to infinite and beyond

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Remember when we talked about Apolla Shocks, way back in the day? Well, I’ve been wearing them for about a month now and I am completely hooked. I mean hooked as in, they are with me in Vail and I’m not even dancing here, hooked. So let’s get you better acquainted, shall we?

Apolla offers three different fits, and while the Performance (medium support) seems to be the frontrunner for me at the moment, the Infinite (maximum support) is pulling a close second. I got to try these out these guys in the black, non-traction style…

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A bit taller in the ankle, the Infinte Shocks offer slightly more stability and compression than the Performance style to relieve sore muscles and fight inflammation up through the calf. These socks will be in heavy rotation throughout the season as my feet swell and my joints take on more pressure.

All Apolla Shocks are anatomically correct, meaning there is a right and left side, making their structured arch support even more effective.

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Since receiving my Shocks, I’ve washed them an embarrassingly few number of times (less than I’d care to admit), but you guys, they don’t get stinky! I meant it. My flat shoes and toe pads are disgusting, but the antimicrobial magic in these things keeps them fresh for(almost)ever.

The Infinite style also features a bit more padding (or as the scientists call it, “knit-in energy absorption”) in the metatarsal and heel to cushion your base and protect your feetsies from the damage dancing can (let’s be real, will) cause.

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Has anyone else tried Apolla Shocks? If you are interested in trying these bad boys out for yourself (ppppsssst, they are releasing a new color soon!), enter code STB-ApollaDiscount-2 at checkout for 10% off, valid through 8/31 (wink).

 

all photo by Jenay Evans for setting the barre.

shocking

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As you may recall, if you’ve been following along here for some time, at the end of last season I incurred a host of local injuries around my left bunion area. There was bursitis, sesamoiditis, tendonitis, a real -itis fest, if you will. ANYway, when that all happened, wearing flat technique shoes first thing in the morning became rather unbearable, so my physical therapist suggested I try warming up in socks. I began wearing socks for pliés and tendus, then expanded that to include dégagés, then rond de jambes, then fondus, until one day I was working through the entire barre “en sock”. And let me tell you, it was a magical discovery.

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I found I was able to warm up my feet more thoroughly, connecting down through the floor from the very start of the day. My bones were free to spread and contract as they took their morning breaths, inhaling marley up through their joints and exhaling sweet, strong energy. I was able to dance my entire season sans-itis. A miracle, friends! The only problem? In an attempt to give myself some form of padding, the socks I had on rotation were baggy, bulky, relatively uncomfortable and wholly unflattering.

Then I heard about Apolla Shocks.

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Let me first disclaim: This is not a sponsored post. Although I did receive the Apolla Shocks pictured here complimentary, I approached the brand myself to inquire about their products after being tipped off by the lovely Cirio Collective dancers. Socks specially designed for dancers! Look how pretty! How supportive! How strange! I had to learn more.

And boy am I ever glad I did. As seems to be the trend this days (thank goodness!), sports science, design, and dance have come together in the creation of these beauties. The pair I’m wearing here are the mid-level support and the ones that will likely become my go-to, The Performance Shocks. They feature a compressed weave for extra arch support and ankle stabilization, and a slim yet free toe fit to allow for articulation without suffocating your piggies.

In my shocks I am finally I am able to properly employ my feet at the barre again, shaping them with all of the grounded metatarsals, lifted arches, and lengthened toes I can muster! IMG_5223IMG_5221

All Apolla Shocks come in 3 different shades so you can (at least attempt) to find your shade and ergo, your perfect line, because it’s just that easy, right? These science socks are moisture-wicking (happy dancing- any fellow sweaty feet friends?!) and antimicrobial, meaning every day washing is not necessary (double happy dance).

One of the coolest things about these dance socks is the option for their revolutionary customizable traction. The thin rubber traction starts out rather sticky, but is meant to be worn in to your desired level of grip. Once my shocks start too feel a bit too slippery (I actually like how their feeling after just a few uses), I plan on rubbing some rosin into the soles (as suggested by Apolla) to keep them right where I want ’em.IMG_5222

What do you think? Do you dance in socks? Would you try Apolla? If you are interested, Apolla is offering Setting The Barre readers 10% their first purchase with the code STB-ApollaDiscount-1 at checkout. Valid through June 19th.

