Video: Movement Research for “Thaw”

I don’t post video all that often.

Originally it was because A] I didn’t shoot video all that often and B] when I did, I usually couldn’t stand to look at it and didn’t want anyone else to look at it, either. (Or, well … sometimes also because the decent video I had was typically rehearsal video from someone else’s piece, and I didn’t want to post it without permission.)

Now I just rarely post video because I rarely think of it. I share clips to Insta on the regular, but more often than not they’re clips rather than entire pieces.

Anyway, today I was scrolling through my phone’s camera reel and happened to watch one of my movement research videos from March, when I was beginning to work seriously on the piece that originally became “January Thaw,” and is now just “Thaw.”

And in the process, I found the video below, and discovered that I loved parts of it: the weird parallel developpe that was originally part of this piece (I vaguely recall deciding that, because it had to transition into a turned-out arabesque followed by a penche, I should replace it with a normal developpe); the lovely precipite in the middle that was later eclipsed by a series of arabesques (at least, I’m pretty sure I decided to keep the arabesque version); this moment when I unfurl from a contraction in a lunge; these insane floating turns that reminded me that I can, in fact, turn beautifully[1] when I bother to make the effort.

  1. Some of them are decidedly off-plumb, but they somehow wind up being beautiful anyway. *shrug*

There are flaws, of course. I’ve decided not to itemize them. I know they’re there; you know they’re there–I won’t gain anything by nattering on about them, so for once in my life, I won’t.

Anyhoo, the music, to which I own no rights whatsoever, is Alexandra Dariescu’s aching rendition of Chopin’s Prelude #4, Largo, E minor (Op. 28:4) on Chopin/Dutilleux, Volume 1, Champs Hill Records, 2013.

You can find it on Amazon and probably everywhere else, because seriously. This recording is so good.

Anyway, here’s the video. I hope you’ll enjoy it.

DancerLife: A Man, A Plan, A … Well, Kind Of A Plan, IDK

Today’s episode of Danseur Ignoble is brought to you by the famous palindrome, “A MAN, A PLAN, A CANAL: PANAMA.” Which, to be fair, only works properly if you don’t consider the punctuation when reversing it, in which case you’d get “.AMANAP :LANAC A ,NALP A ,NAM A” thus utterly defeating the entire point of palindromes in the first place. Also, full disclosure: at the moment, as far as I know, there isn’t a canal in my plan.

I wrote recently about how planning to eat is a good idea, and how the #dancerlife can make that challenging, etc.

Anyway, now that the season is looming into sight (OH LORD, MAKE HASTE TO HELP US, etc) and I’ve done the fun part of being a responsible adult danseur (New tights! New shoes! New … dance belts. Yeah, well, it can’t all be that exciting.), I’m on to doing the hard part.

Or, well, the part that’s hard for me.

Which is planning.

Anyway, in the spirit of continuing to explore the vagaries of #dancerlife in ways that might potentially be useful to other people, today we’ll take a brief look at my planning process (HA! I’m not sure it qualifies as a process, tbh.)

I find it really helpful to create a broad visual guide to my week: a kind of general picture of how things are likely to look, knowing that they’re going to be different sometimes. Because I’ll take 6,000,000 years to finish it if I try to do it by hand, I typically just create a table in Google Docs.

Here, for your edification, is a screenshot of said table as it currently stands:

I like to assume that I’m an idiot and address myself accordingly in the notes. I’m not, in fact, actually an idiot in a general sense, but I’m TERRIBLE at imagining time, and reminding myself to “Eat breakfast. SERIOUSLY. EAT BREAKFAST.” is a good idea.

My teaching schedule (thus far) includes Monday evenings (useful, since my teaching job is more or less halfway between home and Lexington) and Wednesday evenings, and my Wednesday class is late enough to allow me to take an extra class in Lexington on Wednesday evening.

I’m deeply grateful that I won’t be trying to jet out to Frankfort to teach at 5:15, or 5:30, after rehearsal. Yes, it bought me some time to play around in the studio, but it also made it really hard to figure out when I to eat dinner.

Though I’m not sure yet whether this strategy will work, my current plan for Wednesday is to eat a reasonably substantial meal between Rehearsal Block B and Evening Class, then a snack/mini-meal on the way home from teaching. That should prevent me from wanting to murder anyone in the interval.

I might(???) be teaching on Friday evening, though if I’m not I plan to take an extra class then as well. Might as well make the most of my time, and I have plenty to learn as a dancer, soooooooooo………..

I have literally no idea what Theater Week for our first production will look like, nor whether the Nutcracker run will in any way resemble its usual self, so I’m not even going to try to make a draft plan for Theater Week right now.

TBH, half the time, no matter how well I plan, Theater Week turns into “All You Can Eat Pizza Week” anyway (work is irrelevant, as one inevitably just has to tap a sub, or in my case, possibly several).

A bird’s-eye view of Theater Week. (Pixabay via Pexels.com)

I think our company schedule is a little different this year (I seem to recall that our morning break is now 15 mins, which probably means we’ll take lunch at 1:30 instead of 1, or something) but not so much so that it’ll drive a train right through this schedule, which is only a rough draft anyway.

If you find yourself thinking, “Yes, fine–you’ve written all these words, and you’ve still told us NOTHING about your planning process,” you’re absolutely correct, and I apologize.

So here’s how the process itself works:

Really first, before I actually begin planning, I look at my various schedules from various places and try to make them make sense in my head and generally develop a headache.

Officially First, I realize I need to make a visual depiction of my typical week, so I begin by making a table on a blank document.

At first, my blank document includes:

  • 7 columns: one for each day of the week.
  • 4 rows: one for each more-or-less arbitrary division in my day (I don’t like to use an hour-by-hour schema at this stage; I get too hung up on how things don’t line up visually the way I want them to).

Then I realize that I need a header row for days of the week, so I add that, and probably a label column so I can label the different sections of the day, so I add that too and spend a few minutes dithering over what I want to call the different parts of my day.

Once those rows and columns are in place, I start copying data into the individual cells for my company day, then by data for classes other than company class, then data for my teaching job(s).

At some point in this process, I realize I want color blocks to help me visualize my week without reading, so I start adding those. And then once the color blocks start coming together, I realize that a visual breaks for lunch would probably help, so I add a row (columns merged, text aligned center-center) for that. And, hey! It does help!

