The Dancer’s Perfect Summer Diet

Photo by Jordan Opel

It’s summer! That means dancers all over the world are heading off to summer intensives, workshops, and master classes to hone their technique for the fall season ahead. With the long days of intensives comes the need for dancers to fuel up with foods that will sustain their energy all day long, and with that in mind, many of us are diving deep into our nutrition books and pulling up our past experiences in an effort to help dancers feel and perform their best this summer.

But my take on the perfect summer diet for dancers is probably not what you’re expecting. Rather than focusing on eating a prescribed list of foods with the ‘perfect’ ratios of fats, proteins, or carbs, I’m suggesting dancers ditch any diet plan and tune into their body’s intuition when it comes to fueling themselves for long summer dancing days.

The thing is, when we prescribe a way of eating for dancers, we’re depriving them of the opportunity to tune into their own body’s needs and wants. Dancers, more than anyone else, know that body doesn’t lie; the body is an amazing machine that will tell us exactly what it needs to feel its best, if only we’d listen to what it was telling us. Listening is the key part. Asking our body what it wants or needs to feel good, and then slowing down enough to listen for the answer is far more valuable than eating foods simply out of habit, or because that’s what we’ve been told is best.

My hope for the next generation of dancers is that they’re amazing listeners. When dancers listen to their bodies and trust that intuition, their artistry and performance reaches a whole new level. I don’t know a single dancer who hasn’t been told at some point in their training to ‘let go’. Letting go, of fear, inhibition, habit, is what takes dancers from good to great. We all love watching dancers who just go for it – we admire their bravery, their guts, and their capacity to fill up a stage. That bravery starts with the seemingly small things, like ‘what should I eat?’ Learning to trust your gut starts by having faith that what it’s telling you is the right thing (even if it’s telling you steak would feel better over salad). The glory of an amazing performer comes from being able to tap into feelings, desires, needs – all things our body is talking to us about 24/7. It’s time to listen.

So the dancer’s perfect summer diet is less about almonds, leafy veggies, and chicken and more about slowing down, tuning in, and trusting. And I have a sneaking suspicion that by tuning to our bodies, that in turn, will tune us in to our art and our world and we could see some pretty wonderful changes, inside, and outside of ourselves.