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The Dancer's Way: The New York City Ballet Guide to Mind, Body, and Nutrition

The Dancer's Way: The New York City Ballet Guide to Mind, Body, and Nutrition

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The Dancer's Way: The New York City Ballet Guide to Mind, Body, and Nutrition

4/5 (1 valutazione)
282 pagine
3 ore
Sep 22, 2015


In the current dance scene, performers contend with choreography that involves extreme dance, multiple techniques, and acrobatic moves, exemplified in the popular reality television show, "So You Think You Can Dance." The dilemma for aspiring professionals is that dance class no longer provides sufficient preparation for performing at this level. Dancers who want to achieve their best, avoid injury, and perform at their peak will welcome the insight and advice in the pages of The Dancer's Way.

The world-renowned New York City Ballet developed their proven wellness program to help dancers reach their potential without compromising their health. As one of the key designers of this program, former dancer and clinical psychologist Linda Hamilton, Ph.D. provides the essential principles of wellness that will help you achieve your goals in all levels and forms of dance. These include keeping yourself physically healthy, nutritionally sound, and mentally prepared as a dancer. New York City Ballet's celebrated program, here for the first time in book form, highlights every tool you'll need to stay in great shape.

Sep 22, 2015

Informazioni sull'autore

LINDA H. HAMILTON, PH.D., author of The Dancer's Way, was a dancer in New York City Ballet under the direction of George Balanchine and Peter Martins. Now a clinical psychologist in private practice, she is the wellness consultant at New York City Ballet. A member of the International Association for Dance Medicine & Science, she also consults at The Ailey School and Career Transition for Dancers, and writes a monthly advice column in Dance Magazine. She lives in New York City.

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Anteprima del libro

The Dancer's Way - Linda H. Hamilton, Ph.D.



First and foremost, I want you to know that we care—about you, your hopes, and your dreams. Although The Dancer’s Way is directed toward the 11 million people engaged in some form of dance in the United States, anyone with an interest in fitness can benefit from our holistic approach to exercise. The book New York City Ballet Workout by Peter Martins and New York City Ballet, with Howard Kaplan, showed readers how to build leanness and flexibility in the muscles and limbs through the magic of ballet. This guide takes you to the next level to achieve peak performance by sharing the secrets of dancers in one of the world’s greatest companies.

Peter Martins, Ballet Master in Chief of New York City Ballet, opened the door to our wellness program in 2001, based on research I conducted with my colleagues, William G. Hamilton, M.D., Marika Molnar, P.T., and Lawrence DeMann, Jr., D.C. We designed the program to help dancers reach their potential without compromising their health, with annual screenings, educational seminars, cooking classes, and individual counseling. Traditionally, dancers and companies focus on technique, treating problems after they occur. Now we recognize that the beneficial aspects of dancing can be undermined by risk factors such as constant stress, sleep deprivation, and poor nutrition. What makes our approach so special is that in only three years, it has cut disability in NYCB by 46 percent, impressive considering that ballet is more physically and mentally demanding than professional football.

My contribution as the company’s wellness consultant involves helping dancers cope with occupational stress. I should know. Being a former dancer who dropped out of high school to join NYCB, I learned the hard way, after enduring multiple sprained ankles, a bad back, and jumper’s knee, that overworking was my downfall. Dancers have a great work ethic, but, like many high achievers, we often feel uncomfortable with the idea of pacing ourselves or being patient enough to completely rehabilitate an injury. Instead, we do more classes, more exercises, and, often, more damage. After my fourth sprained ankle, I realized that dancers and other practicing athletes needed reliable information to help avoid injuries. No matter how you slice it, there is no way to achieve your goals on crutches.

My decision to help myself and others had several effects. First, I was able to recover from my current injury by doing Pilates before returning to dance class. This exercise program helped me overcome my usual impatience with being unable to dance and kept me safer from serious injuries by helping me maintain my overall strength and flexibility. I also decided to pursue higher education—but first I had to pass my high school equivalency test. My goal was to become a psychologist who specialized in the performing arts. Peter Martins played a significant role in making this dream come true by allowing me to attend school full-time for eight years while performing. My primary responsibility through it all was to stay in shape as a dancer.

Since receiving my doctorate in clinical and research psychology, I have done extensive epidemiological studies on occupational stress in dancers from America, Europe, China, and Russia, in addition to consulting with dancers in my private practice. I have also sought to reduce work-related problems through my monthly advice column in Dance Magazine, which I’ve been writing since 1992. I have written two books and more than fifty articles on topics as varied as weight management and performance anxiety. These experiences, combined with my own as a performer, have made me acutely aware of the challenges and needs of dancers.

I wrote this book to help serious dancers maintain a healthy mind and body while performing, based on what we have learned at NYCB’s wellness program. While many readers may consider highly trained professionals to be out of their league, everyone can benefit from our program’s scientific principles, which have been refined to meet the needs of dancers of varying ages, styles, and fitness levels. This guide is geared primarily to female dance students and professionals eighteen to thirty-eight years old, with special tips for youngsters.

In Part 1 of this book, I outline the challenges in dance, and how our wellness program can help you achieve your goals by establishing a healthy lifestyle and navigating the road to change.

In Part 2 readers will learn ways to avoid common roadblocks to fitness, including stress, burnout, injuries, and eating problems, with our five keys to peak performance:

1. Good work habits

2. Cross-training activities

3. Eating right to stay fit

4. Effective weight control strategies

5. Stress management techniques

Understanding how the five keys affect performance will be critical to your success. Many dancers struggle with a no pain, no gain attitude, and they tend to ignore chronic signs of hunger or fatigue. Others demand perfection without making allowances for growth spurts, mistakes, or minor anatomical differences, such as unequal turnout. While it is common for high achievers to go for the gold at the expense of their health, lack of information can result in a serious injury. In extreme cases, it can mean the end of a promising career. This book provides crucial insights into each key, how it is helpful, and the various options that are especially effective for dancers.

