Seize the Day! – Interview with Ricky Hinds, Associate Director for “Newsies” on Broadway

Before class I was able to sit down with Ricky Hinds for a quick interview – take a look!

What was your dance training like growing up?
I started dancing when I was four.  My aunt and uncle owned a dance studio in Connecticut so they pulled me in at a very, very young age.  So I grew up very heavy in the competition world, that’s all we did – tons of competitions.  My last three years of high school I went to Interlochen, a performing arts high school that was very strongly routed in ballet.  And then, since I’m from Connecticut, I would come to Broadway Dance Center all the time.  And then after I graduated high school I moved straight here to New York and just started auditioning and performing for about 5 years and then transitioned over to choreographing and directing.

Knowing that you wanted to pursue musical theater, did you also have voice and acting training growing up?
I started my voice training at my performing arts high school.  But back then, I feel you were sort of able to get away with being just a “dancer” in a Broadway show or musicals where now the casts are so small you have to do everything.

What was auditioning like when you first moved to New York City?
Not unlike what it is now.  I did two non-equity tours, “Fosse” and “CATS.”  And then I got my equity card doing the show “We Will Rock You,” the Queen musical in Las Vegas.  I did a couple regional productions too.  My big mentor in New York was Andy Blankenbuehler, so when I told him that I wanted to transition over into choreography he asked me to assist him on “It’s A Wonderful Life: the musical” at Papermill Playhouse.

What was it like to choreograph a brand new musical like “It’s A Wonderful Life” or “Newsies?”  You don’t have the influences of previous choreographers such as Fosse’s “Sweet Charity.”
I’m the associate director for “Newsies,” and we did months and months of pre-production where we worked to get everybody on the same page.  That’s the most important thing – that as a choreographer, you share the same vision as the director.  And it extends way beyond just the artistic team – it includes the lighting, set, and costume designers.  Everyone needs to be so clear that when we start rehearsals no one is questioning.  There’s a lot of trust and awareness.  I’ve also worked on projects where directors don’t work that way, however.  You know, where you’re flying by the seat of your pants! – but that can be fun too!  But for me, my personal process is a lot of prep, a lot of pre-production, a lot of communication – I do my best work in that atmosphere.


How did you transition into directing?
I kind of go back and forth between choreographing and directing.  The day after opening night for “Newsies” I fly down to Kansas City to choreograph a production of “Little Shop of Horrors.”  And I come back and I’m working as choreographer and director of a tour of “Jekyll and Hyde.”  So, it’s good – I don’t think I see myself as only a choreographer or only a director.  I also like a blend of the choreography and directing roles together so I am always active and involved.  “Jekyll and Hyde” will be interesting for me, though, because it will be more about the acting than about the big dance numbers with turns and high kicks.

You are in the midst of a really exciting time with the opening of “Newsies,” your first musical on Broadway.  What was the process like of taking a movie that, dare I say, flopped, and turning it into a musical?
Our new book writer is Harvey Fierstein and he was great; It just took somebody with fresh eyes coming in.  And the way Disney works is that they had done all these workshops and readings before they had attached a director or choreographer to it.  When we came on board, the entire show was written for a turntable…And our director said, “Absolutely not.” (Our biggest fear was that these boys with dirt on their faces in 1899, on a turntable, would look too much like “Les Mis”). And it was good to sort of start over a little bit.  Once we came in, we had about 9 months before we started auditioning people, so we really had a lot of time to prepare.  And then it wasn’t until we had our cast that we then developed it further – because everyone in the show has a line, has a character name, there’s no ensemble.  The cast that we have now have helped further the script.  It’s been quite a process, two years now – and we’re still making little tweaks here and there up until Thursday night’s opening.

What’s your opinion about having a cast without an ensemble and the idea that you can’t just be a dancer on Broadway anymore?
I think it’s fantastic.  What’s great about our director is that he made each actor write out a history of his or her character.  And then we all had to sit around and talk about these characters.  And I think as a dancer, it’s really gratifying to feel like you’re not just the fifth dancer from the left in the third line and you have to dance like everybody else.  I mean, there are certainly moments in the show where the dancing has to be clean and in unison, but there are other moments where it is more of “what would your character do here?” “how would your character react to this information?”  And I think at the end of the day that’s what we all want to do – have a voice, a personality, individuality.

How does “Newsies” compare to the other Disney shows that have been/still are on Broadway?
I think it’s great – it’s fun for people to come in with very little knowledge of the material of “Newsies.”  What was also a breath of fresh air for us was not having to be worried about “how is that fish going to swim?” or “how is that teapot going to pirouette?”  For Disney, I think, it was sort of a relief to have a show that’s all humans!

What are your goals for the future as an artist?

I think everyone has this sort of thought that Broadway is the ultimate.  For me, I think it’s just good theater – whether that’s Broadway or regional theater or a tour or in Europe or here.  I just want to do good theater.  You know, something that touches people, that people respond to.  I would love to only say that I’m going to do Broadway shows!  But I really have had so many amazing experiences at theaters all across the country.

Check out Ricky’s choreography reel.
And be sure to get your tickets to “Newsies!”

Where are they now?

Want to know what’s up with BDC’s Training Programs Alumni? Take a look and be amazed!

