There’s a little film out right now called “Black Swan,” with Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis. You miiiiiiiiiight have heard of it. It’s getting some well-deserved (in my opinion!) attention right now.
Saw the movie. Loved it. It scared the crap out of me. But that’s beside the point, as this post is not a movie review. The movie itself is based on the ballet world, which is awesome, because ballet hasn’t gotten this attention since Center Stage came out over a decade ago. Now, this is both a good and a bad thing…it’s great because the ballet world as a whole is struggling right now. The arts are having a tough time, and the stereotype of ballet as being “boring” doesn’t help ticket sales. So, if this movie results in a revenue boost for ballet companies, I’m all for it! (For those of you who don’t know, I’ve been doing ballet for 20-some years and dance in a company…please go to the ballet, friends!)
So, how could this publicity be bad? Welllllll…..
Portman and Kunis were both very vocal about the extreme dieting, weight loss, and exercise they had to do in order to “look like ballerinas” for this movie. These girls were already very thin, and then talking about losing another 20 pounds…NOT the best impression to make on the world about our profession!
While it is true that professional dancers have a certain pressure to maintain trim, lean figures, most of them maintain weight in a healthy way. After all, ballet is extremely athletic and requires lots of strength and stamina…difficult when malnourished. So with that rant, I did think people might be interested in what an actual ballerina eats on a day of class and rehearsals. We’ll call it the Black Swan Diet for kicks, and if any of you have health-related resolutions this year…I hope this helps!
**Please note that I am not a nutritionist, a dietician, or any type of diet expert. These are just my experiences and means of staying trim and healthy. Consult your doctor before starting any diet or fitness regimen. The end.**
8 a.m.: Breakfast
My breakfasts are usually pretty light. Because I have class in the morning, eating a meal that’s too heavy first thing weighs me down. So I usually start the day with coffee and milk and a banana cut up into some nonfat greek yogurt.
(Calories: about 250)
9:30 a.m. to 11 a.m.: Class
Ballet class starts slowly with a warmup at the barre, slowly getting more intense, and then working our way to the center and across the floor. It’s a great 90-minute workout and gets me sweating every time. If you’ve never tried ballet before, I recommend checking out an adult beginner’s class in your city. I guarantee you can find one.
11:30 a.m.: Lunch
Lunch is something a bit more substantial. There is usually some form of salad (spinach, romaine, cabbage) with a balsamic vinegar/olive oil dressing, topped with a fillet of salmon or a chicken breast. Just make an extra at dinner the night before and throw the protein bit on top of a salad–no need to get complicated!
Will also have some tea or a diet soda. Because we’re not perfect. ;)
12 p.m. to 3 p.m.: Rehearsal
Depending on the role I’m playing and the act we’re rehearsing, this could either be very aerobic or very slow, depending on the day. If we’re doing a lot of exercise, I eat something a bit heavier than if we’re marking through things.
3 p.m.: Snack
Usually some nuts and dried fruit. Add a string cheese or apple if extra hungry!
(Calories: 250 to 300)
3 p.m.-6 p.m.: More Rehearsal
I snack on fruit on the way home so I’m not ravenous for dinner.
6:30 p.m.: Dinnertime!
Dinner is usually when I get to experiment with different meals. Dr. Dave and I try to eat pretty healthy, but that isn’t true 100% of the time. If we’re tired or feeling lazy, we’ll make macaroni and cheese from scratch. But usually we’ll do brown rice or farro (some type of whole grain), a protein like chicken or fish sauteed or baked, and an apple or whatever we have around the house sliced up. Dessert is frozen berries or frozen yogurt.
(Calories: about 700)
Total calories: 1650.
So there you have it. The Black Swan Diet. There are no crazy gimmicks, no cayenne water, no cabbage soup, NO STARVING!
There are a few cornerstones to remember about a ballerina’s diet:
1) Drink lots of water. Stay hydrated, both for the sake of the sweat you’re losing and to keep hunger at bay (which can often be caused by thirst).
2) Eat enough calcium. True for ANYONE. Can be found in many sources other than dairy.
3) Eat frequent small snacks. If this doesn’t work for your schedule, try to eat your biggest meal in the morning and smallest at night.
4) Get exercise. Enough exercise to make you sweaty and yes, even a bit tired. Exercise should be invigorating, but for weight loss, it shouldn’t feel “easy.”
5) STRETCH! Stretch stretch stretch. Stretch only after a workout, when you’re warm. Regardless of “data,” our personal experience tells us that stretching after exercise keeps us long and lean.