I briefly decide that I need a separate row for my potential second teaching job, so I add one. Then I change my mind, since adding the row in question will make the whole schedule less meaningful visually, and I remove that row and decide that I’ll just add a note at the top of each work cell (and probably make them different colors if I teach at more than one place).

For now, since I’m not 100% sure I’ll have an extra teaching gig, I’ve filled in the space it would occupy with question marks (???). It could take place on Thursday instead of Friday, but Friday seems more likely, and so the overall shape of the week in this draft is settled.

Then I realize I’m going to need another visual break between the end of the company day and … everything else, even though I technically consider additional classes part of company life. So I add one of those, formatted just like the lunch break, and label it accordingly.

The line for breakfast was kind of an afterthought. I actually thought about leaving it out: I mean, I actually do tend to eat breakfast every day, because when I don’t, I’m typically unfit for human company until I do eat something. But I liked what it brought to the table visually, and in all honesty, it’s useful in helping me imagine how I need to use my time.

Which, for me, is the whole point of doing this.

What this little visual layout really does is help me stop myself overcommitting.

Without it, I tend to imagine all of the time that I’m not actively in the studio either dancing or teaching as “free” and thus available for teaching or whatever, or even just doing side projects. And then, unsurprisingly, I wind up burning myself out.

There will always be seasons (NUTCRACKER) in a dancer’s life in which a little burnout (NUTCRACKER) is more or less inevitable (N U T C R A C K E R!!!!).

“WHAT?! Seriously, dude, I’m on break!” (Luis Quintero via Pexels.com)

That’s why we have breaks in our company calendars. We need that time to literally rest, so our minds and bodies can recover from the strain of long days rehearsing and performing (and living on pizza because we’re artists and thus broke).

Last year, I overcommitted myself, and wound up creating a situation in which I wasn’t eating well enough or resting enough during rehearsal weeks, so by the time performance runs ended, I was not simply cooked, but overcooked. I did finish the year a better and stronger dancer than I began it, but I could’ve made more progress if I’d just taken slightly better care of myself.

Likewise, just as it is with our hearts and minds, we can only take more out of our bodies than we put back for so long. If my goal is to have staying power as a dancer, I need to take care of my instrument. Part of that is feeding it well and giving it enough rest to make up for the crazy demands I place on it.

Nobody pursues a career in dance because it’s easy: if you think it’s going to be easy, you’ll either drop out before you get anywhere near a career, or you’ll realize how wrong you were and embrace the challenge.

That doesn’t mean, however, that we have to make it harder for ourselves.

And one of the best ways to prevent making it harder for ourselves, of course, is to plan. And while I try not to overuse this phrase, I am sufficiently bad at planning on the whole that I want to say, “If I can do this, you probably can, too.”

Swan Lake. By Paata Vardanashvili from Tbilisi, Georgia (Nino Ananiashvili "Swan Lake") [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
It worked for Odette! Or, well. Maybe that’s the wrong example? YOU GET THE POINT.
(PC: Paata Vardanashvili [Nino Ananiashvili “Swan Lake”] [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons. Caption mine ^-^)

PS: my decision to arrange my schedule Sunday-Saturday is a purely pragmatic one. That way, since my company week runs Tuesday-Saturday, my least-scheduled days are grouped together, which I find visually useful. You should organize your week in whatever way works best for you.

Earth-Grown Meatless Italian Sausage (ALDI)

Somehow, I completely forgot to include these in yesterday’s meatless meats roundup.

I ordered these a while ago, cooked them last week, and (in accordance with standard operating procedure) failed to take any pictures. (Dammit, Jim, I’m a dance blogger, not a food blogger!)

Screenshot from fooducate.com with a picture of the EarthGrown meatless italian sausage packaging on the left, and to the right, the header "Earth Grown Meatless Italian Sausage" above a C+ in an orange starburst and "140 calories per serving"
Please accept this paltry screenshot from Fooducate.com in lieu of an actual illustrative photo ^-^’

Anyway.

Overall, I liked these more than I expected to. I love sausages in part for that delicious pop! you get when you bite into one, and I have yet to encounter a meatless sausage that replicates it particularly well (to be fair, lots of meat sausages fail to provide it, too). Because I figured that pop! would be missing, I honestly doubted whether the EarthGrown meatless Italian sausage experience would be worthwhile.

In fact, I was pleasantly surprised.

While you won’t get that satisfying pop! when you bite into one, there’s a touch of resistance to the outside of each meatless link. I’m not sure whether they’re contained in some kind of meatless casing, or whether it’s just the way the physics of the sausage overall work out. It doesn’t replicate the meat sausage experience (which sounds like the name of my next imaginary band…), but it does add a desirable textural dimension I hadn’t expected.

Meanwhile, the interior of EarthGrown’s Italian sausages is both finer-textured and denser than a typical Italian sausage made from meat, but still chewy enough to be perfectly acceptable. Those who like their sausage fillings ground smooth and fine will probably find it quite suitable. Of note, I tend to actively dislike finely-ground meat sausages: usually, the fatty pate texture just seriously isn’t my thing (I also tend to dislike really tender cuts of meat for similar reasons). I find that I don’t mind it at all in meatless sausages, which tend to be lean.

As with EarthGrown’s meatless meatballs, the flavor here is pleasant, but quite mild: though, where the sausages are concerned, a little too mild for my preferences.

That said, the mild flavor won’t prevent me from using these sausages in the future: better a mild, pleasant flavor than a strong, unpleasant one. Likewise, while I wouldn’t have minded a note of fennel in the flavor profile, D doesn’t particularly like fennel: in short, depending on what you like in an Italian sausage, YMMV.

Moreover, their mild flavor makes these meatless sausages versatile. Since sage proved to be the dominant flavor, you could probably toss these into an omelet or a breakfast burrito without offending those who think Italian sausages don’t belong at the breakfast table[1].

  1. I’m a culinary heathen who adheres to no laws about which foods should be eaten when[2], and my breakfast of choice is leftovers: which is to say, I’m all for Italian sausage at any time of day.
  2. That said, I prefer not to eat most of the typical American breakfast foods for breakfast. They’re typically pretty high in sugar and carbs and low in everything else, yielding a crazy high Glycemic Index. If I eat them for breakfast, an hour later my blood sugar will have crashed back into hypoglycemic territory, and I will transform into that terrible person from the Snickers ads.