KEY: PS = Professional Semester, SIP = Summer Intern Program, ISVP = International Student Visa Program, TP = Training Program
  • Lexie Mollica (PS Fall ’11) is working as the backstage director for “Turn It Up Dance Challenge” competitions.
  • Matt Tremblay (PS Fall ’11) is heading a boys program at Downtown Dance Factory and was featured in TV commercials for Powerade and Bodyglide. Matt recently signed with Bloc Talent Agency.
  • Nicholas Caycedo (PS Fall ’11) was featured in the critically acclaimed Off-Off-Broadway premier of a new musical called, La Mama Cantata, celebrating the life of the late Miss Ellen Stewart, founder of La Mama E.T.C., by Tony-nominated composer-lyricist, Liz Swados. He also recorded a cast album which will be released shortly.
  • Jessica de la Cruz (PS Fall ’11) assisted Sheila Barker for BDC’s Winter Intensive.
  • Carissa Midkiff and Samantha Glennerster (PS Fall ’11) performed in Brice Mousset’s (BDC teacher) piece for the Peridance Faculty Showcase.
  • Rachel Ferretti and Emily Gallo-Lopez (PS Fall ’11) performed in BDC teacher, Jeremy McQueen’s company performance at Dancers Responding to Aids’ (DRA) “Dance From the Heart” event in January.  Both dancers will be heading out to sea on cruise ships soon;  Rachel will dance on Disney Cruise Line and Emily will perform on Royal Caribbean Cruise Line.

  • Olivia Conlin
     (PS Fall ’11) recently signed with Wehmann Agency for modeling and NUTS Talent Agency for acting in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
  • Jenifer Dillow (PS Fall ’11) will perform as Belle on Disney Cruise Line and travel to the Bahamas, Caribbean, Canada, and New England. She completed her many musical theater auditions for colleges and has already received several merit scholarships.
  • Kelsey Netting (PS Fall ’11) will be pursuing a dance major at Loyola Marymount University next fall. She is currently continuing her dance studies through BDC’s Training Program.  Check out Kelsey in dance apparel advertisement in Dance Magazine.
  • Latoyia Everett (PS Fall ’11) is now a Norwegian Jade Dancer and was just asked to be Dance Captain. She is currently in Tampa, Florida practicing and then will leave to Barcelona, Spain at theend of February and will be at sea until September.
  • Mary Callahan (PS Fall ’11) recently signed with MSA Agency and will be dancing during Mercedes Benz Fashion Week and on tour with Lily Halpern. Mary is also pursuing a degree in Writing for Social Change at NYU.
  • Daniel Montera (PS Fall ’11) will be performing at the Smoky Mountain Opry in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, opening a brand new dance revue show.
  • Kristie Ergas (SIP ’11) will be performing in a cabaret show at Don’t Tell Mama’s called “Get Happy: The Great Depression Then And Now.”
  • Tori Simeone (SIP ’11) performed at Fashion Week for Tommy Hilfiger and danced for Cara Quici (keep your eye out for Tori on “The Real Housewives of NYC”).
  • Zanza Steinberg (PS Spring ’11) will be embarking on the Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines as a dancer. Zanza is also artistic director of Alma NYC Theater Company.
  • Stephanie Brooks (PS Spring ’11) is currently dancing with Atmosphere, a company of Project Dance and is the co-founder of Alma NYC Theater Company with fellow Pro-Semester alumni Zanza Steinberg. She is represented by MSA Agency and also teaches dance, pilates, and zumba in NYC.
  • Jessica Seavor (PS Spring ’11) is heading to Fireside Theatre to perform as Maria in “9 to 5: The Musical.”
  • Tal Schapira (PS Spring ’11) and Lizz Picini (SIP ’11) are assistants at Radio City Music Hall for the Rockette Experience and Rockette Summer Intensive.
  • Alison DeVita (PS Spring ’11) is performing as a dancer with Dublin Worldwide Productions in “Dancing Queen” and “The Spirit of Christmas.”
  • Lexi Dysart(PS Fall ’11) was accepted to the Young Choreographer’s Festival in New York City.Nikki Croker (PS Fall ’11) was recently signed to MSA Agency.
  • Alexa Erbach (PS Fall ’11) will be performing in a new musical entitled, “Jack’s Back” at T. Scheiber Studio. Along with performing in the ensemble, Alexa is also assisting choreographer, Bronwen Carson on the project.
  • Ankush Arora (ISVP 2011-’12) is teaching Latin Dancing and Bollywood in 3 institutes in India,Kolkata. After returning from BDC he was also invited to 4th Chennai Salsa Festival (India) as a guest choreographer to teach a salsa workshop.
  • Erica Day (ISVP 2010-2011) is performing as Dance Captain on Norwegian Cruise line and worked with choreographers Rachelle Rak and Tiger Martina.
  • Nicole Klerer(PS Fall ’10) is a New Jersey Devils Cheerleader and works at BDC as the Educational Programs Student Advisor.

You can find out more about BDC’s Training Programs by clicking here!

