For most of her career, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater lead dancer Alicia Graf Mack (who lives in St. Louis when she’s not rehearsing at Ailey’s NYC headquarters or touring the world) spent hours every day working out—hitting the gym, jogging for miles—in addition to her eight to 10 hours a day of rehearsal and performance. “I think it was what I needed back then to get my muscles and mind-set in the right place, but it would be a detriment to me today,” Graf Mack says. That’s because, at 35, she’s learned to listen to her body and let it recover when she’s not onstage or in rehearsals. The striking, smart (she’s a Columbia grad!) performer shares her top tips for staying fit and serene.
Ease aches like a pro “I massage the bottoms of my feet with Surefoot Foot Rubz ($6, rei.com), and I like to use a softball to roll out the larger muscles, like my glutes or back. Some dancers love massages but massage therapy tends to leave my body too open, almost like I’m more susceptible to injury, so I avoid it unless something is really bad.”
Stay fIt on the road “I warm up on my own and take ballet class before rehearsals, but when I’m touring or have time off I love Rodney Yee’s Yoga Burn DVD ($15, gaiam.com). I also use Zena Rommett’s Floor-Barre Series ($25, floor-barre.org), which involves ballet moves done on a mat, so there’s less impact.”
DrInk your greens “My favorite thing right now is my NutriBullet ($120, nutribullet.com), which I use to make juice and smoothies—it’s my go-to when I need a burst of energy. And I love that it’s so easy to clean!”
Keep warm “I have to avoid cooling down during breaks in the action at rehearsal, so I layer on tons of clothes and wear North Face Tent Booties ($50, thenorthface.com)—they’re like sleeping bags for your feet.”
Feel better wIth food “I have an autoimmune disorder, a form of arthritis—it can cause aches and pains. An integrative physician I saw recommended a gluten-free, dairyfree diet, and my symptoms started improving within two months. I’m not always strict about it, but it’s helped so much.”
Be enough “Dancers are perfectionists, and we often focus on what we’re doing wrong instead of all the beautiful things we’re doing. Every day I tell myself, ‘I am enough.’ I don’t have to prove myself to anyone and I’m already putting in 110 percent, so I don’t have to push myself any harder. I’m enough.”