I’m not sure how D felt about these sausages, because he wasn’t all that hungry and only ate about half of his dinner when I served them. He didn’t complain about them, though, so I assume??? that they’ve passed the Husband Test[3], at least insofar as being acceptable. I’m not sure he even remotely thought they were the usual meat sausages from Kroger.

  1. While I haven’t precisely codified my Husband Test, it’s basically a measure of [A] whether D will actually eat a meatless version of a dish we typically eat, and [B] whether he’ll ask if I’ve switched sausages or meatballs or what have you if I don’t tell him in advance. I don’t say anything in advance about it one way or another, as he’s one of those people whose expectations about food play a really, really strong role in his perceptions–like, if I tell him we’re having chili, but then discover we don’t have the right ingredients and make pasta with red sauce instead, he often won’t even eat it.

These actually rather grew on me as I continued eating them. I’m not sure that I’d be terribly enthusiastic about them served as a sausage sub, but I rarely eat Italian sausage subs anyway (in the Italian-meats-as-subs department, I’m a meatball boi for lyyyyyfffffeeee). Served with pasta and a nice, chonky tomato sauce, they’re really quite satisfying.

Nutritionally speaking, they’re similar to the other meatless sausage and meatball options we’ve explored to date.

By themselves, they won’t bring you the full magic of adding more plants to your diet–but they will greatly reduce the unpleasant side-effects of eating sausagey things:

A screenshot of a table from Fooducate.com depicting the nutrition facts for ALDI's Earth-Grown Meatless Italian Sausage Links.
Fooducate.com’s profile for these sausages brings the nutrition facts once again, because I’m a terrible planner and ate these without thinking, “Gee, I should take some pictures for the ol’ blogerino.”

In short, unlike ALDI’s EarthGrown meatballs [4], the EarthGrown Italian sausage links aren’t a bang-on match for the meat version, but they’re still worth buying if you’re looking to introduce some plant-based meal options that even your meat-and-potatoes fam will probably accept. Likewise, as a quick-cooking meal-maker, these qualify for the Cooking With ADHD Squirrel! of Approval(tm).

  1. Possibly because meatball recipes are highly variable and typically include non-meat ingredients even in their traditional forms?

TL;DR: 6/10. Mild-flavor, acceptable texture, easy to cook, very acceptable served with pasta and red sauce. Not going to take home the top prize at the sausage races, but I won’t hesitate to buy these again.

Join me later this week (unless I forget) for an adventure with Field Roast[5], which arrived unexpectedly because Kroger was apparently out of The Sacred Chorizo (regarding which: o_________o)

  1. …Assuming it’s not made with nuts that I can’t eat. I haven’t checked yet. My chosen ice cream was substituted with butter pecan, which makes me sad, because I’m severely allergic to pecans. Like, “keel over dead from anaphylaxis” allergic. No shade to my order-picker at Kroger, though–they did their best, and I didn’t check “do not substitute” because I always, always forget that Death Nut Ice Cream even exists (because I don’t eat it, obvs). D can take it to work, or we can give it to a friend, or something.

Further Adventures In Meatless Meats

Today, three more options for mixing it up with some meatless options that have passed the husband test (or, at any rate, the MY husband test: ymmv).

Earth-Grown Zesty Italian Meatless Balls (ALDI)

A while back, I ordered Earth Grown’s frozen “zesty Italian-style” meatless meatballs from ALDI.

I’m embarrassingly fond of meatballs, and thus of the idea of frozen meatballs (aka “meatballs without all the work”)—but as a general rule, they could definitely use some help in the nutritional profile department, especially where saturated fats and cholesterol are concerned (D has hypercholesterolemia, so I try to watch those for him).

As such, ALDI’s frozen meatlessballs seemed like they might fit the bill. With no cholesterol and only 1g of saturated fat per 6-ball serving, not to mention a nice fiber boost and a good dose of healthy fats, they definitely come out ahead of both ordinary and all-turkey meatballs in the nutrition race.

They’re not for those who need soy- and/or gluten-free options, but overall, they’re pretty decent.

Flavor-wise, they’re not really what I’d call zesty. They’re more mildly Italian-influenced than anything. That doesn’t mean, though, that they’re not tasty—just that they’re what one might describe as “good minglers,” like the friend that makes the whole party work without making it all about them.

I lightly browned my meatlessballs in olive oil for a couple of minutes, then simmered them in my favorite tomato-basil sauce while I boiled up some spaghetti (the suggested cooking time, conveniently, is 10 minutes).

D ate them without complaining, and I like them enough that I’d be happy to eat them any time I want a meatball fix, whether with pasta or in a sub.

Edit: I should note that D can detect turkey meatballs at first taste, and won’t eat them, but seems to find these acceptable. Even if he didn’t, I’d still buy them for myself. After a particularly grueling rehearsal, the only thing better than a good meatball sub is a good*meatless* meatball sub with a greatly-improved nutritional profile.

Overall: 8/10. Nice texture, pleasant mild flavor, decent nutritional profile.

Simple Truth Meatless Crumbles (Kroger)

I ordered these on a whim, but I was surprised how well they work.

Personally, I don’t care if my meatless dishes are obviously meatless—but D is kind of a meat-and-potatoes guy. He does like the desi chana tacos I make sometimes, but that involves a fair bit of planning, and I don’t know that ground green chickpeas would work in pasta sauce.

Enter Simple Truth’s frozen meatless crumbles. At $3.99 for a one-pound zip-top bag at my local Kroger, this stuff is less expensive than grass-fed ground beef, but stacks up really well in terms of utility in recipes.

Here’s a look at the nutritional profile from fooducate.com:

I’m too lazy to go take pictures right now. Ugh, it’s so freaking hot and humid, y’all.

Pretty decent overall—and hecking wow on the protein front. Most people probably don’t need to worry that much about protein, but it can be important for dancers to track. As a male ballet dancer with a standing weight of around 160 pounds, a job description that involves lifting adult humans, and a less-than-optimal meal planning strategy (cooking with ADHD, y’all), it’s good to know about concentrated, easy-cook protein sources.

