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All About Balance: Austin Dancers Share Their Wellness Secrets

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From dancing in 6-inch stilettos to pregnancy pirouettes, three of Austin’s top dancers spill their fitness, diet and beauty tips.

By Emy Cies, Photos by Caitlin Candelari, Riley Krauss and Anne Marie Bloodgood

What do you think of when you hear the word “ballerina”? Do visions of delicate dancers in frilly pink tutus come to mind? Of late, being a ballerina has a new meaning, thanks, in part, to the barre fitness craze and ballet genius Misty Copeland’s rise to pop-culture stardom and her appearance in a viral Under Armour commercial. The word “ballerina” is no longer solely synonymous with beauty and grace, but with strength and resilience as well.

Austin is home to the Butler Dance Education Center, a pinnacle of the community for health and wellness education and nationally acclaimed productions. Austin Woman spoke to three of Ballet Austin’s finest about how they maintain balance year-round.

Pei-San Brown, Community Education Director and Hula instructor

On the Meaning of Wellness

“To me, wellness really means balance. I’m 46 and when I turned 40, it was like something flipped and suddenly, I was feeling so many aches and pains. When I was younger, I would barrel through everything because my body would heal, but now I’m really conscious and I’ll modify exercises as I need.”

On Dancing in Miss Congeniality

“When I got my first stress fracture, I was still in college and I didn’t take care of it. It reoccurred when I did the movie Miss Congeniality, and I was dancing in Stuart Weitzman stilettos. One day, I was in them for 18 hours.”

On Eating Out

“You want to eat something delicious but, at the same time, it’s about balance. When I go out, I’ll get the smallest cut of steak, avoid any heavy sauces and get a side of vegetables. A really good steak should be grilled perfectly so that it tastes good by itself.”

Beauty Tips

“Everything I use pretty much comes from Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s. I use an all-purpose facial cleanser and a mineral sunscreen every day. At night, I make sure to moisturize my whole body.”

Courtney Holland, Company Dancer

The A.M.

“During the week, I wake up and drink at least one glass of water with lemon to start the day. It really is the thing that wakes me up in the morning. Then I have my coffee and an omelet.”

Winding Down

“I’m really good with icing my body and using arnica gel, a natural remedy for sore muscles. As soon as I finish eating dinner, I just put my feet up and try to wind down. People don’t realize that, in ballet, our brains are very active and it’s mentally exhausting.”

On the Ballet Body

“I know that I can’t take too much time off anymore because it will take me so much longer to get back into dancing shape. We call our pointe shoes ‘boots,’ and I need to put them on at least two or three weeks before the season starts to get used to them again. I also I try to workout really intensely before I go back, so it’s easier for my body to adjust.”

On Wellness

“Wellness is all about balance and it’s very personal. My best advice is to not compare your body to someone else’s. A diet is not going to affect you in the same way as someone else, so listen to your body and don’t deprive yourself of dessert. Find the point where you can be healthy, but enjoy life.”

Ashley Lynn Sherman, Company Dancer, Faculty Member at Ballet Austin Academy and Yoga Instructor at Dharma Yoga

The Importance of Self-care

“To me, self-care is my therapy and it means a lot of ice and heat, Epsom salt baths, massages and exercises for rehabbing the body. Now that I’m in my 30s, if I spend the whole day dancing, there’s no way I’m going to be able to do it again the next day if I just go home and do whatever. I have to go home, ice and massage and do all my stretching so that I’ll feel better for the next day.”

 On Pregnancy

“I’m 29 weeks pregnant and having a boy, and I’ve been craving a lot of red meat! Usually, I only eat red meat once every two weeks, but lately, I’ve been having it a couple times a week.* My pregnancy diet has definitely been different. It’s been hard because I feel like I should be eating super healthy right now. I’ve been doing the best that I can, but there are some foods that I just don’t want to eat right now.”

 The Beauty Routine

“I wash my face in the morning and at night before bed. I don’t really use expensive beauty products, but make sure that I put sunscreen on my face and neck every day. The only thing I do that’s special is use an exfoliating face brush that I brought back from China. I’ve tried fancy stuff, but there’s not a magic cream that’s going to solve all your problems. I think you just have to embrace what you’ve got.”  

 On Knowing Yourself

“I think that the best piece of advice I could give is to start to pay attention to your limits. It helps you to find your way towards balance, and that’s my big thing, finding balance with yourself and your life. In terms of beauty tips, if you eat well and get enough sleep and drink water, your skin is going to show that and beyond. If you feel good, then you look good.”

 

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