Part 3 includes a number of useful resources, and describes in detail several beneficial annual screenings, which you can duplicate with a dance medicine specialist. A final component involves the use of diaries to modify food intake and emotional stress.

Interviews with NYCB performers and dance medicine specialists are included throughout the book. Readers will follow two injured members of the company, Abi Stafford and Megan LeCrone, as they recover and are able to return to the stage. There are also composites of clients from my private practice to illustrate the concerns of dancers outside the company; in these cases, the names and identifying characteristics have been changed to preserve anonymity.

My job is to help dancers develop a healthy approach to fitness by offering advice, removing barriers, and clarifying goals at each step of the way. In this book, I offer you the same heartfelt guidance. Change is scary, but it provides a unique opportunity to learn, to grow, and to hope for a brighter future—as a dancer and as a person!


Opening the Door to Peak Performance

(Ashley Bouder in Jerome Robbins’s The Four Seasons)


New York City Ballet’s Wellness Program

I’ve had to acquire athleticism like strength and stamina—not just artistry—to get through the hardest repertoire today!


New York City Ballet cofounder George Balanchine likened his dancers to thoroughbred racehorses. Dance aficionados may scoff at the comparison, but there is no denying the athletic aspects of this constantly evolving art form. Extreme dance, multiple techniques, and acrobatic moves—all are par for the course in the current dance scene. The dilemma for aspiring professionals is that dance classes no longer prepare you to perform at this level. But do not despair! This book provides you with a concrete plan to reach your potential, based on NYCB’s proven wellness program for serious dancers.

How can our program help you achieve your goals? Unlike in the past, when dancing longer and harder was the only way to excel, now there are practical tools to overcome common challenges, including physical and mental stress. NYCB principal dancer Jenifer Ringer agrees with Ashley Bouder that being an athlete is essential, after multiple injuries almost ended her promising career. I’m so excited about the wellness program, she says. It’s incredible what you’re doing for dancers.

You, too, can benefit by using New York City Ballet’s program, which we have tailored to meet the needs of all dancers, not just in ballet. To begin, let’s take a look at what it means to be a dancer in the twenty-first century.

Dancing in the New Millennium

Previous generations of dancers focused on a specific technique to succeed as a performer. Today’s dancers do not have this luxury. Instead, they face unique requirements, and chief among them is the need to perform in vastly different genres. This new focus on versatility is both exciting and challenging. On the positive side, mastering more than one dance technique definitely expands your prospects for finding employment. The downside is that it stresses different areas of the body, leading to more injuries. According to a study conducted at the North Carolina School of the Arts, modern dancers had twice as many cervical and upper-back strains as ballet dancers. In contrast, ballet dancers reported close to 50 percent more strains to the lower back and hamstrings, as well as a higher number of shin splints than their modern-dance counterparts. Imagine all of the injuries you might face by mixing different techniques. Switching from pointe shoes to bare feet (without the protective calluses that modern dancers develop as they work shoeless), performing innovative choreography, and using alternate muscle groups can really catch you off guard.

Popular television programs such as So You Think You Can Dance demonstrate on a national stage the virtues and demands of being multifaceted as a dancer. The judges of this competitive reality show are looking for an employable, versatile dancer who can perform everything from hip-hop to ballroom dance. In 2007, the runner-up to the winner was a twenty-two-year-old male dancer who had performed in both ballet and contemporary companies before going on to do the show’s fifty-city national tour after the final broadcast. Company dancers also switch genres by doing Broadway musicals like Fosse, The Lion King, and Movin’ Out.

Meanwhile, preprofessional dance students are preparing to enter the work arena by enrolling in intensive training programs that include several techniques, and doing experimental workshops by the likes of Tony Award–winning choreographer Bill T. Jones. In the latter case, one eighteen-year-old dance student with years of ballet, modern, tap, African, and jazz under her belt was able to perform, but not name, this choreographer’s eclectic movements. The steps simply weren’t in her vocabulary.

These changes, while all well and good for dance as an art form, have personal costs for performers, who are taxing their bodies to the limit. In terms of survival, the old-fashioned approach to tough it out no longer applies to today’s athletic dancer. The question is, how can dancers excel and still protect their bodies?

Shifting the Focus to Wellness at NYCB

To answer this question, I worked with experts from New York City Ballet’s medical team to help reduce the rate of serious problems and disability. Similar to the rest of the profession, our company’s dancers are taxing their bodies in ways never experienced by previous generations. NYCB rehearses and performs between thirty-eight and forty-three weeks a year. During this time, our dancers do everything—ballet, modern, musical theater, you name it. A dancer may perform George Balanchine’s neoclassical ballets, Jerome Robbins’s homage to Broadway, Peter Martins’s contemporary movements, and modern works from the company’s Diamond Project for experimental choreographers—all in one night! Our main objective as NYCB’s medical team is to help the performers meet these demands by providing the latest interventions in dance medicine. We tackled this goal by taking a stepwise

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    Written by a former dancer with the NY City ballet, whose father was the NYC Ballet's orthopedist, Dr. Linda Hamilton is a psychologist in private practice in NYC, who serves as a wellness consultant to the NYC Ballet, and who writes an wellness advice column for Dance Magazine. This book is full of common sense advice and health information of particular importance to dance students and dance professionals alike. My only wish is that it was longer!

    2 persone l'hanno trovata utile