If you’re actively participating or performing in a Nutcracker this year… Ready, set,
GO! We are certainly off to the races and, if your performance run hasn’t started yet, barreling towards your performance weekend(s). Performing this time of year can certainly bring back memories - or nightmares - of ages past: trying to dance as much as possible, certain that cramming in extra focus on technique will really pay off; adjusting my food habits because I was certain my costume wouldn’t fit; and always moving - constantly doing crunches, donkey presses, unwilling to take time to rest/recover.
What I didn’t realize during those bygone years is that these performance season habits I always returned to didn’t eMpower my performance and, actually, were detrimental to my ability on stage. Keep reading for my top tips to dance strong this Nutcracker season!
Take class with regularity and don’t over do it.
This can be extra tough, especially if your performances are very technical or technique-specific. My recommendation here is focused more on quality rather than quantity. Maybe even reduce your class load by one or two each week and really make your technique classes count. If you’re unable to do this, maybe set which classes each week you’ll focus on technique. The remaining classes, give yourself space to focus on your performance quality. You might be surprised by just how strong your muscle memory is and how this switch of focus can also help your technique. If you have a long rehearsal day ahead of you, use your warm up class (be it ballet barre or other warm up routine you have), truly use it as a warm up. There’s no need for your developpes to be over 90-degrees, work within a smaller range to focus on warming your body up from the inside out.
Again, this can be difficult, but it’s really, truly important to rest. During a performance season, rest might look like lounging on the couch watching Netflix for a few hours, going for a walk with your dog, an easy, breath-filled yoga sequence, and more. Rest might also look like foam rolling your muscles, icing your feet, easy/active stretching routine, or other recovery activities you have. Honestly, I utilize my foam rolling + feet icing routine at the end of any long rehearsal day, and I tend to feel more rejuvenated for the next day’s activities! Rest, of course, includes sleep. Everyone’s sleep needs are unique to them, and it’s recommended that we aim for at least 7-8.5 hours of sleep each night - maintaining your bedtime + morning wake routines are vital and blend into my next recommendation…
If you have a routine or habit(s) that work, don’t change anything right now.
Sure, you might want to adjust habits right now because that’s what we’re kind of conditioned to want/desire to do leading into a performance season. I make this recommendation because making changes now - a week or two before your show(s) - might influence your dancing in unintended or unwanted ways. For example, I wouldn’t recommend starting a weightlifting routine if it’s not something you’ve really ever done before. Does that mean I don’t recommend weightlifting? Absolutely not. It’s just that a week or two before a performance, this additional cross training likely won’t be helpful to enhancing your performance. Similarly, I wouldn’t recommend that a ballet dancer stop taking ballet technique classes two weeks before their show - it’s the same concept, just opposite. This is just as relevant to your food + nutrition habits. If you’ve found a food routine that works for you, I wouldn’t suggest dramatically switching it up now (of course, within reason. If you realize you’re allergic to something or suddenly can’t/shouldn’t eat something, go ahead and eliminate it.). Instead, I would focus on your upcoming performance and make any changes/adjustments to your routine AFTER the show(s).
And there you have it, my top three recommendations for surviving Nutcracker season! Have you found anything particularly helpful for your own performance? Comment below or send me an email! I’d love to chat about it.
Curious about more specific food + nutrition habit recommendations to eMpower performance + enhance athletic abilities? Have you checked out my Eating for Sustainability Guide? These are my general recommendations for dancers and performance athletes and a great starting point for your normal/regular routines. For individual recommendations, you’ll want to request your free strategy session and begin your one-on-one coaching journey.
📸 cover photo by Ken @pbkdigital for Ballet Embody's production of The Maryland Nutcracker 2021