Just the musings of a small-town professional ballerina, business owner, wife, and beagle mama as she attempts to make it through this thing called life.

Dec 30, 2013

How To Sew Your Pointe Shoes

Hello, dear followers!
It's Monday and, according to the new schedule, you know what that means! Monday's posts are now dedicated to informative articles. Today's topic will be sewing pointe shoes, so I'll show you my step-by-step process.

Until I was about thirteen (and I was on pointe at about ten), my mother sewed my pointe shoes. There comes a time in every little ballerina's life when that responsibility needs to be our problem, because let's be honest, nobody really likes to do it. Our fingers get raw and, after a while, sewing shoes becomes a chore, not a privilege as it was when we were young and enthusiastic about all things ballet. But not to worry, here is a quick and easy to follow tutorial. Let us begin!

  • Tools

We're going to need scissors, a ruler, elastic, ribbon, a needle, thread, and of course your shoes (the pliers and knife are for cutting your shank, which we will cover another time). We keep a large plastic container to hold all the extra ribbon, elastic, and other miscellaneous sewing supplies.

  • We're going to start by cutting two 7 1/2 inch elastics. Depending on the size of your ankles you can cut it longer or shorter. Put the shoes on and measure the elastics against your ankle to know about how much you need.
  • Next up, ribbon. You'll need about 2 1/2 yards, which can be a pain in the butt to measure out if you're working with a bolt. SO, here's my solution. Keep a pre-measured ribbon on hand. You can buy these online or at your local dance store. Unravel the pre-measured ribbon and line it up with the bolt of ribbon. Then you'll know exactly how much to cut.

  • Take the 2 1/2 yard ribbon, fold it in half, and cut it at the fold. So now you have two long pieces of ribbon.
  • Now take the two ribbons and cut those in half. You'll end up with four medium-length ribbons. Then set the ribbons aside.
  • Thread your needle, grab one of the two elastics and place it on the heel of the shoe. Where you sew on the elastic is entirely up to you. Personally, I find that putting it further back holds the shoe on your foot better. You can also adjust how tight it is around the ankle by sewing higher or lower on the elastic.

  • Now, we'll move on to ribbons. Fold the 1/4 ribbon at the end a couple of times. This will keep it from fraying.

  • Put on your shoe and make a mark with a pen at the arch of your foot. This is where you'll sew your ribbons so it will keep the shoe tight to your foot and accentuate your arch.
  • Sew on the ribbon.
  • Do the same to the other side.
  • Do the same to the other shoe, and there you have it!

Thanks for reading, lovelies. If you have any of your own tips and tricks, post them in a comment below! If you have any questions then feel free to e-mail me at: rhiannon@maine.rr.com. And don't forget about Dancer S.OS.! E-mail me your questions, whether it's dance drama, finding the right pointe shoes, or wanting to improve your turnout, I'm at your disposal.
Happy Holidays!
Rhiannon -

Dec 24, 2013

Christmas Hiatus and A New Schedule

Merry Christmas, readers! So today and Christmas day I'm going to take a little break to be with my family and enjoy the holidays. But not to worry, I'll be back soon enough and I've decided to put my blogging New Year's Resolution into action a little early. I'll be posting according to a weekly schedule, so you can now expect A Dancer's Days posts four times a week!

Sunday I'll leave for varying posts. Whatever I need to write about at the time or whatever you, dear readers, would like to hear. (And you can request an article by posting a comment below or e-mail me at: rhiannon@maine.rr.com)
Monday I'll post an informative article. Whether it's how to sew pointe shoes, do your hair, or improve your splits, I'm hear to spread the knowledge.
Wednesday will be dedicated to answer your questions and my advice column "Dancer S.O.S." You can ask a question or submit to the column again by posting a comment below or e-mailing me at rhiannon@maine.rr.com.
Friday will be an "In This Moment" photograph where I show you what's going on in my life as well as provide a little update on what's happening.

So there you have it! Hope everyone's having a lovely holiday!

