Post by Nicole Stalker, Corps de Ballet
Artists of every kind depend on their instruments to create a masterpiece. Without proper care and maintenance, these instruments can lose their effectiveness. Ballet dancers’ bodies serve as the translation of our art form, and it is our responsibility as professionals to provide ourselves with the best possible care. Many dancers depend not only on physical therapy and strengthening exercises, but also on post-performance rituals. Although many of us share similar cool down techniques, each dancer tailors a specific routine to meet their individual needs.
Personally, I have found that ice is one of the most effective treatments for a tired body. Icing after a workout alleviates inflammation and pain. An ice bucket works wonders for me after a long day of rehearsals. I fill a bucket with ice and water, and then soak my legs below the knee for ten-to-twelve minutes. Although the process is far from pleasant, I find that doing this everyday at the end of the day during a rehearsal week helps me feel less sore and achy. Another great technique for relieving painful areas is an ice massage. I use this technique twice a day when my patellar tendonitis flares up. The easiest way to do an ice massage is to freeze a small paper cup of water, peel back the paper, and rub the ice block in circles over the injured area. Ice massaging is a great way to reduce swelling and pain quickly.
Icing takes up the most time during my maintenance routine. It is hard to force yourself to sit down and ice when getting home late at night after a performance, but it is extremely important in the long run. After I ice, I usually rub an anti-inflammatory gel on sore areas and wrap them in Saran wrap. Though it sounds strange, placing plastic wrap over the anti-inflammatory gel helps it absorb into muscles more efficiently. Lastly, if I am feeling particularly run down, or have had a rough day, I take Arnica tablets before bed. Arnica tablets are a homeopathic treatment used to reduce swelling and lighten soreness.
Not only is it important to take care of your body using these treatments, it is also important to refuel. Before a performance weekend, I drink plenty of water, eat high protein foods, and sleep as much as I can. Emergen-C packets have proven themselves lifesavers during the hours before a show when I am feeling fatigued. They easily dissolve in water and are packed with electrolytes and vitamins to give you a slight energy boost. Although it takes a process of trial and error, finding the right post-performance ritual is crucial to remaining happy and healthy.