Like Earth-Grown’s meatlessballs, Simple Choice’s crumbles do contain soy and gluten, so if you’re sensitive to either or both, please be aware.

Of note, an entire cup of these crumbles is a LOT: it may be one serving, but it’s more than I typically use for one portion.

I make my taco/burrito recipe with about 1 to 1.5 cups of the crumbles and a can of beans (and, of course, onions and taco seasoning), and the resulting volume of taco/burrito filling is comparable to the same recipe made with 1 pound lean ground beef.

Each batch of taco/burrito filling makes about 8-12 tacos or 4-6 hefty burritos, depending on how many veggies I have on hand that I can add. Thus, while the stated 1-cup serving of Simple Truth’s makes crumbles includes nearly half the protein required by statutory person needs in a given day, you might not find yourself eating that much at a sitting.

I’ve found that the best way to prepare these is to lightly brown them in just enough olive oil to prevent sticking, then add whatever else you’re planning to add. They take only minutes to cook, so they come in handy when you’re starving and you want tacos NOW.

So far, the best batch of these I’ve made went like this:

  • Brown chopped onions in olive oil. Feel free to add a little wine (I used cooking sherry).
  • Lightly brown 1 cup of meatless crumbles in a pan.
  • Add 1 can of black beans.
  • Add taco seasoning (and water as called for on the taco seasoning package) to taste—I the equivalent of two packets of taco seasoning; one for the crumbles and one for the beans.
  • Simmer everything for a few minutes, then serve.

D doesn’t even seem to have noticed that these aren’t made of meat, so score another win on the husband test.

Simple Truth Meatless Chorizo (Kroger)

I’ve saved the best for last, here, assuming I haven’t already written about this.

Simple Truth’s meatless chorizo is sold in link form, and holds its shape well enough to slice.

While I can absolutely imagine browning or grilling an entire link of this stuff and serving it in a bun (or a couple of grilled soft corn tortillas, loaded up with corn and black bean salsa and shredded cabbage, or even kimchi), so far I find myself slicing it up, browning it, adding whatever veggies I’ve got handy, pouring on some egg whites, and turning it into a killer egg burrito.

Prepared this way, each link makes two substantial burritos—one for D and one for me—or a burrito for now and burrito filling for later. It’s also fantastic served on tostadas, though that adds an additional hit in the saturated fats department.

I wouldn’t mind this chorizo being spicier, but its flavor profile is delightfully complex, and heat is easy to add.

At $3.99 for a pack of four substantial chorizo links, this has become a weekly staple in my house.

Oh, yeah, and it comes with the usual advantages of plant-based sausages over meat-based ones, as you can see from its profile on fooducate.com:

Holy protein, Batman! However, those on salt-restricted diets should use these sparingly, and sadly they’re not suitable for those with soy- or gluten sensitivities.

I’ll try to review each of these options a little more thoroughly in the future, but for now, I’ll close by saying all three of them have received D’s stamp of approval for meat substitutes—which is to say, here’s eaten them without apparently realizing that they’re meatless—and that the Simple Truth chorizo had better stay in production, or else I’ll … IDK, be very sad.

DancerLife: Food, Part 2-Make A Plan

(You can find Part 1 here.)

Last month, I attended a really great Zoom workshop with Becky Lindberg Schroeder on nutrition for dancers and realized that I’ve been doing a few really important things wrong. Part 1 of this series covers some of the important insights that came out of that workshop, but I’ll review them in brief so you don’t have to go back and read the whole thing if you’re not feeling it:

  • Eat more
  • Eat more often
  • Eat a snack
  • Eat some d%$#n carbs for breakfast
  • MAKE A PLAN (but keep it flexible)

My blood sugar skews low, with overnight fasting levels around 70 (the “normal” fasting range is 80-100). This means that, for me, including a mix of faster-burning carbs and slower-burning carbs (along with some protein and fat) in the morning fuel mix is a really good idea.

I really liked Becky’s suggestion for planning: write out a basic picture of your daily schedule by hand, so you can see where you might need to add some fuel to the tank, then plan accordingly.

Step 1: Plan When To Eat

If you’re in a sedentary job, you can probably get away with eating three times a day or so. If you’re a dancer, though, there are sound arguments to be made in favor of eating every 3-4 hours: not huge meals every time, but just enough to keep the engine ticking over smoothly. (If you’re someone who straddles both worlds, with school during the day or a 9-5 desk job and a busy class/rehearsal schedule, a hybrid approach might work.)

My first step was to sketch out a loose version of my schedule and then plug in little notes to tell myself when to eat. I put boxes around them because I’m a pretty visual thinker and I find it helpful to make them stand out.

It’s worth mentioning that as dancers, we often have quite different schedules during regular rehearsal weeks and during Theater Weeks.

Since Theater Weeks comprise a whole different animal, and also because I’m not even sure what they’ll look like this year, I’ll give them their own post later on. For now, here’s a rough sketch of my typical schedule during a normal week:

My typical daily schedule written out on dot-grid paper.
“Work” means teaching, as if dancing all day wasn’t work enough, lol.

Even though my days are still a little vague after 3:30 PM, since I don’t actually know for sure yet at what times I’ll be teaching, writing out my schedule helped me understand how long some of its blocks are.

Like, if I don’t eat a snack between breakfast (which I try to eat around 9 AM, but occasionally eat earlier) and lunch (which nominally happens a little after 1 PM, but sometimes gets bumped later), I’m pushing my luck in terms of keeping myself adequately fueled.

It makes more sense to actually eat a snack during the break between class and rehearsal. That way, I can keep my blood sugar a bit steadier, and won’t want to murder someone by the end of the first rehearsal block of the day. Or, well … I probably won’t want to murder someone. Or at any rate I won’t want to murder someone simply because my blood sugar is low.

Likewise, if I don’t eat something between the end of the second rehearsal block and the various things I do after rehearsal, I should really not be surprised if I can barely function when I’m done with my evening stuff.

Last year I was teaching until 8:15 PM some 40 minutes from my work-week home a couple nights a week.

And yet, for some reason, I suffered under the delusion that it was a good idea to wait until I got home to eat.

