daniil Simkin!

Simkin’s Interview with Madame B NYC Blog

An Interview with Daniil Simkin

Simkin’s Interview with The Ballet Bag, Plus a List of What’s in His Ballet Bag

An interview with Daniil Simkin

Simkin’s Interview with Gramilano


Curtain Call With Pacific Northwest Ballet: Carla Körbes

by Rachel Hellwig

Carla Körbes shocked and saddened the ballet world last fall when she announced her early retirement at age 33. On Sunday night, she gave her final performance with Pacific Northwest Ballet and the company live streamed the program, giving fans an opportunity to be in the audience, regardless of their geographic location. I was able to watch from Birmingham, Alabama.

Körbes appeared in three of the works on the mixed bill, beginning with Jessica Lang’s The Calling, set to choral music from the 12th-13th century. Wearing a long white dress whose material engulfs the floor around her, Körbes articulated though the tense and yearning energy of the upper body-focused choreography, skillfully channeling her dramatic qualities.

In Balanchine’s Diamonds pas de deux, she brought an Odette-like sensibility to her role, imbuing it with vulnerability and hesitant-but-increasingly-trusting affection for her partner–the strong, stately Karel Cruz. In the touching final moment, when he kneels and suddenly kisses her hand, her reaction mingles surprise and anticipation, as if she were hoping for it, but not entirely certain it would happen.

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Dancer Profile: Yuan Yuan Tan

Yuan Yuan Tan. Photograph by Erik Tomasson.

Yuan Yuan Tan. Photograph by Erik Tomasson.

 “To be perfect is impossible, but to be better is possible.” – Yuan Yuan Tan

The first chapter of Yuan Yuan Tan’s dance career literally hinged on a coin toss. The 11-year-old was among a small group of students selected for the prestigious Shanghai Dancing School–despite the fact that she had no dance experience at the time. Tan’s mother approved of the plan, but her father did not. He wanted her to be a doctor or engineer. Believers in fate, her parents decided to flip a coin. Dance won.

Tan was behind at the school and struggled at first, often just watching other students from the corner. But then a teacher recognized her natural talent and gave her private lessons. Soon enough, Tan excelled. She started entering and winning awards at ballet competitions, though she found the stress to be challenging. Yet, it was at competitions that San Francisco Ballet director Helgi Tomasson first spotted her. He invited her to join the company as a soloist. Two years later, she was promoted to principal- the youngest dancer to achieve this status in the history of the company.

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Franklin Method Foot Warm-Up: Part 2

by Jan Dunn, MS

We recently posted an article showing you the first part of a terrific foot warm-up, from the Franklin Method, using small balls—and if you’ve been trying it, you may have learned that it warms up more than just the feet!

I promised you the 2nd half, for both feet, and here it is. I suggest you read this full article first, as opposed to following along as I describe it. This is very much a balance / core stability challenge, and I want to give you some cues along the way. So read first / do afterwards, incorporating the cues…

First do right foot / left foot individually, as shown in Part 1. Then –

Up And Over

Put both balls together, a couple inches apart. Brace your heels on the ground, and put your forefoot on the balls, with knees straight. You’ll notice a nice Achilles stretch as you take that position.

FM feet 2 - starting position

Starting position

Roll up and over the balls, so that your toes are now braced on the floor, with your heels on the balls. Keep your knees straight as you do this.

Frankln Method foot warm up

Position after rolling

Practice rolling back and forth, with knees still straight, from toes to heels, keeping your body centered and aligned. Your feet are basically going from plantar flexion (pointing) to dorsi-flexion (ankle flexion), in anatomical terms.

Tips and cues:

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