10 Important Reminders: Healthy Habits for a Healthy Body

This post is intended to provide a few reminders when considering our body image.   There is no particular order to this list as each point is equally as important as  the next.   My hope is that students, parents, and teachers will take this post as  a reminder that often developing a positive body image is a group effort.   It includes not only the student, teacher, and parent – but professionals as well.  Taking steps to proactively consider students’ (your child’s) thoughts on body image and speaking to them about it can help to prevent and/or resolve potential problems in this area.

1. DO Avoid Dieting. The term invokes a thought of depriving ourselves of food (aka. nutrition and fuel).

2. DO seek healthy food choices. Remember that food is the fuel that you body needs and uses for every function – from cell and energy production to muscle contraction and breathing. Limiting your fuel intake limits the ability of your body to function.

3. DO Speak to a dietitian. If you feel that you might need to ‘lose weight’ or gain muscle – start with speaking to a dietitian. This will help you to look at where you are at with you food choices today and determine if and what food choices might be effective changes for you.

4. DO Drink Water. We have talked about it before and are saying it again. Water is essential to your health on a cellular level. It is essential for your tissues, blood, muscle, and brain function.

5. DO be wary of extreme weight loss. Teachers – if you notice that a student’s body is changing dramatically – speak to the parent. Bring your concerns to their attention. Whether the weight loss is intentional or not, speak to the parent. Recommend that medical advice be sought. Parents – this can be a difficult subject to approach, but it is crucial that you do so.

6. DO Trust the Science. There is tremendous science behind nutrition for performance athletes (sports and dance). There are a lot of fad diets out there that claim ‘amazing results’. In general, if there is a miraculous or outrageous claim being made then it is highly likely that it does not work. Yes, you might see results in the short term – but in the long term those results will most likely be impossible to maintain.   Best advice:  Trust the science – speak to professionals who work with athletes and dancers for guidance.

7. DO Accept yourself. Historically the dance world holds the ‘ideal physique’ on a pedestal – many seek to achieve this physique. We (teachers, dancers, parents) need to remind ourselves and our  young people that the body you have been given is a gift.  Genetics provides a map for our physical development, training can have a direct effect on the lines our bodies can create through dance,  accept that there are things we cannot change (genetics) and learn how best to train and fuel your body for optimum performance.

8. DO Investigate/ Research, and seek advice. Your body is your instrument. Research effective ways to improve your health, then speak to a professional before incorporating it into your lifestyle. For nutritional advice – seek out a dietitian, for conditioning advice – seek out a physiotherapist or athletic therapist, for training advice – seek out a trusted dance teacher.  A best first step is to speak to your parents and family physician.

9. DO Know that you are not alone. In today’s society young women and men are bombarded with images in the media that have been photo shopped (altered)  to fit how marketing executives want the public to view their product so that we will buy that product.  Be careful not to fall into the trap of believing that what you see in advertising is the truth.

10. DO What you love. Seeking happiness? Seeking purpose? Follow your heart. Seeking fulfillment in achieving the perfect body (in this authors view) is misdirected (or perhaps misguided) purpose. If you love dance, then dance for the joy of it. Seeking what is perceived as the ‘ideal dancers body’ is setting yourself up for disappointment and can result in extensive damage to your body.

Author:   Jacqui Davidson

Your top ten (x2) for 2012!



Today’s post began with one top ten list for students, and by the time it was complete there was a list for teachers too! Taking the time to plan your day or week allows you the opportunity to focus your thoughts and prioritize what you need to do to prepare yourself.  The lists are not necessarily new, breakthrough ideas – but serve as reminders that there are some simple ways we can guide ourselves and our students towards progress and the fulfillment of our potential.



Top 10 Items every dance student should have in their dance bag…

[drumroll please!]