Rhiannon -

NYC Ballet's "New Beginnings"

Just thought I would show you all this completely stunning and artistic video posted by the New York City Ballet YouTube channel. Too beautiful not to share!

Dec 18, 2013

Dancer S.O.S!

The advice column is up and running! Be sure to submit your questions that need answering either in a comment on any post or e-mail me at: rhiannon@maine.rr.com.
Whether it's dance drama, finding the right pair of pointe shoes, performing advice, or finding the perfect summer program for you, I'm here to help!


Dec 16, 2013

Staying in Shape Over Vacation Extended Edition

It's the holidays, we all have to indulge in a Christmas cookie from time to time. But it can be really tough (especially when you're not exercising as much) to keep off that little belly bulge. So how can we prevent it? Well, I try to do an ab workout every day. It's not as straining on the muscles as a full workout or a ballet class but it keeps your stomach in shape. It can be as easy as logging on to YouTube, lying down on your living room floor and doing some exercises. I do this daily and it helps tremendously. Here are some of my favorite ab workout videos. (Excuse the cheesy 80sness of the first.)


The one above also has some great fitness tips.

As for the rest of your body, sometimes (even when I'm not on vacation) I do a little arm workout with the video below. You'll need weights or something that weighs about 5-8 pounds.


What kind of cross training fitness do you do while on vacation or even off? Let us know in a comment below!

Thanks for reading!

Rhiannon -

Dec 14, 2013

Holiday Treats

Looking for a gift for a dancer? Not to worry, I've picked my top five best 2013 gifts for dancers, all at an affordable price!

5. The "Keep Calm" shirt trend has exploded. Any dancer is sure to love this simple and fun tank from Discount Dance Supply. ($13.50) Get it HERE


 4. What's a dancer to do without warm-ups? This unitard body warmer allows you mobility but keeps you nice and toasty. ($39.40) Get it HERE
3. After long days of rehearsals, every dancer needs a little pampering. Put together a Christmas gift basket for your dancer with awesome products like these: (together: $6.00) Get it HERE


2. I got this foot bath for Christmas a couple years ago... H.E.A.V.E.N. ($36.67) Get it HERE

1. And for the BEST holiday gift for your dancer... "The Stick." This is often used in physical therapy facilities and is used to massage and loosen up your muscles. I have friends asking to borrow mine on a daily basis. My sister and I LOVE it! Get it HERE
What's on your dancer wish list? Let us know in a comment below! If you've ever used or have any of these products tell us what you think!
So there you have it. No need to worry about the perfect thing to buy that tiny dancer any longer. Merry Christmas, lovelies,
Rhiannon -

Dec 13, 2013

In This Moment

A snapshot of what's happening at this very moment:
Winter afternoon, Christmas movies, hot tea, and writing. Ahhh, I love vacation!

Dec 12, 2013

Staying in Shape Over Vacation... The Cross Training Theory

Nutcracker's over. It's sad to see it go but you know what that means... Vacation is right around the corner! I'm more than ready for a long, LONG winter's nap. I finish out this week and next with regular dance classes but after that are two weeks of nothing at all. I feel great right now. I'm in good shape and making it through Nutcracker on top of classes, I'm in pretty good shape. It's always a shame to see that fade away as the days of vacation crawl by. How can we give our body a nice break but still keep our stamina up and muscles toned? Many agree that the answer is cross training.
I started cross training at the beginning of the year (conveniently at the same time I started dating a personal trainer. Attending his fitness classes were definitely not just an excuse to see him, wink, wink). After a couple weeks I noticed my stamina was sky high. I was feeling good and revived even at the end of a tough class.
Cross training doesn't just mean hopping on the elliptical or treadmill. We want to work the muscles we don't usually target in ballet to keep our bodies balanced. I'd like to share an article recently posted by Pointe Magazine because I think that this says it all.

Your Best Body
Published in the October/November 2010 issue.

