I’ve always enjoyed the idea of ballet. I live for essie ballet slippers polish, ballet trends in fashion, and the movie Center Stage. I have an extensive collection of legwarmers (perfect for going to and from yoga). The last time I actually wore ballet slippers, though, I looked something like this.
That’s somewhat of a lie, but I refuse to post my middle school aged ballet photo. Needless to say, my appreciation has been from a far, and my behind the scenes knowledge of what it takes to be a ballerina is limited, at best– so when I had the chance to interview Emily Mistretta, a member of the Boston Ballet’s Corps de Ballet, I leaped (somewhat gracefully) at the opportunity. I am so grateful to Emily for taking the time to share her experience and insight.
[Photo courtesy of Emily and The Boston Ballet]
What does a typical day in the life of a Boston Ballet ballerina look like? Does this change as you approach performances?
EM: A typical day during rehearsal schedule starts with a class at 9:45 followed by a six hour rehearsal day until 6:30. The schedule varies depending on how many rehearsals you have, but it usually tends to be a pretty full day of dancing. Our rehearsals demand all different kinds of ballet movement. It is not atypical to transition back and forth from classical to modern or jazzy ballet rehearsals through the course of the day. For example, my day could start off with something classical, like Nutcracker, followed right by the the jazzy Rolling Stones piece “Rooster”. Then right back to another traditional ballet such as Sleeping Beauty. All before lunch. As we get closer to performances, we start to focus more on the particular upcoming piece. We change to a theater schedule about a week or two before showtime, which starts later in the day and goes later into the night. This way we get our minds and bodies ready for the performance schedule.
Is your fitness routine focused primarily in the studio, or do you cross train? If so, what are some of you favorite ways to work out?
EM: Because what we do is so physically demanding, the majority of my fitness gained while working in the studio. However, you don’t always get the cardio you need from working in rehearsals, so I like to cross train as well. It’s always good to do your own abdominal work and keep a strong core by doing Pilates or Gyrotonics, but I also like getting in the pool. Swimming is great and I also like to hold on to the edge of the pool and do a series of my barre exercises in the water. It is incredibly difficult with the resistance of the water, but you also feel so great and supported. I love a good yoga class as well, though I like to use it more as release then as an intense workout.
What are some of your favorite foods for fueling your routine?
EM: I recently discovered the joy of juicing, it’s fantastic! In the morning I like to make juices with fresh fruit and vegetables, like apples, beets, kale, carrots and ginger. It’s a great way to get my body all the great vitamins and nutrients that it so often craves. I usually compliment the juice with something more substantial, such as an egg and a piece of toast. This usually keeps me from wilting by the time our 2:30pm lunch break rolls around. Smoothies are a great snack to have during the day, when I need a quick boost during our short breaks that won’t bog me down. I like all different kinds and I always add some protein powder to keep up my energy.
Do you consider dancers to be athletes (for the record– I certainly do!)? Why or why not?
EM: I absolutely consider ballet dancers to be athletes! I think it should be considered an Olympic sport! But one of the most beautiful things about ballet is that while it is physically demanding as a sport, it is even more challenging as an art. On top of the athleticism you have to be creative, beautiful, and painlessly graceful. It is wonderfully hard!
What do you love most about what you do? What brought you to the Ballet? Have you always wanted to dance?
EM: What I love most about ballet is that as a dancer and an audience member you have the rare opportunity to witness life through artistic expression. There are moments you have on stage where your body is filled with adrenaline, energy is shooting through every part of you. You are not dwelling on the past and you haven’t taken the next step into the future, you and your body are only consumed in the present. Time slows and you are nothing but living in the bliss of the moment, experiencing each second as it comes to you.. I think you can give that to the audience so that they are along with you experiencing the present themselves and both sides are communally witnessing and enjoying life together. I’m not quite sure I knew what that feeling was when I was a kid, I just knew that I felt it. I liked the feeling of dancing and moving around as fast as I possibly could, which is probably why I usually tend to enjoy things that are a quick tempo! As a child I knew I wanted to do whatever that was that made me feel so alive and if that meant dancing then I was going to dance!
Do you have any thoughts about the recent fitness trends involving “ballet-inspired” workouts?
EM: Ballet technique creates phenomenal muscle structure. When I look around at all my coworkers, guys and girls alike, it is so obvious! Everyone is so beautifully toned and shaped! Ballet technique, if done correctly (a never ending quest), has this way of creating incredibly strong muscles in a very linear and non bulky way. I’ve personally never tried ballet tone classes, but I certainly would recommend any class that incorporates ballet technique.
What is your best tip for staying healthy and balanced during performance season?
EM: My best tip for staying healthy during performance season would be to listen to your body. Give it the nutrients and proteins it craves, and stay routinely active. This will prevent fatigue and decrease risk of injury. A dancer is generally most fatigued after a performance, so rest is extremely important. Stay on track with your health maintenance, including massages and physical therapy. Listening to and understanding your body will allow you to safely push it’s limits and increase it’s dancing potential!
I am so looking forward to seeing Emily and her fellow dancers perform at the Boston Ballet’s Fall Program
next week. In the meantime, I may need to dust off those ballet shoes…Also On Tap for Today
Did you dance as a child? Best/worst costume?