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Wellness secrets from professional dancers

We spoke to dancers performing with Northern Ballet, during the UK tour of their new production Casanova, about how they maintain their health and wellbeing during a demanding schedule

by Danielle Woodward

Casanova Northern Ballet

Leading Soloist Antoinette Brooks-Daw, First Soloist Lucia Solari and Junior Soloist Ayami Miyata share their secrets about how they deal with a demanding career as a dancer.

How do you cope with the training and touring?

ABD: I like routine and having a daily class or training every morning is like a ritual. With touring, especially later on in the season, it can become increasingly tiring but I just have to remind myself how lucky I am to be doing a job that I love!

LS: The training is a very demanding aspect of a dancer’s career and you have to approach it with intelligence as well, so you can have a long career. We dance for more than seven hours on a typical day, beginning with our morning class which we must take very seriously as that is our chance to improve and maintain our technique. We then either have rehearsals all day afterwards or a combination of rehearsals and an evening performance, so you really have to pace yourself and make sure you always have something to give. I also find touring life very hard.

AM: I like to take time out and find my favourite café or place to visit in the different touring venues.

How do you cope with the physical demands of the job?

ABD: I am always conscious of my energy levels, making sure that I have enough endurance. If I’m feeling more tired than normal, then I think about if I’m getting enough sleep, sufficient rest or an adequate intake of sustenance.

AM: I try to find different ways to work through the physical aspect of the job and if I have a partner to dance with, then we can work together to find the best way for us.

LS: I think that when you love something so much, you have an incredible drive. There are times when you are really exhausted but a dancer’s determination can really surprise you! To have a good balance between work and rest is vital and to take some time to rest is extremely important to prevent injuries. The body does need time to recover, especially after a performance. Dancers are athletes and I try to have a physio appointment almost daily for treatment and maintenance.

How do you relax and switch off?

ABD: By surrounding myself with good friends and family – making time for them is so important to me. I also have a huge passion for music so I often just put some headphones on and let the music take me off somewhere else.

AM: I like to do nothing! I like to relax by watching TV or reading books.

LS: I like to take time to skype with my family in Italy or my grandma in Uruguay. I also like to read and to cook with friends or do movie nights as well as going to concerts or performances that are different to what I’m performing.

Do you have any other health or wellness tips which you find valuable?

LS: I make sure I get a good massage at least once a week and during the winter months I always take a vitamin D supplement, which are actually given by our physio to every dancer in the company. Getting some sunlight is, of course, much better but it can be difficult to access when you’re at the theatre all day! I try to get as much as I can when I go home to Italy in the summer. Having a healthy and complete diet is probably the most important thing though – you need energy and strength to dance which comes from your food.

AM: I don’t want to feel any stress about what I eat, so I eat whatever I want to and find balance with the exercise that the job entails!

ABD: Listen to your body and don’t fight it. You may feel different every day so it’s important to take time to realise what your body needs. I also do yoga and meditation which helps calm my mind.

Delving into the world of passion and politics, Northern Ballet's production of ‘Casanova’ reveals the true story behind the notorious libertine Giacomo Casanova. The production offers a seductive journey not only through Casanova's X-rated exploits, but his unlikely careers as a priest, musician and spy, unmasking the man behind the legend.

Audiences will be transported to decadent 18th-century Venice with sumptuous costumes by Christopher Oram and an original score performed live by the Northern Ballet Sinfonia.

For tickets to see the show in Milton Keynes, Cardiff, Salford and London, visit northernballet.com/casanova

Photographs: Emma Kauldhar, Lauren Godfrey, NCPA

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