Photo by Nathan Sayers
Beyond The Barre

Strategic cross-training can transform your performance onstage.

By Kathleen McGuire

Dancers work tirelessly to improve their technique, spending hours at the barre to become better performers onstage. However, the silver bullet to better performances may actually be at the gym. By now, dancers know they should cross-train. But most approach it all too hap­hazardly. What you do—or don’t do—in the gym can transform how you dance onstage. If you’re avoiding weight training or just aim­lessly hopping on the elliptical, you’re missing out. Instead of working out just to burn extra calories, focusing on a strategic routine can actually help you become a stronger, more nuanced dancer.

Pick Up a Dumbbell

Too many dancers make the mistake of avoiding weight training, thinking it’s something dancers just shouldn’t do. Yet there are many practical benefits to lifting free weights. “Dancers need strength and power (the speed-related aspect of strength) to handle the high demands of today’s choreography,” says Nadia Sefcovic, physical therapist at New York City’s Westside Dance Physical Therapy. Working with free weights can improve both.

Strength and power will give you more control onstage to shade movement in the way you want. It will let you dance with greater attack, smoother transitions and more secure balances. “Gravity is the opponent that dancers are fighting every day—and gravity always wins,” says Houston Ballet’s certified athletic trainer Emery Hill. “You have to work as hard as you can to even out the battle.”
But what about bulky muscles? “Honestly, it takes several hours in the gym every week
lifting heavy weights to build big muscles,” says Sefcovic. Performing more repetitions with lighter weights will help you gain strength without bulking up. That’s because you’ll be working the slow-twitch muscle fibers, which are naturally smaller and don’t have the ability to grow as large as fast-twitch muscle fibers (which kick in when you’re lifting heavier weights).

“Weights are just a means of resistance,” says Erica Coffey, physical therapist for the dancers of Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre. “If you’re doing Pilates and using the reformer, the Cadillac or the chair, you’re getting resistance. There just isn’t a number attached to it, because we are talking about a spring as opposed to a weight.”

Truth be told, toning up can help you slim down. “Weight training helps to boost metabolism,” Sefcovic adds. When you increase muscle mass, your body burns more calories even when you’re just resting.     

Turn In For Better Turnout

Make sure you leave your turnout in the studio. “It’s counterintuitive, but you have to work the opposite motion of what you are trying to gain in order to have some balance,” says Hill. “If you keep working the same motion, eventually it’s going to stop improving.” Focusing solely on cross-training exercises that allow you to work in turnout can be particularly detrimental—and even cause injury. Sefcovic often puts dancers on a bike or the elliptical to ensure they remain in parallel.

The whole point of cross-training is to work the muscles you don’t use when dancing. “Dancers can develop their strength, flexibility, power and endurance while giving some of those primary muscles they use day in and day out much needed recovery time,” says Coffey. “Muscle recovery is the equivalent of making sure you get enough sleep. Every part of your body needs some downtime.”

Smarter Cardio

Even though you go through all of the same movements, class does not fully prepare your body for the demands of performing a ballet. “Research shows that the level of aerobic workout that happens in a ballet class is pretty minimal,” says Coffey. Yet classical and contemporary choreography usually requires a great deal of stamina supported by a strong cardiovascular system. Build that endurance with 30 to 40 minutes of cardio a few times a week.

Cardio is also helpful for maintaining a lean physique. However, trainers disagree whether moderately paced cardio or interval training (where you push yourself to the limit for a short time then cool down, and repeat) is more effective at burning fat. “It’s a difference in philosophy,” explains Hill. “Some trainers believe that in order to tap into fat-burning systems you have to work at a lower intensity for a longer period of time. But others say that if you burn a thousand calories, a certain percentage of those are going to be fat calories, so why go slow when you’re just trying to burn total calories?”

For Hill, the best option is a combination of both: 20 minutes of interval training followed by 20 minutes at a lower intensity. Not only will this strategy burn a lot of total calories and get you closer to your fat-burning mode, it will also prepare you for the demands of ballet choreography, which can ask for bursts of energy as well as long stretches of simply moving—or holding still—onstage.