 

photos by Jenay Evans for Setting The Barre.

recover

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Ahhh, rest. Relaxation. Sitting still. It’s not something dancers think about all that often, but it’s just as essential to the dancer’s life cycle as rehearsal and performance time. With a few injuries under my belt (the infamous spinal fractures of 2013 and who could forget the season of itis?), I’ve taken on self-care with a pretty serious fervor. I meet regularly with our goddess of a physiotherapist, incorporate as many anti-inflammatory foods into my diet as I can without actually sticking my face into a bucket of turmeric, and let a (highly skilled) doctor stick needles into my body more often than I care to admit. I holistic heal like my dancing depends on it because, well, it does.

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But sometimes (ahem, Nutcracker season) there is just not enough time to run to the store when you’ve diced up the last of your ginger. You’re on the zillionth run of Flowers, the stage feels like concrete under your tired knees and you need more immediate relief for those sore calves. I feel you. So does Zarely.

Rounding out their tri-series collection of ballet tights, Zarely’s recover tights support the rehabilitation stage of a dancer’s life cycle. They are made with a graduated compression weave to gently squeeze the muscles, enhancing blood flood to achey stems.

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So let’s be real- these puppies are tight in every sense of the word. I grunted several times whilst putting them on. But once their constricting hug enveloped my legs completely, I could really feel the heal! Plus, the looser, flexible hip area allows for full range of motion, meaning once their on, you can slide around for some stretching, easy peasy.

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I can’t wait to wear these the next time I have a guesting that requires air travel. Have you ever felt like your ankles and feet have doubled in size from departure to arrival? The extended period of time spent sitting restricts blood flow to these areas, causing painful puffing. It’s really no fun landing in a host city to perform with swollen feet, so I’m looking forward to repairing in the air with Zarely. (double wink)

These compression tights also look beautiful, unlike most of their clinical counterparts, so they would be perfect for a post-performance gala or celebratory drink. Tingle while you mingle! Haha, sorry, I tried.

If you’d like to get your body restoration on, head over to Zarely and use the code KIRSTENZARELY at checkout for a 20% discount. See my previous posts on their rehearsal and performance tights for more reviews.

 

all photos by Jenay Evans for Setting The Barre.

diary of an injured dancer

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Advice to any dancers who have been nursing an injury for the past 3 months: make your first class back one filled with 12-year-olds.

No matter how much time you’ve spent away from the studio, that first time facing the mirrors after an injury is going to be rough.  The barre feels foreign under your palm, there’s a leotard invading your personal space and your ankles can barely support an eight-count balance.  Eeep.

Place a young dancer in front of you, though, and see empowerment replace fear.  Your knees will still wobble and your fingers will feel fuzzy, yes.  But those sparkly little eyes looking up at you from under stiff port de bras is just enough to enlighten.

Whenever I feel fearful about the daunting work that lies ahead before the start of this new season, I try to do something more easily said than done: remember my past.  I have fallen before, but I can rise strong.

FullSizeRender 103.jpgSo, have you read Brené Brown’s book yet?  What did you think?

i t i s

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Maybe you read my last few posts, and you are wondering about that sore foot of mine…or maybe you didn’t and aren’t, but I’m going to tell you anyway.  With my MRI results came good news and bad news.

The good news: Nothing is fractured.

The bad news: Everything is enflamed.  I’ve got bursitis, tendonitis and sesamoiditis.

All of the itis’s.  That’s what I’ve got.

A bit of a disclaimer: I would like to make it clear that I in no way advocate for dancing on injuries.  In fact, I think it’s a terrible idea and extremely destructive treatment of your most valuable instrument.  That being said, I have been given the okay by my orthopedist to continue rehearsing- with caution- for the next 3 weeks and perform in our final performance of the season (followed by a summer of rest and relaxation- doctor’s orders).

So with anti-inflammatories and a bucket of ice I shall press on.  Excited, nervous, slightly disbelieving; I walk into rehearsals this week with careful steps, a positive mindset, and the opportunity to glean a powerful life lesson.

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p l a n t e d

As I mentioned yesterday, my foot has been bumming me out these days.  And when I say bumming, I mean, bum planted on the couch, toes wrapped in ice, meh.  But speaking of plants (stay with me as I reach for romanticism in this medically-charged* post here), to quell the inflammation, I’ve been exploring the many methods through which Mother Nature heals.

