Say the words “ballet dancer” and most people think one of two things: either “What do I have to do to look like that?” or “Aren't all ballet dancers anorexic?” The truth is the body is a dancer's most important tool–their livelihood depends on it–so every dancer works to keep that instrument finely-tuned and healthy. When I wrote WISH, I wanted to share the world of ballet and the sort of decisions dancers face, particularly when it comes to taking care of themselves and staying at the top of their game. For instance, my main character, Indigo, has to say no to bagels (even though all of her friends are devouring them in front of her) because she has an audition coming up. While it's true that there is an expectation for dancers to stay thin they have to eat because ballet is physically demanding–so demanding that headliner Steve McLendon of the Pittsburgh Steelers says, “ballet is harder than anything else I do.”
Since all foods are not created equal, most dancers pay close attention to the types of foods they eat. Good nutrition builds a strong body, and dancers need to get plenty of protein to build and repair muscles. However, dance and a full belly don't go well together, which further complicates things. Since a dancer's day begins in the morning and often ends late in the evening, they have to eat small amounts on the fly, which means high protein snacks are a dancer's best friend. Favorite choices include: bananas (high potassium), beef jerky, nuts and yogurt. When there is time for a full meal, a salad is often involved, paired with hearty grilled fish, chicken or meat.
But dancers are human, too, and just like the rest of us they enjoy an occasional treat. Indigo savors a couple of warm-from-the-oven chocolate chip cookies during a particularly grueling rehearsal. Other treats she samples throughout the book include frozen yogurt with rainbow sprinkles, and let's not forget birthday cake (twice!), because life without birthday cake is dismal indeed.
Feeling inspired? Try starting your day with Indigo's breakfast of champions: 1 slice toasted gluten-free bread, topped with 2 tablespoons almond butter, sliced banana, and a drizzle of honey and toasted coconut. Although her brother, Brad calls it disgusting, it's her favorite alternative to scrambled eggs and her father's burnt toast. Try it for yourself before you form an opinion.
Indigo's advice to you...the one thing Indigo will never have? A double-chocolate-caramel-mocha-frap-with-extra-whip. Or any kind of frap. With 64+ grams of sugar in each one, they're at the top of the list of dancer don'ts.
Thanks for stopping by to share your food for thought, Grier!
You can find Grier here:
About the author: Since she was forced into ballet lessons at age five, Grier Cooper has performed on three out of seven continents. Her first crush was in fifth grade but Tchaikovsky was her first real love. She left home at fourteen to study at the School of American Ballet but after living in New York City, San Francisco and Miami she's decided she prefers to live outside of cities. Today she lives in a somewhat secret seaside hamlet with her husband, daughter and Coco Chanel (a black standard poodle). She is a dance activist and recovered sugar addict.