WHAT THE ACTUAL HECK, FRIENDOS.

Basically, that meant finishing rehearsal between 3 and 3:30 PM, driving to my teaching job, then teaching for like four hours, then driving home without passing out, then somehow eating something actually worthwhile, at like 9:30 at night, when I just wanted to lie down and read.

That, needless to say, was not a good plan. All too often, it devolved into, “I’m picking up a $5 Hot-N-Ready so I won’t wrap my car around a tree.”

My schedule this year will be a little different, but my typical day will still be pretty long. I’ll be doing strength training and taking evening class on days that I don’t teach, so most of the time my working day will end around 7 PM.

So, in terms of when to eat, my basic (flexible) plan includes breakfast around 9 AM, a snack around 11:30 AM, lunch around 1 PM, another snack somewhere between 3:30 PM and 4 PM, and possibly another around 7 PM, if my day’s going to run later than that. I’ll eat dinner either when I get home or on the way home.

Step 2: Plan What To Eat

Now that I’ve figured out when to eat, it makes sense to put some thought into what to eat–that is, the specifics.

Last year, I had decent success with breakfast smoothies that included some pasteurized egg whites for protein, but in retrospect they could’ve used more calories, really any fat, and probably also some toast or something to add some slower-burning carbs.

I also had reasonable success with PBJs made with natural chunky peanut butter on multigrain & flax toast, though one of those by itself isn’t quite enough. Two might work.

Greek yogurt with fruit and generic Grape Nuts was … somewhere in the middle. It might’ve worked better if I used full-fat yogurt, which would’ve raised the overall calorie count and helped breakfast burn off more slowly. Even then, though, it takes a LOT of that particular dish to equal the caloric burn of morning class alone, let alone morning class plus the first rehearsal block.

I did not have much success with the, “Oh crap, I spent too much time reading, guess I’ll shove an apple and a granola bar into my face” breakfast. The last 30-45 mins of the first rehearsal block were uniformly brutal on those days, especially if my snack selection was, “Oh, look, another apple.”

Don’t get me wrong–I love apples. Apples are a perfect, portable, essentially waste-free snack food. They just aren’t built to keep you afloat by themselves when you’re burning as much energy as ballet requires. Plus, eating one can take a while.

So breakfast for this coming season is probably not going to be just smoothies or just apples.

I didn’t help anything by shifting my lunch plan towards “even more yogurt,” or “heck it, I’ll just eat some granola bars” because I got tired of trying to scarf down entire huge salads in 30 minutes (and also of carrying huge salads around with me).

In retrospect, the best solution I found for lunch was chicken salad with almonds and cranberries that I got in little puck-sized packages from ALDI, and something along those lines is probably a solid option. The packaging was recyclable, so I wasn’t left with a lot of dishes I didn’t want to wash–but since the same stuff is available in a larger package (also recyclable), I might just get those. They can be kept cold in a lunch bag small enough to go inside my dance bag and combined with nonperishable wraps to make an easy-to-eat lunch with a decent nutritional profile.

I might also try bringing prepared smoothies as a side dish–I have neat little zipper pouches that let you make smoothies and freeze them in portable portions (that then double as ice blocks!), or maybe I’ll just pack them in freezable plastic screw-top jars, which are easier to clean (glass jars are out–I’m not careful enough with my lunch bag for that!).

Hummus, previously a frequent main dish for lunch, will stay on as a side dish. I’ll add some pretzels to go with it.

For snacks, apples, protein bars, granola bars, and trail mix will continue to play featured roles, and I’ll probably relax my admittedly-obsessive rules about sugar a bit, which will greatly expand the options.

I’ll also probably keep applesauce packets in the mix, especially for days when my blood sugar does tank (because I’m not a perfect planner, or even a good planner–I’m a barely-adequate planner, and I am guaranteed to get it wrong sometimes).

Becky Lindberg pointed out that protein bars, even the inexpensive ones, can be really useful for dancers: they’re concentrated sources of protein and calories, and easy to eat when you need to stay fueled up but don’t have time for a meal.

My gigantic salads will probably move to the dinner slot. They’re filling, easy to prepare, and easy to round out with the addition of some kind of protein and some slower-burning carbs.

If I’m going to be working later than 7 PM, I won’t make the mistake of thinking I can wait until I get home to eat. I’ll either figure out a fairly-substantial meal that keeps well all day and can be eaten in the car or accept that working late might sometimes mean hitting a drive-thru for dinner, which in turn means choosing something that’s inexpensive but nutritionally decent.

I’m lucky in that I don’t actually have to worry about salt intake–or, rather, I have to worry about it in the opposite of the usual way. I sweat like crazy and lose a lot of salt in my sweat, so the challenge for me is taking in enough salt (and electrolytes in general) to replace what I lose in class and rehearsal. That means quite a few of Subway’s options are possibilities, since you can trick them out with all the vegetables and keep things fairly healthful.

Step 3: When Your Body Says Eat, Maybe Listen?

Possibly the biggest mistake I made last year was just plain not eating enough.

I would find that I was hungry at 10 PM and dismiss it as boredom rather than hunger, when in fact, after reviewing my eating habits over the course of the season, I often had every right to be hungry.

A lot of the time, I just plain wasn’t eating enough. I was legitimately hungry at 10 PM. I probably wouldn’t have been if I’d eaten enough in the first place, but I plan to make a habit of accepting the reality that the physical demands of my schedule are such that sometimes a 10 PM snack is a good idea.

Anyway, that’s the outline of the plan. I’ll cover the details and the Theater Week version in coming posts, but for now, I’m going to go eat something!

Cooking with ADHD: Portobello Burgers

Full disclosure: this isn’t exactly a recipe? Because, like, it’s not that precise, really, and honestly, you could figure it out just fine without me.

But, anyway. Here it is.