Kathleen McGuire writes about dance from Pittsburgh, PA.

Loosen Up

Feeling stiff? Make sure you’re getting enough “good fats.” A recent study at the University of Maryland Medical Center found that omega-3 fatty acids can decrease inflammation and joint stiffness. Heidi Skolnik, nutrition consultant for the School of American Ballet, recommends eating fish two to three times a week to get healthy amounts of omega-3 in your diet. Salmon, herring and mackerel are your best bets. But if you don’t like fish, don’t fret! Flaxseeds, soybeans, walnuts and seaweed are all smart alternatives.

D.I.Y. Energy Bars

Energy bars are a great snack to stash in your dance bag. Unfortunately, most of the brands at the supermarket are loaded with sugar, saturated fat and preservatives. Make your own version at home using your favorite ingredients in just a few easy steps. Try this recipe from Bobbie Marchand, a freelance dancer in New York City.

1 cup chopped nuts (almonds, pistachios, cashews, pecans or walnuts)
3/4 cup seeds (pumpkin, sunflower or flax)
1/2 cup dried fruit (raisins, cranberries, cherries, apricots or figs)
3/4 cup natural peanut butter or almond butter
1/4 cup honey

Mix nuts, seeds and fruit in a medium-sized bowl. Gently heat the peanut butter and honey until combined and smooth. Pour over nut, seed and fruit mixture and mix well. Press into a greased 8x8 pan, allow to cool, then cut into 12 to 16 bars. The bars keep for about two weeks in an air-tight container in the fridge.

Tip: Crunch Better
Does your neck get sore when you do crunches? The next time you hit the mat for ab work, press your tongue against the roof of your mouth. This simple trick forces you to keep the back of your neck straight, which prevents the muscles back there from straining.

5 Fat-Fighting  Foods

Looking to fend off excess fat? Add these five healthy foods to your diet. Each has different benefits that help to keep your body lean.

1. Low-Fat Milk: Studies say three to four daily servings of high-calcium, low-fat dairy can nearly double the amount of fat you burn. Fat cells filled with calcium burn fat faster.

2. Grapefruit: Its vitamin C dilutes fat cells. Grapefruit also contains pectin, which prevents cells from absorbing fat.

3. Oats: This low–glycemic-index food is digested slowly, keeping blood sugar levels stable and cravings in check. A recent study found that people on a low-GI diet lost twice as much weight as those on a low-fat diet.

4. Eggs: One egg supplies 11 percent of your daily B12, which is said to break down fat cells.

5. Beans: Beans’ soluble fiber helps fend off blood sugar spikes that cause cravings. They are also packed with insoluble fiber, which keeps you fuller longer, and some experts say that it may also prevent the absorption of dietary fat. 

Dec 10, 2013

Nutcracker 2013 - A Learning Experience

This year's Nutcracker was nothing short of incredible. I've learned more about performing through those seven shows than I have every other show I've ever done combined. For five shows I danced George Balanchine's choreography for the Dew Drop in Waltz of the Flowers. I had done one show of Dew Drop in 2013 and I was a very green dancer. I knew how to perform and interact with a crowd, sure, but carrying yourself as the lead in a ballet and emitting the essence of a queen in front of two thousand people is something you simply cannot know how to do until you actually do it. I was promoted at an extremely young age. Most dancers (particularly at my company) don't perform leads until they have had many, many years of stage experience and usually don't start their debut in a principal role in the largest-scale ballet we do.

You can never know how hard it is to perform a role like that until you do it. I was on the stage in my Sugar Plum tutu during intermission, practicing a couple turns before the lights and curtain went up. Our principal ballerina, Janet Davis (who has performed as the Sugar Plum Fairy for seventeen years now), looked at me and said, "The funniest part of all of this to me is that you finally understand my pain." It is SO hard. Not just physically, because that's to be expected. But standing in the wings, knowing you're about to step out in front of all those people and all eyes will be on you, is unnerving to say the least.