BDC February Performance Project

Performance Project, February 2012

A big “thank you” to all of the students who choreographed and performed in BDC’s February Performance Project.  Studio 5 was crowded with family and friends who came to watch our students showcase their original work in styles ranging from hip hop to vocal performance to contemporary.  We would also like to congratulate our three winners of the “Outstanding Student Award,” Malcolm Buchanan, Chris Stuewe, and Kyle Breen.“Being named outstanding student was such an honor, with all the hard work and dedication that each and every student puts into their classes and every day life to be pick out of such an amazing group is truly an amazing feeling. i can’t thank the staff and faculty of bdc enough as well as my friends for making these months what they have been.” – Chris Stuewe”I am humbled and honored to say that I was given the Outstanding Student Award for the month of March at my school (Broadway Dance Center). Yay!!! Unending thanks go to my fellow students who inspire me to stretch harder, balance longer, and take more classes; my many teachers who give me extra attention and push me in my abilities; my mentor Dorit Koppel who has been on me from the first class; and of course the administrators BonnieE, Autumn Dizzzzones, NikkiK, and Julie!!! You guys keep me going!!!” – Kyle Breen

For those of you who were unable to attend the Performance Project, take a look at some of the dances here:

Video 1 – Brazil
Video 2 – Dreamgirls Medley
Video 3 – Beyonce Hip Hop
Video 4 – Circus

The Harkness Center for Dance Injuries

Albert Einstein wrote that “Dancers are the athletes of the gods.”  Now, whether or not you’d consider dance to be a sport, I’m sure we would all agree that dance is extremely athletic, requiring stamina, strength, balance, and agility.  Still, dance is rarely given the same respect and acknowledgment as athletics.  I spent my freshman and sophomore years working as an assistant athletic trainer for my college’s sports medicine department.  As much as I loved (*sarcasm) taping stinky football players’ ankles, massaging sweaty track runners’ calves, and the like, I really chose this job because I could train with the physical therapy equipment (thera-bands, medicine balls, ultrasound machines) when the room was empty.  I can remember though, those few occasions when a dancer from our school’s nationally-ranked ballroom team would come to the training room.  Other athletes would scoff and even the trainers would not take the student’s injury seriously.
  • Dance Medicine/Science only became a field of study in the late 1970s/early 1980s.
  • The annual frequency of injury among dancers has been reported to range between 23-84% while as many as 95% of professional dancers have ongoing pain.(University Health Network, Toronto)
  • Statistics show that 80% of dancers incur at least one injury a year that affects their ability to perform – compared to a 20% injury rate for rugby or football players. (University of Wolverhampton)
  • 31% of ballet dancers have had, or will have, a stress fracture (Rudolf Nureyev Foundation Medical Website)
  • 24 % of ballet dancers (mainly female dancers) have a scoliosis (Rudolf Nureyev Foundation Medical Website)
  • Over 50% of dancers are uninsured and cannot afford medical treatment for injuries/illness.
When I said goodbye to sunny Southern California to take part in BDC’s Professional Semester, one of the first seminars we had was an orientation at the Harkness Center for Dance Injuries. The Harkness Center, associated with NYU’s Lagone Medical Center, provides preventative and restorative care for dancers.   These include physical therapy, sports medicine/athletic training, and injury prevention workshops and assessments.
The Harkness Center for Dance Injuries (HCDI) aims to:
  • provide excellent musculoskeletal healthcare to the dance community at affordable rates through a team of specialized medical professionals.
  • offer free, one-on-one prevention clinics for individual dancers
  • make available free or subsidized preventative and educational outreach programs for dancers, teachers, choreographers and administrators about the occupational, behavioral and mechanical factors associated with dance injuries.
  • assist the dance community with identification and reduction of injury risks
  • conduct ongoing research which advances the quality of dance science and improves the delivery of dance medicine.
  • establish standards of excellence for dance medicine practitioners.
  • interact with the dance community to minimize medical insurance costs.
  • provide continuing education opportunities for the medical community in the specialized area of dance medicine.
  • enhance the visibility of the dance medicine specialist within the dance and medical communities and in the general public.
  • serve on the boards and committees of national and international dance medicine associations and journals.
Injury Prevention Assessments:

“The Harkness Center offers one-hour, free-of-charge injury prevention assessments for dancers. During the injury prevention assessment session each dancer is seen individually for an hour by a therapist who reviews the dancer’s complaints, medical and nutrition histories and performance during a battery of tests. The screening is designed to evaluate the risk the dancer is exposed to and to discuss the dancer’s concerns before an injury occurs. At the conclusion of the assessment the dancer is given an individually tailored injury prevention exercise regime with recommendations for modification of their technique, training strategies, footwear and/or dance environment. The aim of the screening is to maximize each dancer’s potential for wellness.”

