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  • Jennifer Milner

A Dancer's Wish List 2.0

Last year I made holiday shopping a bit easier for your loved ones, writing up a list of items most dancers would love to find in their Christmas stockings. There are lots of great items on there, so if you haven’t already browsed/


ordered things from that article, be sure to check it out.

Throughout 2017, though, I’ve had a few fantastic new products and books catch my eye, so consider this my updated dancer’s wish list, once again ready to be passed on to those who love you and want to grace you with something ballet-based that you can truly use.

(Seriously, Aunt Sue, we love you, but put down the pink sweatshirt and the Bedazzler. Your niece is 24.)

This calf roller. Yeah, it was on last year’s list. And half a dozen people emailed me after getting it for Christmas, thanking me with tears of joy in their cyber-eyes. It’s da bomb so if you don’t have one, make sure this is at the top of your list. And then email me and tell me about it –cyber-tears optional. But inevitable.

The Rollga. It’s made of Styrofoam, like a harder foam roller, but contoured to get in there like a ball – and also to get out of the way of bony landmarks like your poor spine. This version is the Panda and it’s my new Precious. I love how it feels on my back, and find it to be a great way to roll out my legs, shins and glutes and get into those fascial layers. Think of it as a foam roller and ball set combined in one. You’re welcome.

The Parasetter, and the Parasetter Mini. I know, you see these all the time in my social media. Because I use them all the time. The Parasetter is a long foam half-roller-type-thingie with a groove down the center for your spine. It's meant to be used in many different ways: most people lie on them and allow their spines to relax into the groove (perfect for crabby tailbones and sacrums!) You can go through a whole breathing series on it, or do standing footwork - the possibilities are endless. I travel with mine because it makes me feel so good. Bonus - there's a free downloadable instruction book for a whole class on it, and plenty of instructional videos to be found on the internet! I consider this a necessity for professional dancers. The Minis are a great way to work on balancing from your hip rather than your feet - correcting bad habits, challenging your barre work, etc. I've used them as part of a successful rehab program for many Achilles and FHL issues, and they're easy to throw in your bag. Questions? I'm always happy to talk more about them so shoot me an email!

A non-stretchy stretch strap. If you’re still using an elastic-y stretch strap, I’ll be there in thirty minutes for an intervention. Put down the rubber band and add this to your list – at around fifteen bucks it’s a great investment and easy to throw in the dance bag. Bonus – this strap often comes with a handy book or DVD for some stretching positions!

If you’re a pre-professional still working towards your splits and more overall flexibility, Front Splits Fast is one of the only stretching DVDs I would happily recommend. Developed by the Australian Ballet’s Lisa Howell, this DVD takes you through safe dynamic stretching, fascial release, and more, addressing things like poor trunk rotation or neck tightness as possible hindrances to hamstring flexibility. I’ve worked through the DVD start to finish and find it safe and very effective.

Books – a few new ones I think everyone should read have come out this fall!

First, Tim Federle’s Life Is Like A Musical: How to Live, Love, and Lead Like A Star. Called “A how-to book with jazz hands”, this little gem is packed with advice hard-earned from Tim’s life as a Broadway dancer and assistant director. There’s a lot of encouragement, grace, and gentle guidance in the book as well as great insider stories about life as a gypsy in some blockbuster shows like Billy Elliot, Spamalot, Gypsy, and more. I heart this book and you will too!

Second, David Hallberg’s autobiography, A Body of Work: Dancing to the Edge and Back, is a passionate, intimate look at the hard work and determination that goes into the life of one of the world’s top dancers. The first American to be hired as a principal with the Bolshoi Ballet, then sidelined with an injury, David subsequently spent two years in Australia working with Australian Ballet’s physiotherapy team, trying to come back safely and completely re-learn his technique. TWO YEARS. Would you have had the drive to get through that? It’s a fascinating and encouraging look at what it takes to make it as a true artist.

Third, Lauren Kearns' Somatics In Action: A Mindful and Physical Conditioning Tool for Movers is a Pilates, yoga, and dance-inspired movement system that helps movers achieve optimum strength, skeletal alignment, and body-mind engagement. The book includes many photographs, video links, and lesson plans and is ideal for dancers, movers, and educators, I took a workshop of hers and absolutely loved it.

So there you go – something for every budget, gifts big and small that any dancer is sure to love. Anything you would add, that you can’t live without? Please tell me so I can pass the tip on! And disclaimer - I have NO affiliates and make no cash off these recommendations. I just really like this stuff.

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