Ingredients (I said it wasn’t that precise ^-^)

  • Two large-ish portobello mushroom caps
  • A bunch of soy sauce
  • Some cooking sherry, or white wine, or vinegar, or something along those lines
  • Olive oil
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Shredded cheese (optional)
Not these little guys; the big honking ones. But for whatever reason Pexels doesn’t have any pix of those (really, pexels???) and I didn’t take any pix either (really, me???)
(PC: Pixabay via Pexels.com)

Directions (umm, yeah … so these aren’t gonna be precise either)

  1. Rinse/wash the mushrooms as needed.
  2. Stick the mushrooms gills-up in a container, ideally with a lid, that’ll let them sit side-by-side. Probably pop the stems off if you’re using them as burgers.
  3. Pour in kind of a lot of soy sauce and about the same amount of cooking sherry (or whatever).
  4. Put the lid on the container and shake it up to mix everything and get the sauce into the gills.
  5. Stick the whole shebang into the fridge. Marinade for a couple of hours or go all out and just plain forget to cook it for a day and a half.
  6. Heat up your grill pan (mediumish heat) or any pan with a heavy bottom (also mediumish heat) or your Foreman-type grill. Brush on a little olive oil. Toss in some salt and pepper, to taste.
  7. Stick the marinated mushrooms in there, gills up. Cover and let cook for a bit so the mushrooms can get nice and soft.
  8. Add some cheese to the inside of the cup of the mushroom if you want. Cover again so the cheese can get nice and bubbly.
  9. I totally failed to time these, so just … cook for a while. I probably did mine for about 15 minutes or so, and they were nice and soft-chewy.

Serve however you like: on buns, not on buns, on toast, on tortillas, sliced over a salad … with pickles, lettuce, tomatoes, catsup, and mustard, or whatever else works for you … naked except for a single grilled cherry tomato. You do you.

I served mine on one-sided toast with a romaine leaf, pickles, mustard, and (for me) catsup.

I seriously did completely forget to cook these for at least 36 hours, and they turned out beautifully. Denis actually ate his, and there wasn’t any meat involved, like, at all (though there was cheese, and he does love cheese).

Sadly, I failed to take even one picture of any stage of this process. I guess I’ll just have to order more portobello caps with next week’s groceries so I can do that part. Sometimes you just have to take one for the team ^-^

Oh, BTW, I Got Interviewed!

I’m pretty sure that in my surprisingly-intense anxiety about trying to teach a partnering class via Zoom, I forgot to mention that Ambo Dance Theater‘s* Linsey Rae Gessner recently interviewed me for her new podcast series, Be The Flow, in which she and her guests reflect on “…the importance of ART and the role it plays on the community with the intention of unifying creativity through compassion and knowledge.”**

*yes, that is me front and center on Ambo’s header ^-^ It’s a still from “only weeds will rise in winter,” one of the first pieces I performed in, which examined the ways that poverty influences the lives of the people who experience it.
**from Be The Flow’s landing page

Amazingly, I sound like WAY less of an idiot than I would’ve expected, although my headset mic is adjusted … less than perfectly, shall we say, so I also sound a little fuzzy.

A close-up of the author's face wearing glasses and earphones with an attached microphone (which he has almost certainly adujusted incorrectly).
Pretty sure the problem isn’t so much the headset as me not actually knowing how to use the headset. *shrug*

But still! As someone who listens to podcasts a lot, it’s interesting to hear yourself on an actual podcast and to realize that, hey, you actually sound like a fairly competent person, LOL. (IF ONLY THEY KNEW, amirite? Hahaha…)

Anyway, here’s an embedded player if that sounds like it might float your boat:

And here’s a direct link in case you should feel inclined to check it out that way ^-^ You can also check out Linsey’s other interviews and follow her podcast on Spotify from there.

For some reason I didn’t include a link to this blog in my bio, so while I might not sound like an idiot, clearly I sometimes still am one ^-^’

Interstitial Quickie

…Which. That title maybe sounds wrong, sorry. It’s NOT that kind of post, I promise o.O’

ANYWAY.

Because Golden Retriever Time (see: ADHD), I for some reason decided that it would be a grand idea to launch a new post series with a sub-series right before teaching a workshop as part of this year’s online PlayThink festival.

YOU GUYS. What is WRONG with me.

Time, you say? Time is immaterial. There is only the Now and the Not-Now.
(PC: Garfield Besa via Pexels.com)

Anyway, as such, and also because either my allergies have swung into overdrive or possibly I’m coming down with a sinus infection, here’s a couple of quick thoughts until I get my head back together enough to write #Dancerlife: Food: Part 2.

Thought The First

For some reason, lately I’ve been on a vegetarian hotdog adventure. This week, I ordered ALDI’s Earth Grown Jumbo Vegetarian Hotdogs … and they’re actually quite good.

Given that I like ALDI’s stuff in general, I shouldn’t be even a little bit surprised, but here we are.

Downside: you only get 5 in a package (because they are, in fact, JUMBO).

Upside: they’re quite tasty with ketchup on a slice of multigrain toast*, which is how I normally eat hotdogs anyway.

Sadly, I haven’t bothered taking a picture of them, because I keep cooking them when I’m too hungry to bother, because I keep forgetting to eat. >.< But they’re hefty (dare I say, beefy?) veggiedoggos that look very much like a typical jumbo hotdog, so use your imagination and you’ll probably get close enough.

*If you have a toaster and your toaster has a bagel mode, I recommend this setting when toasting bread for hotdogs. It only toasts one side, so the other side remains flexible. If you don’t have a toaster, or if you’re less lazy and want something that tastes even better, you can lightly coat a pan with butter or olive-oil and crisp up just one side of your bread.

This way, the toasted side (which goes on the “inside”) doesn’t soak up all your condiments, and the un-toasted side stays flexible, so your bread doesn’t crack, but instead cradles your hotdog like a … cradle. IDK. I’m not feeling well, so I’m just not even trying ^-^’

Thought The Second

I had one, but I literally cannot remember what it was. I’m seriously considering just crawling back into bed now that my class and D’s class are done o_o

But then I’d actually have to stand up and move myself (and, let’s be honest, my computer, because I might sleep for a while, but then I’d probably want to play Sims 4 or something).

DancerLife: Food (Part 1)

Upfront disclaimer/disclosure thing: I am definitely not a nutritionist, as you’ll probably realize if you read the rest of this post, which is mostly about stupid food-related mistakes I made last season. This post is not intended to diagnose or treat any medical condition, nor should it be taken as advice, unless the advice is: If you have questions about feeding yourself as a dancer, maybe go ask someone who really knows their stuff.

I’ve written about food before. Probably a lot. I like food, though I struggle with food sometimes. I also generally quite like eating[1].