Interview with Leigh Heflin, administrative coordinator at the HCDI:
When was the Harkness Center founded? 
The Harkness Center for Dance Injuries (HCDI) was founded in 1989 in partnership with the Harkness Foundation for Dance and the Hospital for Joint Diseases in response to the New York dance community’s critical need for specialized and affordable health care.
Why is the Harkness Center different from a standard doctor’s office or physical therapy clinic?
HCDI caters to the unique treatment needs of the dancer. Our physicians and rehabilitative staff combine their medical and research experience with their expert knowledge of dance and dance science to provide highly specialized care to the dancer patient.
What services do you provide for dancers? 
We have many services including weekly dance clinics, physical therapy, FREE injury prevention assessments, injury prevention workshops, functional capacity screenings, ergonomic evaluations, etc. You can see a full list of our services with descriptions atwww.danceinjury.org.
  • Dance Clinic: The Harkness Center for Dance Injuries holds weekly dance clinics by appointment.  Dancers’ injuries are evaluated and treated by a specially trained team of orthopaedic surgeons, primary care sports medicine physicians, physical therapists and/or athletic trainers.
  • Physical Therapy & Athletic Training Services: The Harkness Center has a staff of physical therapists and athletic trainers specially trained to care for the dance population. These clinicians have had a minimum of two years of orthopaedic, sports medicine and manual therapy training and have participated in in-service training dealing with the occupational and psychological stressors of the dance environment.
  • Free Injury Prevention Assessments: The Harkness Center offers one-hour, free-of-charge injury prevention assessments for dancers. During the injury prevention assessment session each dancer is seen individually for an hour by a therapist who reviews the dancer’s complaints, medical and nutrition histories and performance during a battery of tests. The screening is designed to evaluate the risk the dancer is exposed to and to discuss the dancer’s concerns before an injury occurs. At the conclusion of the assessment the dancer is given an individually tailored injury prevention exercise regime with recommendations for modification of their technique, training strategies, footwear and/or dance environment. The aim of the screening is to maximize each dancer’s potential for wellness.
  • Injury Prevention Workshops: The Harkness Center provides injury-prevention lectures to community groups upon request. These programs are intended for dancers, teachers, parents, and/or management, as requested by the individual organization.  Topics can be chosen from a list of most-often requested, or custom-made to meet the specific needs of the school/company.   Examples of popular topics include: injury prevention, cross training, nutrition & hydration, pointe readiness, anatomy, and environmental safety.
What if a dancer does not have health insurance or the financial means to cover his/her treatment?
The NYU Langone Medical Center’s Hospital for Joint Diseases strives to provide medically necessary care to patients regardless of their ability to pay. The Hospital’s financial assistance program is available to New York State residents and individuals, regardless of residency, who receive emergency services and who formally demonstrate an inability to pay their hospital expenses.
Additionally, the Harkness Center for Dance Injuries offers financial assistance for dancers thanks to the LuEsther T. Mertz Advised Fund of the New York Community Trust who made a challenge gift in 1997 to the Center to create an endowment that would ensure a long-term solution for providing access to healthcare for dancers without insurance or financial means.
Both of these financial assistance programs require the dancer to formally demonstrate financial need by completing an application that includes submission of proof of income, savings and expenses.
What are the most common injuries you see in dancers?  What preventative measures can dancers take to avoid these injuries? You provide free one-on-one injury prevention screenings for dancers.  Why do you do this and what do the appointments consist of?
Injury type and occurrence will vary dependent on the genre of dance; however, most studies show that the foot and ankle are the most common injury site for dancers.  If you would like to prevent injury the best thing to do is to make sure you are taking care of yourself, cross training to properly prepare your body for the demands of dance technique and allowing enough time to rest. To learn more about your body and get exercises that might benefit your health and career longevity call HCDI to make an appointment for a FREE Injury Prevention Assessment at 212-598-6022.
Does the Harkness Center provide educational workshops for dance students and professionals?
Yes, to schedule an Injury Prevention Workshop please call 212-598-6022 and ask to speak to Leigh Heflin. She will help coordinate and plan a workshop specific to your school/companies needs.  (More info above under services).
What would you recommend to a dance that is interested in studying/pursuing a career in Dance Medicine?
Currently, dance medicine and science is only defined by the actions and ideas of various health professionals, dance educators, alternative practitioners, and researchers that practice in the area of dancer health. Each discipline brings a unique perspective and body of knowledge to the health concerns of dancers. This diversity of perspectives is rightly perceived as a strength. However, this diversity prevents a simple answer to the question, “How can I learn about dance medicine and science?” The short answer is, “It depends.” Students should be asked, “What unique skills, abilities, and knowledge do you currently possess and which ones do you want to acquire? Precisely how do you see yourself contributing to dancer health?” Focusing on the students learning objectives will clarify which discipline associated with dance medicine and science they should pursue.

For a listing of possible careers please visit the HCDI website (http://hjd.med.nyu.edu/harkness/dance-medicine-resources/what-dance-medicine-and-science/career-overviews)


To schedule your free injury prevention assessment at the Harkness Center, call 212-598-6022.

Sonya Tayeh comes to BDC

The studio’s been abuzz all week in anticipation of contemporary classes with Sonya Tayeh, who is best known for her inventive, combative jazz/contemporary choreography on “So You Think You Can Dance.” Tayeh has described her unique style as “combat jazz,” because “[i]t’s staccato, aggressive, and engaged, even when it’s slow. I’m always ready for battle.”

All of Tayeh’s classes sold out hours before their scheduled time, and with crowds of wait-listed students watching at the windows, it was clear that the BDC community had been captivated by the quirky choreographer.

