The NEW Dancer’s Body You’re Going to Want
The performers of Quixotic share their secrets to a strong, healthy body
A few weeks ago, I had the lucky opportunity to attend the mega yoga festival/conference Wanderlust, in Squaw Valley, Calif. It was four fantastic days full of asanas, sun, and refreshing mountain air. (If you’re a yogi, I highly recommend checking out the next festival) When fellow attendees weren’t in class, they were often overheard dishing about what they loved (or didn’t love) about their classes and workshops, many of which were led by the industry’s top instructors, including Baron Baptiste and Seane Corn, to name a few. Another name that kept crossing lips: Quixotic [sounds like “quick-zotic”], the aerial/dance troupe at the festival that infuses performances with everything from silks and trapeze to ballet, hula hoop, and contemporary dance. A common phrase I heard more than once: “Did you see the Quixotic girls yet? Their bodies are amazing.”
When I finally caught a glimpse of the troupe in action, I had to agree. Their long, lean, powerfully beautiful bodies are hard to miss. Curious to discover their secrets, I gave them a ring at their Kansas City headquarters. While you (nor I) can log 2 hours a day hanging from silks and trapeze or blasting calories in a dance studio as do many of the performers, here are 7 simple ways to achieve a Quixotic-like body at home.
Take Stretching Seriously
Quixotic performers stretch a lot, which is one of the reasons their limbs look so long and lean. “I’m stretching right now, actually,” laughs Megan Stockman, a principal aerialist and dancer. “Every day I’ll stretch for about an hour, making sure to hit every muscle group.” Jenny Prohaska, director and instructor of the Quixotic School of Performing Arts, agrees. “You lose flexibility when you gain muscle quickly, so our training program stresses that you should be stretching constantly,” says Prohaska. “Flexibility is really important for aerialists and dancers.” Some of the stretches come from dance, while others stem from yoga. One of their favorite stretching tools: any basic wall. “A wall can really help to increase your flexibility,” says Stockman. One of her regular stretches: A wall straddle. Lie face up with your butt as close to a wall as possible, then reach your legs to the ceiling, allowing them to lean against the wall. Slowly allow your legs to open out to the sides, letting gravity pull your legs toward the floor. Hold for 5 minutes.
Play at the Park
Want an aerialist’s slim, sexy body, but don’t have access to a class? Hit up your local playground. “When my students can’t attend classes as often as they’d like, I tell them to hang on monkey bars and other swing set equipment as you would hang on any aerial apparatus,” says Prohaska. “Play around, work your shoulders, do some pull-ups or simply hang upside down. When you’re gripping onto an apparatus for dear life, you really learn to use your muscle control.”
Make Cardio Fun
While many of the Quixotic performers hit their weekly cardio quota easily thanks to 2-hour dance classes, some aerialist and contortionist members find other ways to hike up their heart rate. “I hate cardio, so I find fun ways to disguise it,” says Stockman. “I’ll go on a bike ride or I’ll run to the store. I also like to go out dancing—that’s my favorite cardio workout.” Principal dancer Laura Jones agrees: “The key to cardio is trying to have fun with it because while running on a treadmill may work for some people, most people find it boring and monotonous, which makes it harder for them to keep up with it. Find something fun and creative that also keeps your mind working, like dance, aerial, or something outside.”
Reform Your Flab
Not a dancer? Hit up your fave Pilates class more often, whether it’s a mat class or on the reformer. “A lot of our exercises are based in Pilates,” says Prohaska. “It focuses on building the core and having long, lean muscles.”
Sex Up Your Sweat Sessions
While many of the Quixotic performers throw on t-shirts and jeans in real life, dramatic hair, makeup, and costuming are a regular part of their performances. “The minute we get on stage and are all gussied up, these big personalities comes out. It’s really fun to be that confident,” says Jones. “We almost get to change personalities.” While you don’t have to dress like a sex kitten during your sweat sessions, consider showing a little skin every now and then, or playing with your hair and makeup before popping in that cardio-dance DVD. “If you’re exercising with other girls or you’re working out at home, it’s definitely healthy to show your skin so you can be grateful for every little part of yourself,” says Jones. “Don’t look at anything negative. Just honor yourself and look at every beautiful thing about you. The better you feel about your body, the easier it is to keep it healthy.”
Boost Your H20 Intake
“We all carry water bottles around with us,” says Stockman. “We have really high muscular demands in aerial and dance, and in order to meet those demands and clear the lactic acid out of the muscle, you have to stay hydrated.” Bonus: Water also reduces your appetite and helps your body feel and look its best.
Eat Like an Aerialist
While many members of the group stick to a mostly raw, whole foods diet, Stockman says that if you’re just starting to eat healthy, take it slow. “You shouldn’t switch entirely to raw or change everything you’ve ever done all at once, but if you start moderating your diet by eating less sugar and less processed foods and adding in those vegetables and fruit, you’ll be doing yourself a favor. The more moderation you have, the better your body will look and feel.”
Be a Beginner Ballerina
You’re never too old to learn dance, so if you’re interested, sign up for your first class. “A basic ballet class will help you learn a lot of the basic poses we use in dance and aerial work,” says Jones. “It’ll also help you learn to keep your shoulders back and your stomach and ribs in, which is great for your posture.”