Coupling my strong aversion to western pharmaceuticals (I blame a sensitive stomach and exposure to the miracle of acupuncture) with the aches and pains that accompany a ballet career, in recent years I’ve found myself charging down a quite intriguing path towards holistic healing.  I’m pretty convinced that plants rule the world.  A few of my favorites and the strange ways I’ve been harnessing their powers recently:

ginger. DSC07785minced up in sautéed kale, grated over strawberry-rhubarb crisp, bulky chunks steeped in tea.  it’s healing gingerols are powerful, and I love them in all forms.

turmeric.DSC07818 (1)which, thanks to my mom, i currently have in full root, ground and extract forms.  the curcumin found in this tasty spice is hailed by masters of Chinese medicine as one of the world’s most powerful anti-inflammatories.  try steeping the roots in hot water (mixed with a bag of green tea for added anti-inflammatory benefits!), sprinkling its grounds over a cauliflower before roasting or blending into your favorite smoothie recipe (it’s taste usually disappears amongst fruits and berries), or popping the extract capsules along with water and some food (the most potent and effective method, so I’ve read).

tea.DSC07834tea is a great way to absorb more of those wonderful inflammation-fighters found in the aforementioned ginger, turmeric, and yes, the magical flavonoids packed into green tea leaves.  the high level of catechin polyphenols in green tea have many healthy benefits, and relief from joint pain and swelling just so happens to be one of them. fill a mug and drink up!

maple and walnut.DSC07774curled into a beautiful (and efficient!) foot roller by the talented husband of a fellow FBP dancer, what once branched up from the earth now relaxes my roots.  it may look unassuming, but this bad boy has been a lifesaver for my cramped arches and stuff joints.

garlic.DSC07783in my (italian) opinion, garlic turns any dish it touches to gold**.  but its strength is not just in flavor; did you know garlic works hard to fight inflammation, too?  okay, so this is mostly based on dancer suspicions and old slavic advisors, but hey, it can’t hurt to add a little more gusto to your dish in the hopes of reliving some pain, right?  if you can get your handsome boyfriend to cook said dish for you, you’ve got it made in the shade!

arnica.DSC07766 (1)conveniently gel-ified by the wizards at arnicare, the arnica flower delivers an impressive collection of natural soothers.  the sesquiterpene lactones, found predominantly in the stem of the plant, share their anti-inflammatory effects to the body when applied topically.  yes, please.

actual flowers.DSC07828last but not least, never underestimate the effect of a cheery spring bouquet in lifting your spirits (especially if you’re currently experiencing a snow storm during the first week of April).  positivity=power!  bonus points if they are delivered by your sweet mother.

Happy healing!

*full disclosure: I am not a doctor.  The suggestions in this post are just that.  If you are experiencing pain or swelling in your body, I recommend seeing a medical professional whom you trust, listening to their advice, and experimenting with plant-based treatments that work for you and your body.

**unless your mom accidentally slices up a chocolate-almond croissant on your garlic cutting board.  garlic-flavored sweets are decidedly disgusting…haha.

the {whole} dancer

but-julie-kent-says-that-her-3-copyOne of the topics I spend a lot of time complaining about discussing here on Setting The Barre is the mental strength required in professional ballet.  Dancers are faced with a bevy of intellectual choices every day, the results of which will effect them physically and emotionally- both long and short term.  As time goes on and ballet evolves, more and more is being expected of young dancers, from seemingly unattainable technique to tear-provoking artistry.  But, with the increasing of the years (I see you, 2016), comes an increase in resources available to us in the ballet world.  Can you imagine a ballet career supported by a community of artists all experiencing a similar lifestyle, led by an informed and caring coach?  Jessica Spinner, creator of The Whole Dancer, can, and today she’s here to share that vision with us…

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The Whole Dancer coach and creator, Jessica Spinner, in her dancing days

Kirsten:  Hi Jess! Thanks so much for taking the time to share your exciting new program with us. First could you tell us a bit about yourself and your dance background?

Jess:  I started dancing late, around age 12, at The American Theatre Dance Workshop, the official school of the Eglevsky Ballet. I spent summers at the Kirov Academy, Boston Ballet, NCSA, ABT in New York, and Orlando Ballet on scholarship. I went on to study Dance and Arts Administration at Butler University. Upon graduation, I started dancing with the Louisville Ballet, but after a few years, missed being on the east coast so much I moved to Boston and started freelancing. During my time in Boston, a severe Sesamoid injury ultimately ended my professional dancing career.