“From the moment Sonya entered the classroom, she commanded each and every single student’s 100% undivided attention and pushed us all to be better dancers than ever before. The energy and inspiration in the room was nothing I have ever experienced before. Her choreography, her warm up, her “words” – everything was out of this world! Everyone you talk to will tell you that a single dance class with Sonya will change your life. She’s a genius.” – Daniel Montera
“It was one of the most inspiring classes I’ve taken in a long time. She’s one of the strongest women I’ve met and she will push you to your ‘limit,’ only to find that you have no limit and are capable of anything.” – Megan O’Leary

We hope to have Ms. Tayeh back to teach many more classes here at BDC!

The State of NYC Dance

Dance/NYC held the “State of NYC Dance” Symposium on Sunday, February 26th at Gibney Dance Center.  Our PR Director, April Cook, and our Marketing Director, Emily Bass, were two of the nearly two hundred industry attendees.  Several BDC students also volunteered at the event by checking-in guests and speakers, monitoring the panel discussions, and directing attendees to the various breakout sessions.

The jam-packed day investigated the current state of dance in New York City and provided panel discussions and networking opportunities for artists, advocates, funders, policymakers, managers, scholars, and audiences.  One of the six beautiful studios at the Gibney Dance Center housed Dance/NYC’s SmART Bars, 30-minute individual consultations with arts consultants regarding topics of business administration, technology, advertising, and fundraising.  The symposium also included movement classes with Andrea Miller, Sarah Donneley, Patrick Corbin, and Doug Elkins.

Dance NYC’s recent Symposium on the state of NYC dance was incredibly enlightening. It is so important for us to continue our efforts in the growth of our community and I am thankful to Dance NYC for providing the platform for related discussions and the building of relationships. Thank you to all who were involved!” – Emily Bass (BDC Marketing/Events Coordinator)”I greatly appreciated Dance NYC’s efforts and Gibney Dance Studio’s hospitality in bringing the dance community together to discuss current topics in our field. The “Meet the Press” panel was one of the highlights of the day for me. It was wonderful to have the opportunity to hear from dance critics and their views on what their roles and responsibilities are to the choreographer, the dancer and the audience member.” – April Cook (BDC Public Relations)

Visit Dance/NYC’s website to learn more about this year’s symposium and sign-up to volunteer or attend next year’s incredible event!

Food for Thought

If dance is both an art and a sport, then our bodies are both our instruments and our machines. Therefore, it is vital to fuel our bodies with the proper nutrition and hydration so that we may continue dancing at our fullest potential. But how do we know what “balanced nutrition” means for a dancer? It can be frustrating to research a “diet” plan dancers because we exercise more than the “average Joe” yet do not want to bulk up with muscle. And the fact that the dance industry is often based on one’s physical appearance only complicates matters. To appease my anxiety, I turned to Tiffany Mendell, a registered dietitian at Keri Glassman, Nutritious Life.

Tell us about your experience as a dancer and how you became interested in nutrition.
I started dancing seriously when I was 13 and was a member of a performing and competition company all throughout high school.  I went on to major in dance at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, PA.  I was a modern major in school and danced with Philadanco II, a modern-based repertory company in Philly.  It was my experience in college that the dancers were the WORST eaters!  We were the ones dancing for 10 hours day and eating raw chocolate chip cookie dough in our dorm rooms at night!  That being said, in my first professional experience with Philadanco my artistic director did suggest that I lose about 10 pounds.  I knew NOTHING about nutrition.  My idea of eating to lose weight was a bowl of rice crispies for breakfast, a pretzel from the cart on Spruce Street for lunch and a bowl of Ramen noodles for dinner.  “Fat-free” was the nutrition trend back then, as there always are trends in the world of nutrition.  Of course, I wasn’t successful losing the weight because I wasn’t fueling my body properly, my metabolism was slow and I was starving, so then I would overeat!
I moved to NYC to pursue a career in dance, taking class at BDC when I could and auditioning for more jazz/musical theater type dance roles.  When I was in my mid-twenties my father (who was raised in the deep South where everything was fried with gravy on it!) was diagnosed with cardiovascular disease.  He was very fortunate that he didn’t have a heart attack, and he ended up having seven bypasses and two stents placed in his heart.  We met with a registered dietitian when he was in the hospital to educate him on eating “heart healthy.”  Heart disease has a very strong genetic component, and I remember saying to my brother at that time that we were going to have to start thinking about our diet then, when we were young, because what we ate in our youth was going to affect our health in our older years.  I subsequently started reading everything I could about proper nutrition and attempting to make healthier changes in my diet.  I made a concerted effort to incorporate fruits and vegetables with every meal and snack, cutting out saturated fat and processed foods and eating sources of lean protein and the right kind of fat.  Consequently, my body just CHANGED.  My dancing improved profoundly, my energy levels were amazing, my skin was clear and I felt satisfied with every meal.  I actually felt that I was eating MORE, and while I wasn’t trying to lose weight I just did.   I was excited about good nutrition!  Then I got my job dancing with the New Jersey Nets dance team, which was a fantastic experience!

I always knew I would pursue another career after dance, and because I was always drawn to the nutrition articles in all my health magazines that I read I decided to go back to grad school for nutrition.  I danced for myself, and I was ready to use my knowledge and passion for nutrition to help others lead healthier lives.The dance industry has a reputation for being “unhealthy.”  Why do you think that is?