  1. Except, apparently, when I don’t. I’ve recently experienced a baffling lack of interest in food itself: I’ve been in this place in which I would be perfectly content to live on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, or really whatever requires the least thought or effort, day in and day out.

On the whole, I’ve felt like I’ve had a pretty good grasp of basic nutritional science (hard to get through a Bachelor’s of Science degree that includes Anatomy & Physiology without understanding at least a bit).

I’m sufficiently equipped that I mostly manage to steer clear of trends based on junk science or poor data and to regard with equanimity the ones that might, in terms of their originators’ ideas about science, be based on shaky logic, but which still work well for people in practice because they’re motivating in whatever way and manage to get the various nutrients in.

What I haven’t had, as I discovered over the 2019-2020 ballet season, was the slightest shade of an idea as to how to actually feed myself for performance while dancing 30 hours per week, teaching about six hours per week, and driving an extra 80-90 minutes per day 2-3 days per week between those two gigs.

This was especially difficult on days when I left my teaching job at 8:30 PM and didn’t arrive home until after 9, chronically underfed (though I usually didn’t realize that) and with little time to eat, shower, prepare food for the next day, and wind down before I had to be asleep.

The best lunch decision I made all year, probably. Too bad I kept forgetting to buy more.

To a great extent, this was my own darned fault.

I extrapolated as follows:

  • P1: I have a fairly sound working knowledge of basic nutritional science.
  • P2: An awful lot of the nutritional advice I know how to find runs contrary to basic nutritional science.
  • P3: I am broke and can’t afford to go see a nutritionist.
  • Therefore, I should just stick with what I’m doing.

Or, well, something like that.

Yes, y’all, I am an idiot. Sometimes, anyway. Even often.

I think I also wasn’t sure who to ask: like, let’s be frank. Dancers are mostly paid what is known, in the technical language of economics, as “bupkis.” Or possibly “peanuts.” (In fact, since I have volunteered at events where one of the perks was free access to peanut-based trail mix, I can literally say that I’ve worked for peanuts. Hmmmm.)

Against a background of grass, a squirrel eats a peanut while sitting next to a squirrel feeder full of peanuts.
A dancer making a withdrawal from the bank. (Via Pexels)

Regardless, dancers be broke, and qualified nutritionists who have adequate knowledge of the nutritional requirements of full-time ballet dancers be … not cheap. (Nor should they be. They train for years to master their specialty, just like we do.)

So you had better believe that when I learned that LouBallet’s MindBodyBalance program was hosting a Zoom-based nutrition workshop with an actual qualified person who actually understood things about how to feed dancers, I jumped right on that enroll button.

Anyway, today, Becky Lindberg Schroeder of Lindberg Elite Nutrition (she’s also on Insta!) gave us a really solid talk, with time for discussion, about how to feed ourselves for performance as dancers.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, I realized I’d been going about things … well, not all wrong, but wrong enough.

The two most important things I’ve been doing were basically:

  • Not eating enough
    and
  • Not eating often enough.

Somehow, I felt like I shouldn’t be eating during the 5-minute break between class and the beginning of rehearsal. I would usually surreptitiously scarf an apple, but I felt like I shouldn’t.

Why?

Honestly, I think I just noticed that few of my fellow dancers shoved a snack into their faces during that interval. Outside the studio, I’m fairly resistant to peer pressure, but life inside the ballet studio is different, especially as an apprentice who doesn’t feel super confident about his place in the company.

Now that I’m writing that “out loud,” of course, it seems kind of dumb.

You can’t stuff yourself with a huge breakfast before class if you want to get through class without, at best, being miserable or, at worst, puking … but if you eat a lighter breakfast at 8:30, by the time class is over at 11:30, it seems entirely reasonable to assume that you’re going need to top up your fuel tank.

If you try to hold out until lunch break at 1, you’re likely to be hangry before you get there. (Regarding which: yes. On days that I’ve failed to eat any kind of snack at all, I’ve usually been deeply hangry before lunch break rolled around.)

A carnivorous dinosaur silhouetted against a night sky.
Me, just before lunch break. (Photo by ~ swinone on Pexels.com)

Becky’s suggestion that we eat every 3-4 hours made that all make sense. In fact, it makes so much sense that I’m now wondering how I failed to grasp it before. Then again, that’s why she’s a high-performance nutritionist, and I’m not.

Perhaps even more importantly, I don’t think I really understood the effects of chronically low blood sugar on both performance and body composition.

Becky showed us a diagram illustrating the point that the range in which the human body works best falls between 80 and 100. My fasting blood sugar is rarely higher than 70 (I forget what the units in question are right now, sorry). I’m impressed if it’s 72; the one time in my life it was as high as (GASP!) 74, I wondered if I’d randomly awakened and eaten something in the middle of the night and forgotten about it.

Anyway, <70 is low. The typical response that garners during a medical exam is basically, “Cool, no need to worry about diabetes!”

But it turns out that when your blood sugar level is low, your body really does burn muscle and hold onto fat. I kind of knew that: we’ve all heard of “starvation mode.” What I didn’t know was that your body doesn’t wait around for a couple of weeks before heading down that road.

So, in short, I probably wasn’t doing myself any favors by avoiding carbs in the morning.

This certainly explains why I’ve felt better on the rare morning that I impulsively threw a donut into the mix because I happened to stop for gas, or had to use ACTUAL SUGAR in my coffee because I ran out of stevia, or whatever.

If you’re starting with basically an empty tank, putting anything in it is going to help. It’s not like you’re body’s going to ignore fuel simply because it’s not Eleventy Octane Super Premium Ultra Plus, Now With Scrubbing Bubbles.

Your body, at that point, just wants ANYTHING. And if you don’t give it something, it’s going to assume that it should hold on to its emergency stores and tap the muscles instead.

That might also explain why basically surrendering to chronic disorganization, purchasing an immersion blender, and just making huge smoothies with some protein stuff (usually pasteurized eggs) and a handful of trail mix (peanuts and almonds … protein and fat in one happy little package) for breakfast and packing more of said trail mix to eat with lunch correlated with an unexpected drop in my body fat percentage.