  1. Yes, you need a dance bag.
    • Once you get past the point of your parents coming with you to class and ensuring that you’ve brought everything you need – it’s the best way to keep all your dance things in one place.
    • Parents begin this with your young dancer (even 3 and 4 yr olds) to build the habit of preparing your dance gear (and thoughts) beforehand.
    • And remember, dance bags do not need to be expensive or fancy (nor dance specific), your local sporting goods store will have some reasonably priced options!
  2. A water bottle.
  3. First aid kit.
    • Hand sanitizer – lots of people use studios, which means viruses and germs are present (and they love the humidity)!
    • Band aids – for your fingers, toes, knees, elbows, etc.
    • Tissues- for your nose.
    • Asthma/allergy medications such as inhalers and Epi-pens.  These should also be brought into the studio with you and your teacher should know why you have them.
  4. Hair supplies.
    • Several strong hair elastics, hair pins, hair net, brush/comb, bobby pins/barrettes/clips for the wisps.
    • Tidy and secured hair serves three important functions.  First, it prevents the distraction of the hair being in the dancers face when moving.  Second, it allows the teacher to see the alignment of the shoulders and neck clearly.   Third, dance is about creating lines with the body, essentially from the center (spine) outward to the limbs – the audience (and the teacher) needs to see the lines that the dancers are creating throughout their technique.
  5. Dance shoes.
    • Ideally you want to you find a bag that has a separate shoe compartment, to help prevent the ‘sharing of smells’.  A waterproof bag of some sort is helpful as well – that way if your water bottle/hairspray/ lunch leaks during transport your shoes won’t get soaked.
    • Remember to allow your shoes to dry at the end of your day.  Once you  have arrived home take your shoes out of your bag and leave them out to air dry.   Don’t forget to put them back in your bag in the morning!
  6. Pointe shoe kit.
    • For those that take pointe class, you should all have a small sewing kit in your dance bag.  Needle, thread, small scissors, and  toe tape  should be in your kit.  For students that need to wear band aids it is recommended to use toe tape on top of the band aids so they do not slide off your toes when on pointe, creating additional friction (blisters).
  7. A snack or two.
    • If you bring a dry snack it can be in a Ziploc bag, or if you bring a wet snack that needs to be kept cool try an insulated lunch bag.
  8. Dance wear.
    • Again, its great if your bag has a specific compartment for your dance wear, but if it doesn’t it is best to have a waterproof bag to put your dance wear in at the beginning and end of your day.
    • A spare pair of tights and a bodysuit/leotard is helpful for those days when your aren’t as prepared as you thought!
  9. A lock.
    • This might not apply to every situation, however if lockers are available for your use it is recommended that you lock up your dance bag and personal items during class.
  10. A notebook or journal.
    • Remember those goals you set for yourself earlier this year? Jot them down in your notebook or journal.  When you have a break in your day (between classes or rehearsals, waiting for your ride, in the car, etc.)  read through your goals and make note of where you are at with them.  While you are at it – jot down any corrections that you received today.  Did you understand the correction?  Did you achieve the correction? What do you need to work on next time?

Need extra compartments for all of your stuff?   Go for the simple solution – good old Ziploc bags and containers work very well, for pennies!  Re-useable pouches can also be found at travel stores such as Mountain Equipment Coop (in Canada) or REI (in the US) – equally as inexpensive in the long run.


Alright teachers, you have not been forgotten…


Top 10 Items every dance teacher should have in their teaching bag (or locker)…

  1. A good nights rest!
  2. A body that is ready to teach.  Have you warmed up your muscles before teaching?
    • Before you head into the studio try taking a yoga or Pilates class, doing your own barre or a brief aerobic warm up and a few light stretches.  You will be able to demonstrate more effectively and will enter class focused, energized, and positive.
  3. A water bottle.
    • Reaching for pop or coffee is far too easy sometimes, staying hydrated will foster the pliability of your muscles and joints, and boost stamina – this practice also sets an example for both parents and students.
  4. A small snack or two.
    • Dried or sliced fruit, cut vegetables, a small sandwich, greek yogurt (high protein!) or even a bit of chocolate.
    • This also sets an example for the students and parents, reminding them to bring healthy snacks, and to take the time to eat them during breaks.
  5. Hair supplies.
    • Though I don’t believe that teachers need to have their hair in a bun (for ballet) I do believe that our students can see our alignment and facial expressions clearer when we wear our hair up.   A tidy presentation is key.  If students are expected to have tidy hair then it follows that teachers demonstrate the same.
  6. White athletic (toe) tape.
    • Learning to tuck in your drawstrings on your ballet slippers can be a hard lesson when you are young.   Use athletic tape to secure the drawstrings of your students shoes into the toe of the shoe (after they’ve been trimmed).    Keeps them out of sight, helping children to focus on using their feet rather than fixing their drawstrings.
    • Also comes in handy when fitting and labeling costumes!
    • Here in Winnipeg hockey tape is abundant , it is inexpensive and works just as well as pricey ‘toe tape’.
  7. Teaching shoes.
    • Every teacher has their preference of what they like to wear when teaching.  Truth be told, we need to be aware of the health of our feet as it impacts the lower legs, hips and lower back in particular.  Keep your feet and back healthy by keeping your shoes in good repair and having a few pairs to rotate throughout your teaching week.
    • Check in with your physiotherapist to see if you need an orthotic to be fit into your teaching shoes as well.
  8. Teaching clothes.
    • If alignment is a key element in your class (which I hope it is!), ensure that students can see your alignment as well.  Avoid overly baggy tops and pants.   If the school dress code requires that students be fully covered, then teachers are advised to demonstrate the same.
  9. Music!
    • An Ipod chock full of your entire music collection.  Thank the lord we don’t have to haul around those vinyl LPs or piles of CDs anymore!
    • An adapter.  If you change locations often this can save you from having to sing your entire class or having to dig through what few cd’s you might have available to you.  According to tech-y  advisors they are called a ‘1/8th inch stereo male to stereo RCA male’ adapter.
  10. Teaching notebook/ journal.
    • This probably goes without saying – do take the time to outline your classes beforehand.  Have a focus in mind for your class.  Having a notebook handy proves useful when noting what needs to be worked on next class/week, or ideas for choreography as well.

Cellphones. We all have them in our bags don’t we?   Just a reminder to keep them on silent while you teach.  If you need to keep it at hand due to a family emergency let your school director know in case any parents/students express concern.


Now its your turn – what is the most essential item in your dance/teaching bag?