But it's amazing. The sense of relief, pride, and awe you get as you step downstage and take your bow after the final dip in the pas de deux is truly overwhelming. You absorb the applause and "bravas" into your skin and take it offstage with you, carrying it wherever you go. Knowing that actually happened, knowing that for a moment you were something beautiful to all those people. That is something that will resonate in my memory forever.

The fact that I got to share in the glory and splendor of The Nutcracker with my little sister is absolutely one of the best parts. She's an incredible and breathtaking Clara with her long, graceful limbs and limitless extension. She understands performing. She can turn the charismatic twinkle in her eye on whenever she pleases and captivate every onlooker. I love that she continues to teach me a thing or two and I've always said that the day will come when she is bigger and better than I could ever hope to be. Keep in mind, I say this not in a jealous, bitter kind of way. I say it with admiration and paramount respect.

I thank my lucky stars to have my mother working so closely backstage at the shows. Yes, my sister and I have grown up and don't necessarily need her when we perform. We'd be fine on our own. But to share this with her and see the expression of pride on her face as she stands in the wings, watching us, means more than any bouquet of flowers or booming applause.

As for the other roles, Snowflakes and Dew Drop, the physical therapist that volunteers his time to come backstage and work on the dancers before/after/during shows told me a story that summed up the roles perfectly. He was watching an Alvin Ailey performance from the wings and when a dancer exited the stage, he complimented the man's dancing. The dancer looked at him and said: "That wasn't dancing, that was energy and movement." There comes a point in time, after hours of rehearsing, that the dance becomes pure energy that is your responsibility to give, and give, and give.

In the final performance I was Dew Drop and in the famous "Dew Drop turns" (pointe pas de bourre, fouette, back attitude turn and an a la seconde turn consecutively three times) I went for a double back attitude turn. I made around two full times and when I came off point, I don't know whether my shoe had too much rosin and got caught on the marley or it just wasn't a smooth landing and I lost my balance, but I made it around the last time with a couple of hops after the double and finished the segment by leaping off stage. In the wings everyone was exclaiming "AWE YOU ALMOST HAD IT!"  It wasn't terrible, the bobble was noticeable but didn't make anyone gasp in worry. But at the very least, I tried and almost had it. Better luck next year! When Janet and her dance partner/husband Glenn came off stage from their pas de deux, they approached me in the wings before the finale and what Glenn said made me realize I had probably done the right thing. "You have to go for it," he said. "What would you be doing now if you hadn't tried?" As disappointing as it was to come so close, I know I would have been beating myself to death hadn't given it my best attempt.

What were/are your Nutcracker experiences like? What have you learned as a dancer and performer from these shows? Leave a comment below to tell us!

I had my last final today. I'M ON VACATION FOR A MONTH! I could cry with happiness. It's one less thing on my plate. For the remainder of this week and next week I will be taking dance classes and teaching as usual, but get a full two weeks off afterwards. I'm all yours readers!

Thank you for reading, my lovelies. Don't forget to leave a comment below with feedback and your Nutcracker experience!

Happy holidays,

Rhiannon -

 (The lovely Hannah Anderson who came up from school at Fordham University to watch her brother in The Nutcracker and visit her MSB family) <3

(The lovely Veronica Druchniak AKA: my split for Dew Drop. A lovely performance by a lovely girl!)
 (Family Christmas card right here.) ... (No really.)

 (Yes, my boyfriend came to two shows. Yes, he is perfect.)


(Above: the amazing Janet Davis. My role model and the dancer I aspire to be someday.)
We did it, Adri.

Dec 2, 2013


So, since I have to dash to school in about two minutes I'm not going to give the whole low-down on The Nutcracker just yet. Instead, I'm just going to leave the link to the review of Saturday night's show and let that a speak for itself. http://www.pressherald.com/life/Review___Nutcracker__delectable_with_a_bit_of_something_new.html