Obviously, without a controlled experiment, causality is danged hard to determine–but in retrospect, it seems like maybe one way of accidentally starving myself was worse than the other. The one that gave me some carbs, protein, and fat, while still not ideal, was probably less bad.

I also made the mistake of thinking that my other frequent snack choice–inexpensive protein bars, because broke–was somehow … not good enough. Again, that seems silly now. The protein bars in question may be fairly processed (though they’re still mostly made of things that are recognizeable as food, albeit in small chunks), but they do the job of being quick and easy to eat when “quick and easy” are probably the most important criteria. You might have the best apple in the world, but if that’s all you’ve got, and you can’t finish it in 5 minutes, it’s not going to do the job.

Anyway, the most important takeaway for me was that I need to eat more, and to eat more often, than I did last season. Well, that, and to not eschew nutrition in bar form, because that’s often going to be my best bet.

My breakfasts, snacks, and lunches were uniformly underpowered last year (I’m not going to say “too small”), while my dinners were … spotty. I didn’t have time for a full meal between rehearsal and teaching, so by the time my classes let out, I was both incredibly hangry and in no position to drive for 40-50 minutes without eating.

Since I would, inevitably, have also run through the woefully-inadequate supply of food I had packed for the day, I typically resorted to drive-through dining, but usually (in an effort to reduce the artery-clogging effects of fast food) I’d get the smallest meal I could find.

Then I’d be mad at myself when I was starving at 10 PM, or wonder why I was so hungry at 1 AM that I woke up and couldn’t get back to sleep without eating something.

You guys. In retrospect, I’m really trying to figure out … like … how I didn’t figure it out -.-

Part of the problem was my tool set. Basically, I was whacking away with a hammer, mentally screaming, “Why is it so hard to saw through this log???!!!!” I kept focusing on how to eat better at dinner time, when I would’ve done better to just eat a little more and a little better across the whole day.

Anyway, one of Becky’s smart, actionable suggestions was to literally write out your daily schedule (not too obsessively: sometimes lunch break is at 12:53; sometimes we get really into rehearsal and at 1:30 Mr D looks up and goes “OMG, sorry, you guys! I haven’t given you a lunch break!”) and figure out how to feed yourself around it.

Which … oh, my G-d. That’s brilliant.

Becky’s presentation also introduced Team USA’s Athlete Plates[2]–three useful visual guides to adjusting nutrition for the demands of your day. They’re less about telling you specifically what to eat than suggesting how to proportion your meals to keep yourself well-fueled. This is exactly the kind of information delivery I’ve been yearning for: visual, so you can use it at a glance, but with lots of deeper information readily available.

  1. You can find PDF guides to the Athlete Plates, along with lots of other great information about nutrition for athletes, on Team USA’s Nutrition page.

In short, I came away from this workshop with a much better sense of how I, a broke-ass dancer with ADHD and time-management challenges, can make a plan to keep myself well-fueled that actually fits into my life.

So that’ll be Part 2 of this post … because right now it’s dinner time, and I’m hungry.

DancerLife: A Series

Okay, while the world is (justifiably) exploding, it turns out that I do need to prepare myself to go back to work in the fall: my contract has arrived, and with it the knowledge that all my efforts to plan and implement plans between now and then are likely to go awry, but that it’s still worth attempting to plan and to apply lessons from last season to making next season better.

Since writing this blog is part of how I think about things (indeed, that’s more or less its primary purpose), here we are.

Anyway.

I’m sure I’ve mentioned that, for many of us, ballet isn’t so much a hobby or a job as an all-encompassing avocation that basically asks everything of us.

As a dancer, you reach a point at which either you’re like, “Nah, I’m good,” and just go on doing a recreational class once or twice a week, or you’re like, “I AM CALLED” and you basically hand Ballet (or Modern, or Hip Hop … whatever your idiom is) the keys to your life and it moves in.

That might happen when you’re six or when you’re sixty, and other things might try to get in the way, but when you’re called, you’re called.

(Quick note: whether dance is recreation or vocation, you get what you need out of it. No shade from me for recreational dancers. For that matter, honestly, they’re probably the saner demographic anyway.)

In everyday English, we mostly use the word “vocation” to mean, basically, “job.” For many, it’s that thing you do so you can do all the other things you’d do anyway (and that’s fine, too, though our work culture tends to make it feel unfulfilling -.-,).

In other contexts, the word “vocation” means “a calling:” the thing you do because your soul, or whatever, is irresistably drawn to it. It’s why people become monks and nuns and solitary ascetics that live in the desert. (And probably also physicists and mathematicians and academics in general.)

The lives to which such people are called can’t be neatly divided between “work” and “life.”[1] To be a monastic or, for that matter, any serious practitioner of Zen, is to live a life in which there is no division between religious/spiritual/philosophical and secular life (qv Jack Kornfield’s After The Ecstacy, The Laundry or Thich Nhat Hanh’s Peace Is Every Step).

  1. Hypothetically, this is equally true for everyone? But in terms of lived experience, these tend to be quite different animals.

Being a dancer is very much the same. Dance as a vocation demands wholesale devotion.[2] It sets up shop in your kitchen, your bedroom, your wardrobe. It decides when you can hang out with friends who don’t dance, when you can stay up late, when you need to spend three straight weeks lying in a hot bath because #Nutcracker has just ended.

  1. This is largely true for artists in general, come to think of it–but dance, because it is so physical, is really good at making its demands felt. It’s also one of the rare artforms for which solo practice is an exception, rather than a rule.
The author dancing in the living room of a shared apartment, with one leg atop the back of an office chair.
You may think that dance won’t find a way to take over your living room.
If so, you are mistaken.

Anyway, we toss about the hashtag #DancerLife all the time (and often in jest), and I think it’s a useful idea. DancerLife is all-encompassing.

And since there’s a learning curve involved in figuring out how to make it all work, I’m going to spend some time writing about how I’m learning to make it work for me.

I was also going to write only one post today–one about nutrition, preceded by a very brief introduction to the idea of DancerLife: The Series. But since it seems I’m constitutionally incapable of discussing an abstract concept in fewer than a jillion words … here we are.

So consider The Series introduced, and I’ll go write the first “official” post, which will be about nutrition and eating and not becoming ridonculously hangry in the middle of one’s workday and stuff like that.

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