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How Ballet Austin’s Sugar Plum Fairy Stays in Shape

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Discipline and dedication keep Ballet Austin’s Aara Krumpe twirling on her toes.

By Gretchen M. Sanders, Photo by Anne Marie Bloodgood

Aara Krumpe was 19 years old when she joined Ballet Austin as an apprentice dancer in 1999. Two years later, the Corpus Christi, Texas, native became a company ballerina.

Since then, in a career spanning 20 years, Krumpe has performed the title roles in “Romeo and Juliet,” “The Taming of the Shrew,” “The Firebird,” “Giselle,” “Belle Redux” and “The Sleeping Beauty.” She has danced principal roles in “The Magic Flute,” “Cinderella,” “Swan Lake” and “Hamlet,” among other productions by Artistic Director Stephen Mills.

“I’ve been lucky,” says Krumpe, who started dancing at age 5 and went en pointe at age 9. “You spend so much time in your childhood trying to get here.”

This month, Krumpe will dazzle audiences at The Long Center as the Sugar Plum Fairy in “The Nutcracker.” She’s danced the part every holiday season since 2005. At 38, this will be her last year. Krumpe plans to retire from Ballet Austin in May.

“It’s the right time for me and my body,” she says. “I don’t want an injury to force me to leave. I don’t want to see myself decline onstage. I want to go out on top.”

Here’s how this professional ballerina keeps her grands jetés, pirouettes and pliés looking sharp year after year.

THE A.M.:

“I wake up at 6:15 a.m. and make coffee. Nothing will run well if I don’t! After I shower and take my boys to school, I do a 15-minute Pilates routine on a machine that I have at home. It gets my muscles ready for my workday.”

THE WORKOUT:

“Ballet Austin company dancers work from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday for 34 weeks a year. We begin every morning with a 90-minute ballet class. We spend the first 40 minutes at the barre, refining our technique, and then we put on our pointe shoes. The class helps us hone the basics, boost our stamina and prepare for afternoon rehearsal. These days, I don’t do any cross-training because I get so much cardio throughout the day. At my age, it’s more important to stretch and hydrate for the following day so I can give 100 percent.”

THE DIET:

“I eat oatmeal every morning. It sustains my energy. If I need a snack during our morning break, then I’ll have half of a granola bar. We take a lunch break at 1 p.m., and I bring my own. I usually eat oatmeal again! I can’t have a lot of food in my stomach when we’re dancing intensely. For dinner, I try to eat more nutrient-dense foods. I’m not looking for volume. I want a lot of fuel in a small package; a salad and a good protein. I often readjust my fuel needs depending on my schedule and how much I’m dancing. Sometimes I’ll add some almonds during the day. I must stay in peak physical condition, but I don’t like to limit myself with food. Ballet Austin values how you move more than how you look. On weekends, I’ll enjoy a glass of wine or beer. I rehydrate at night.”

THE GEAR:

“As a company dancer, I get 35 pairs of pointe shoes a year. I wear Capezios, which cost about $120 per pair. They’re made of glue and canvas with an outer layer of satin, and I will go through two pairs a week during ‘The Nutcracker’ season. We buy our own tights and leotards. I prefer pink tights with a dark leotard; I just feel more like a ballet dancer in pink. I don’t wear a skirt so that I can see the architecture of my muscles when I dance. I also use a yoga block for stretching, The Stick for rolling out my calves and a TheraBand foot roller. Ballet Austin provides our tutus and costumes.”

THE MOTIVATION:

“I love what I do. Dancing is strenuous and regimented and it requires discipline. It makes me appreciate the human body.”

THE MINDSET:

“Do your best every day. Try to be better than you were the day before. I can get behind excellence.”

THE P.M.:

“After I take my kids to soccer and after all the homework, I’m done parenting. At 8:30 p.m., it’s time to relax. I usually get on the living-room floor and stretch or do splits while I watch TV. I’ve never owned a coffee table. My husband jokes that maybe I’ll sit on the couch with him once I retire. He’s my biggest fan.”

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