Dancers are under pressure to achieve a certain aesthetic.  Sometimes this pressure is from external sources, sometimes it is pressure they impose on themselves.  They tend to be perfectionists, but perfectionistic thinking can sometimes backfire and lead to self-sabotage.  Furthermore, a dancer may go to extremes to achieve this ideal because this is the only way they know how; perhaps they’re getting their nutrition information from unreliable sources on the internet, or they are getting misinformation and pressure from their peers.

For a healthy approach, I think it’s important for dancers to think of themselves as athletesas well as artists.  They need to fuel their bodies as athletes do, and depending on the sport athletes have different nutritional requirements.  Obviously a gymnast is going to eat differently than a linebacker.  But all athletes need to eat right for optimal performance, and dancers are no different.  Additionally, a dancer’s body is his or her instrument.  A violinist with the New York Philharmonic doesn’t just shove his violin in his duffle bag with his gym clothes after rehearsal.  He takes care to wipe it with a soft cloth, place it in its proper case, care for the strings, and tune it to ensure that his instrument sounds the way it’s supposed to.  Dancers need to focus on taking care of their bodies outside of the studio as much as they do in the studio.  This includes eating healthy, staying hydrated, and getting adequate sleep.What exactly is “balanced nutrition” for a dancer?

Balanced nutrition for anyone really just means eating the right proportion of high fiber carbohydrates, lean protein and healthy fat.  It’s essential for dancers to understand that they need ALL of these components in their diet.  “Carbs” often have a negative connotation when it comes to weight management, but it’s important to know that carbohydrate provides energy for the body. Healthy carbs are those that our bodies use efficiently and are high in fiber, vitamins and minerals such as fruits, vegetables, beans and legumes, and whole grains.  You actually burn fat more efficiently with a little carbohydrate in the diet, and carbs help prevent protein being burned for energy. Lean protein is necessary for muscle growth and repair, which dancers need because vigorous activity breaks down muscle tissue.  Excellent sources are fish, poultry, and low-fat dairy as well as vegetarian sources such as beans and legumes, tofu, and edamame.  Fat is important in the diet because it helps our bodies absorb certain vitamins and provides satiety, meaning you feel satisfied after consuming it.  You’d likely be hungry an hour after eating an apple, but an apple spread with a little all-natural peanut butter will keep you satisfied longer!  Good sources of healthy fat include those from plants sources, such as nuts and nut butters, avocado, hummus, olive and canola oil.  A special type of fat called essential omega-3 fatty acids are especially important to fight inflammation in the body and are excellent for heart health. These fats are categorized as “essential” meaning the body can’t make them and they have to be consumed in the diet.  Excellent sources include fatty fish such as salmon and tuna, and plant sources include ground flaxseed, chia seed, walnuts and canola oil.  Dancers should strive to include healthy fat with each meal and snack, but it’s important to watch your portion size because fat is a concentrated source of calories and it’s easy to go overboard.

In a typical day dancers are not always able to get in 3 traditional meals plus 2-3 snacks with their crazy schedules.  Going from 2 back-to-back classes and then to an audition and then rehearsal can make it difficult to get in a solid lunch, and dancers don’t want to feel “heavy” or full from a big meal when they have to dance right afterwards.  However, it’s important to eat small, frequent, balanced meals or snacks throughout the day.  Eating frequently helps you have a constant stream of energy for the day, keeps your metabolism from slowing down and prevents you from becoming famished and overeating. And EVERY dancer needs to get in a good breakfast before starting the day!