K:  So you transitioned.  What inspired you to start this unique community for dancers?

J:  I started Health Coaching in 2013 as a generalist. It was really wonderful helping women of varying backgrounds find health and balance, but something was missing.

There was this inkling in the back of my mind that I should be working with dancers because I so deeply understood what they deal each day. Looking back, my years dancing were profoundly imbalanced and unhealthy and I did not deal well with the pressure I was putting on myself or feeling from artistic directors.

I decided to reach out to friends who are still in the dance world or those who have recently retired just to make absolutely sure I was not alone in struggling with major insecurities as a dancer. The overwhelming response was that my colleagues could have benefitted so greatly from a coaching program. And so, The Whole Dancer was founded.

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TWD member Amber Ray, professional level student at the John Cranko Schule in Stuttgart, Germany

K:  What exactly is The Whole Dancer program?

J:  The Whole Dancer is an 8–week group program created to help dancers learn skills outside the studio (that can be applied inside the studio) to help them have healthier, more balanced careers. The information is divided into 6 modules including vision and goal setting, eating well, cross–training, personal assessment, self love/care and career development.

I have found that these are areas where dancers could use more guidance and they don’t often get it in the school or company setting. Unless they have a dedicated mentor or coach with a dance background, dancers must navigate a lot of stress alone.

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TWD member Abby Zinsser, professional level student at Richmond Ballet

K:  Being enrolled in the fall session of TWD, I really loved listening to your webinars. The discussions felt so relatable and specific to the needs of a ballet dancer. Which aspect of the program has been the most rewarding in your opinion? 

J:  So much of TWD Program has been so rewarding – I would say my favorite thing has been getting to know each dancer personally. Hearing from them that a worksheet or call opened their eyes to something new and how helpful it was fills my heart with joy.  Staying in touch with TWD Program participants and celebrating their successes together or coaching them through rejections gives me a great sense of purpose.

Teaming up with other dancers and hearing how supportive they are of The Whole Dancer’s objectives is also incredibly inspiring. I have had the pleasure of collaborating with Shelby Elsbree of Boston Ballet, former Colorado ballet dancer Casey Dalton, and Lauren King, Soloist with NYCBallet- to name a few.

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TWD mentor and Boston Ballet dancer Shelby Elsbree, shot by Kenneth B Edwards

K: I’m such a big Shelby fan.  A lovely person both inside and out, her contributions have been so spot on.  What else can dancers expect to get out of this program?

J: Through The Whole Dancer Program, dancers can expect to find greater confidence and assuredness in their abilities and futures.

They will learn skills that will be valuable throughout their careers and even into life after dance. I hope for participants to feel supported not only by me as their coach and Shelby as a mentor, but also by the strong community of their fellow dancers participating in the program.

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TWD member Amber Ray

K: That’s pretty exciting!  How can dancers get involved?

J:  Sign up for The Whole Dancer Program!  Or, for dancers who are already at a balanced, established and happy place in their dance careers and would like to share how they got there with a younger generation, reach out. If you would like to share what you’ve learned in a blog post or webinar I would LOVE to collaborate.

K: So, what’s next for The Whole Dancer?

J: On January 5 there will be a no – cost webinar on “Fearless Auditioning”. Whether dancers are going out for summer program auditions or company spots I hope to touch on some important ways to make this a successful and fun audition season!

The next 8-week session of The Whole Dancer Program begins on January 20. Enrollment is ongoing through January 17, 2016. The program can also be purchased as a gift for your dancer friends through December 23!

The second round of The Whole Dancer Program features a couple of new options for additional one–on–one coaching support. The BASIC program includes all community information and group seminar calls. The PRO option includes basic features plus feedback on all worksheets and the ELITE option includes basic and pro features as well as 2 one on one coaching calls. This option is a great way to have additional support in implementing the feedback you receive and finding major success in a short amount of time.

One of the elements of the January 16’ session that I am most jazzed about is the participation of Shelby Elsbree. Miss Elsbree will serve as an additional coach and mentor during the career module. Every time I’ve worked with Shelby, her insights have been profound and I am thrilled to team up with her for this upcoming program.

The Whole Dancer is constantly evolving and my ultimate goal is to serve the needs of dancers to the best of my ability. Future offerings will always reflect the feedback I receive from program participants and one on one coaching clients.

Thanks again, Jess!  If you’d like more information on The Whole Dancer, head on over to the website here.

Register for the January 2016