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  • Jennifer Milner

A Dancer's Wish List 2018

If you’re a dancer, chances are your Nutcracker life is up and running - and running - and running. Thanksgiving’s just a blip on the Snow scene radar, a table where you raise your head blearily to eat a bit of turkey and prove to your family you’re not dead before heading back to the Land of the Sweets. Before you know it, family and friends are pressing you - “It’s almost Christmas, and we have no idea what to get you!”

Just email them this list and go back to sleep - I’ve got you covered.

For all the friends and family receiving this list, here’s the hard truth: dancers don’t want any more Nutcracker ornaments. We really don’t. Nor do we want another “I’m TUTU cute!” t-shirt (we love you, Aunt Sue, but step away from the Bedazzler). Here’s a list of things dancers will really, truly use and enjoy. And in case you’ve missed it, there are lots of other great dancer necessities on my lists from 2016 and 2017: if your dancer doesn’t have those balls and rollers in her repertoire she will love you for helping her fix that. On to the list (and disclaimer: I make NO MONEY on any of these referrals!) -

This calf roller. What’s that you say? It’s at the top of the list from 2016? And 2017? Why, so it is. Seriously, invest in this thing and you will soon be taking it everywhere. Friends will be lining up outside dorm rooms and hotel rooms for the chance to borrow it. Trust me on this - I own two. “Just in case”.

Sneakers. Yeah, I know, not very exciting, right? But more and more dancers are cross-training and need good foot support for it. I teach several conditioning group classes where I’d prefer the dancers to wear sneakers for arch support, and the studio owners would prefer not to get their marley floors ruined. Most of my dancers and parents now know to invest in a pair of “indoor only” shoes, that stay in the locker or dance bag and are worn only on the dance floors. It saves your feet, Achilles, knees, you name it. They don’t have to be fancy, and no they’re not a luxury - they’re a necessity.

Turnout discs. I use these constantly in my private training, and even have about 20 of them I travel with for intensives and master classes. They're invaluable for finding turnout from the hip rather than the knee, and help dancers work healthier through the whole hip joint. I highly recommend a pair for every dancer to have in her bag of tricks. You can work turnout, pirouettes, adagio - everything. There are lots of different ones out there, but the ones I've linked to are my favorites. Tip: I select the "no resistance" ones, and buy whatever size fits the foot.

Toesox. On the cross-training front, I wear these pretty much every day. I need to be barefoot on Pilates equipment, but my feet get cold in the winter. BUT I can’t risk slipping on the equipment. Toesox to the rescue! With the individual toes so there’s no toe scrunching or cheating, and rubber dots all over the bottom to avoid slipping. If I’m not in my dance studio sneakers, I’m in these.

Essential Anatomy App. This sounds weird, I grant you, for a dancer - but hear me out. I use this on a regular basis to help my dancers understand which muscle is working in an exercise, or why they need to roll out their calves if it’s their big toes that are hurting. It’s incredibly easy to see muscles, where they attach, how they move, etc. and will make for healthier, more efficient dancers. Available for Apple or android.

Rebel on Pointe. Lee Wilson’s memoir of her life dancing from Monte Carlo to New York is surprisingly timely, considering she started dancing in the 1950’s. But her examination of gender roles - in and out of the dance world - and her career dancing in New York in the time of Balanchine is very well done. Though mostly a Broadway dancer, there’s a lot to be gleaned for dancers of all stripes.

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before, but it’s a breathtaking full-length ballet from one of my favorite choreographers today, Christopher Wheeldon. The original score, sets, and costumes come together magically with the exquisite choreography. It’s a master class and a treat all in one.

Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf. I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for this version by the Royal Ballet School. I love that it’s danced by students, and that it’s age-appropriate choreography that’s nonetheless charming and quite well done. A beautiful, half-hour ballet to encourage young dancers!

Broadway HD This is a subscription service, and I know Broadway is outside of most of your comfort zones, but hear me out. You can see Christopher Wheeldon’s exquisite An American in Paris here, with the original West End cast! Or watch Billy Elliot, or Cats, or several different Cirque du Soleil productions. It’s a lovely way to bring some Broadway - and great dancing - to your living room, and great for a snowstorm or winter break!

So there you have it - my top picks (some of which are on my own wish list!) for 2018. Have something that you can’t live without as a dancer? I’d love to hear about it and add to future wish lists!

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