How much water should I be drinking each day?
For women the general guideline is 2.7 liters per day, for men it’s 3.7 liters per day, however, some of this comes from water in food.  It’s SO important for dancers to stay hydrated throughout the day…this includes starting the day with water!  Water helps your body absorb certain vitamins and minerals, aids in metabolism and helps to fill you up.  I always encourage my clients to carry a 1 liter BPA-free water bottle with them whenever they can; their goal is to drink two per day for women, three for guys.  Green or herbal tea, seltzer/club soda and sparkling water are also great drink options and can certainly be counted towards your water intake for the day.  I try to discourage people from drinking their calories because they are not as satisfying as real food and may lead to overconsumption of calories.  This includes sodas, sweetened water, tea and coffee drinks, juice and smoothies and energy drinks.  I also recommend staying clear from artificially sweetened drinks as well; research shows that artificial sweetener use is actually associated with weight gain and can increase sugar cravings.
What are the best foods to eat:
-before class/rehearsal?
-before a performance?
It’s best to have a meal about 1 1/2-2 hours prior to dancing, whether it’s class, rehearsal or performance.  This will allow ample time for digestion and won’t cause you to feel too full or experience any gastrointestinal discomfort while dancing.  As mentioned previously, your meal will contain a proper ratio of carbs, protein and fat, but because fat takes a long time to digest it’s especially important not to have a meal that’s too high in fat.  An example of a good breakfast to start your day would be a ½ cup of plain oatmeal made with a cup of skim milk and a tablespoon of chopped walnuts, or lunch could be a turkey sandwich on whole wheat bread with lettuce, tomato and avocado with an orange on the side.  If you only have an hour or so before dancing, this is when it’s best to go for a smaller balanced snack, still containing some healthy carb and protein and/or fat.  An apple with a little all-natural peanut butter, a non-fat Greek yogurt with a tablespoon of chia seeds or some veggies and 2 tablespoons of  hummus would all be good options.
If you feel the need to “de-bloat” on the day of a performance, try avoiding all carbonated beverages, artificial sweeteners, gum and hard candy as well as sodium (mostly from processed foods).  Also, sipping on chamomile, peppermint, or ginger tea and eating some asparagus, celery, fennel, papaya or pineapple may help with that bloating feeling.
-after dancing?
What you eat after dancing will depend on your day.  If it’s been several hours since your last meal and you have some time before dancing again, this is when getting a good meal will help to refuel your body.  However, if you only have a short time before you have to dance again you still need to get in a little protein and healthy carb.  A half-cup of low-fat cottage cheese with some sliced red peppers or 15 almonds with a handful of grapes would be good choices.
-when overcoming injury/illness?
This is the time when it’s especially important to avoid high fat, high sugar, processed foods (which hopefully you are avoiding at all times!).  These foods can contribute to inflammation in the body, and when recovering from an injury or illness it is necessary to eat foods that help to combat inflammation.  This means getting in those essential omega-3 fatty acids from fish as well as walnuts, flaxseed, and chia seeds.  And you want to make sure you’re getting in ample amounts of antioxidants from foods, particularly fruits and vegetables.  Berries, apples, artichokes, broccoli rabe, sweet potatoes, pecans, green tea and even dark chocolate are all excellent sources of antioxidants!   But these are foods that should be a regular part of your diet EVERY day, not just at times when you are recovering from illness!
 
Should I be taking vitamins and other supplements?
If you have a healthy, well-rounded diet there’s generally not a need to take a multivitamin/mineral or other supplements.  If you want to take a multi for insurance, it’s important to look for one that has no more than 100% of the Daily Value for each vitamin and mineral, and it can be taken every other day.  Of course, supplements are certainly warranted at times on an individual basis, but it depends on one’s diet and nutritional needs.  For example, it can be very difficult for vegans to get certain nutrients in their diet, such as vitamin B12, calcium, and zinc. Additionally, if someone doesn’t eat fish I would recommend taking a fish oil supplement to get the essential omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA, which help to fight inflammation in the body and contribute to heart health.  While you can get certain omega-3s from plant sources (such as flaxseeds or walnuts) these don’t provide the same type of omega-3s that fish provide.
 I ALWAYS recommend whole food over supplements.  You need to start with diet first.  Nutrients in food work synergistically, and individual supplements don’t always contain the proper ratio of vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals for optimal absorption that nature provides through food.  Further, supplements that are advertised for weight loss are NEVER recommended.  They can be extremely dangerous or, at best, simply a waste of money.  The only sustainable way to lose weight and keep it off is through proper diet, exercise and good sleep habits, period.
If weight loss is a goal, how can I take a healthy approach?

First: You have to eat!  Skipping meals and snacks is the worst thing you can do for your metabolism, causing it to slow down and making it difficult to lose the weight.  Second: Cut out processed foods.  Often when people focus on getting in whole foods such as fruits and vegetables instead of potato chips they tend to lose weight automatically.  Third: It’s imperative to measure portion sizes, because it’s SO easy to overestimate portions.  I encourage people to get measuring cups, measuring spoons and even a digital scale and USE them!  It’s very eye-opening to see what a half-cup of cooked oatmeal looks like.  If a dancer wants to lose weight I would suggest starting with cutting back on starch servings (1-2 per day) because starch is higher in calories than other foods that are higher in water.  This could mean a piece of whole wheat toast with breakfast and a small sweet potato at lunch.  Additionally, as mentioned before, it’s particularly important to monitor fat servings as well.  A lot of people are surprised when I mention that a healthy serving of peanut butter is 2 teaspoons instead of 2 tablespoons, as what’s listed on the manufacturer’s label.  Fourth: Keep a food journal.  Research has shown that people who write down everything they eat have more success taking the weight off and keeping it off.  It really raises your level of awareness as to what is going into your body.  If you can, seek guidance from a registered dietitian who can help you devise a food plan to safely take the weight off while ensuring your body is getting the nutrition it needs.Are there books or websites that I can read to learn more?

I work in a private nutrition counseling practice for a wonderful registered dietitian named Keri Glassman, MS, RD, CDN.  She has written two books about nutrition that I would highly recommend called The Snack Factor Dietand The O2 Diet (and the upcoming Slim, Calm, Sexy). They’re great resources for someone wanting to learn more about nutrition, and would be excellent for dancers as well (and I’m not just saying this because I work for her!).  The information in the books is based on sound nutrition research and helps you to understand why we need carbs, protein and fat in our diet as well as goes into specifics on portion sizes and creating healthy menus.  I also really like Strong Women Eat Well by Miriam Nelson, PhD.  These books are about eating healthy for the rest of your life and make good nutrition accessible to anyone who reads them.
When searching for nutrition information on the internet it is very important to consider the source, because there is a lot of misinformation out there.  Reputable nutrition information will cite a body of scientific research (not just one article) and be based on the scientific literature, not just one person’s opinion.  Unfortunately, this information can be difficult for some people to discern.  Generally, if it promises a quick fix miracle or causes you to cut out huge food groups it likely isn’t quality nutrition information.

