Summer or the off-season is a wonderful time to rest, relax, and recoup. After a long, tough performance series, it is important for dancers to rejuvenate their bodies and minds. A part of this is ensuring that our bodies stay healthy and happy. Principal dancer of Brandywine Ballet Jaime L. Louis gives some easy tips and techniques on how a dancer can stay relaxed yet mindful during the summer season -
1) Over the summer, chances are you either find yourself not dancing as regularly as you did during the season, or you find yourself in the midst of an intensive. No matter what your summer is looking like, body maintenance is very important. Regular stretching (5-10 minutes in the morning) will ensure that you keep some of your former flexibility so returning to dance in the fall will not be such a shock to your body. Or, it will be a gentle way to wake up and help with injury prevention. If you find it difficult to try some yoga poses or to stretch on your own, there are plenty of podcasts out there to help guide you. If you are aware of the parts of your body that are extra tight, or weak, take the time over the summer to focus on releasing or strengthening these areas (for example, using a thera-band for some ankle strength maintenance) and it will be helpful as you transition back into the regular season.
2) Healthy eating is integral no matter what you do, but it is even more important if you are very active. Keeping a balanced diet that is capable of supporting you throughout your day is helpful to body and brain function. I am a firm believer in breakfast. Breakfast will get your metabolism going, and help to fuel you throughout the day. Protein in the morning will be filling and also sustaining, and can be paired with a healthy carb (like whole grain toast, or granola) and some fruit or yogurt. For lunch in the summertime a salad featuring some of your favorite fresh veggies is a refreshing option and some protein will help you re-build muscles. For dinner, again a balance of protein, vegetables, and some sustaining carbs (like quinoa or brown rice) is a good choice. Also snacking on some nuts, fruit, or veggies throughout your day when you are hungry or you notice your attention is wavering. Drink water throughout the day– lots of water! Noticing and keeping track of how different foods make you feel after consuming them can be a helpful way for you to plan your meals and your snacks throughout the day. Remember that your body needs fuel to function properly; whole un-processed foods will provide the highest quality fuel. Be mindful about what you put into your body, and how the food makes you feel.
3) Mental health is important. Some ways you can cultivate mental health are through reading, writing, drawing, dancing, being outside, doing yoga, or anything else that gives you a sense of peace. Reading helps keep the mind healthy and happy. Sitting outside with a good book can be a relaxing and nourishing experience. Keeping a notebook and a pencil nearby for writing down any thoughts, or drawing can also be helpful. Making some time to be in nature is also important for mental health; go for walks or hikes, go swimming, be barefoot in the grass, and be grateful. Taking time to connect to the natural world and to cultivate gratitude is calming, and good for perspective. As dancers, movement can be a great way for us to find peace through the connection of mind and body, so make sure you give yourself time to dance. Some days are hard, and some days feel like a breeze, but no two days are exactly alike, and this holds true for you as a human and as a dancer. Allow yourself time to explore, to make mistakes, and to grow. Enjoy every minute; life is a beautiful gift, and being able to express how you feel through dance is something to be grateful for.