Who should I talk to if I’m feeling overwhelmed?
Whomever you trust.  This may be your parent, a good friend, a dance teacher, or a therapist.  It’s important to feel that you can turn to someone when you are overwhelmed, but be sure that this person has your best interest at heart.

Read All About It!

You’re sitting in the holding room for three hours at an Equity call waiting to (hopefully) get the chance to audition. Here’s a list of some great dance-related books to help you pass the time:

The Artist’s Way (Julia Cameron) is a self-help book to help artists cultivate self-confidence and harness their creative talents. The chapters correlate to a 12-week course which provide resources and techniques that foster artistic inspiration.

All His Jazz: The Life and Death of Bob Fosse (Martin Gottfried) is a thorough biography of Tony, Emmy, and Oscar-winning choreographer, Bob Fosse. Gottfried artfully accounts Fosse’s life experiences which later served to inspire his innovative style.

The Dancer’s Way: The New York City Ballet Guide to Mind, Body and Nutrition (Linda H. Hamilton) describes the wellness program at NYCB that was created to support the physically healthy, emotionally balanced, and mentally prepared dancer in achieving his or her goals and aspirations.

Time Steps: My Musical Comedy Life (Donna McKechnie) is the autobiography of Donna McKechnie who inspired and performed the role of “Cassie” in “A Chorus Line.” Her book recounts the roller-coaster career filled with unbelievable successes and disappointments that shaped her as an artist.

Steps in Time (Fred Astaire) is an autobiography of the legendary Fred Astaire (with a great little forward by his dancing partner, Ginger Rogers).  The memoir is honest and full of personal anecdotes (and nearly 50 amazing black and white photographs!).

Dance with Demons: The Life of Jerome Robbins (Greg Lawrence) tells the tale of the “nightmare genius” (Tony Walton).  While Robbins is remembered for his legendary works including West Side Story, Gypsy, and Fiddler on the Roof, his life was plagued with religious, political, and personal conflict.

Ballet and Modern Dance: A Concise History (Jack Anderson) describes the role of dance in history from the time of the Ancient Greeks and French royal courts all the way to contemporary modern and jazz styles.

Diet for Dancers: A Complete Guide to Nutrition and Weight Control (Robin D. Chmelar) was the first published nutritional guide based on research and outlining topics specific to dancers.

Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop: A History of the Hip Hop Generation (Jeff Chang) provides an extensive overview of the evolution of Hip Hop and its influence as a social and cultural movement.

That’s the Joint: The Hip Hop Studies Reader (Mark Anthony Neal) discusses the gender, racial, social, and political impact of Hip Hop in the United States.

Books on my reading list:
I Was a Dancer (Jacques d’Amboise)
Dance Anatomy and Kinesiology (Karen Clippinger)
TAP! The Greatest Tap Stars and Their Stories 1900-1955 (Rusty Frank)
On the Line: The Creation of A Chorus Line (Robert Viagas)
Alvin Ailey: A Life in Dance (Jennifer Dunning)
Gene Kelly: A Life of Dance and Dreams (Alvin Yudkoff)
Buzz: The Life of Busby Berkeley (Jeffrey Spivak)

Feel free to comment with your reading suggestions!

So you want to be a “triple threat”?

“triple threat” performer is someone who can act and sing and dance – sometimes all at once! It is vital for yourself and also for the industry that you are able to embrace all three disciplines, in order to survive. (Musical Theater Handbook by Gerry Tebbutt)
But one has to ask:
  • How important is it to really be a “triple threat?”
  • Doesn’t the term “triple threat” just apply to musical theater?
  • How can I become a “triple threat?”
Well, Cameron Adams (The Music Man, Hairspray, Oklahoma!, Follies, Cry-Baby, Promises Promises, How to Succeed…, Nice Work If You Can Get It) was nice enough to answer a few of these questions for us. Check out what she has to say:

“The triple threat absolutely still exists. It’s actually more important than it has ever been to be as well-rounded as possible. Most productions aren’t hiring large ensembles anymore. Therefore, to get a spot in the ensemble you must be able to sing, dance, and act and usually understudy one of the leads. This isn’t true for every production, but the more diverse you are the better your odds. Same goes when auditioning for roles. I always say you have more options out there if you’re well-rounded and feel confident in all areas.

I think it’s nothing more than taking classes. Knowing what your weaker areas are and searching for teachers or coaches that can help. And if it feels overwhelming, pull back a bit and take your time. It doesn’t have to consume every part of your life. Being a well-rounded human being helps out with being a well-rounded performer.”
You heard it here, folks! Hop in to BDC’s amazing voice and acting classes (and obviously our dance classes too!) and you’ll be on your way to becoming a true triple threat
  • Vocal Technique (Bettina Sheppard) Monday 2-3pm
  • Vocal Performance/Audition Technique (Bettina Sheppard) Monday 3-5:30pm and Friday 3:30-5pm
  • Acting for Dancers (Bronwen Carson) Tuesday 10:30am-12pm