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  • Jennifer Milner

A Dancer's Wish List 2019

Another year, and another Nutcracker is sneaking up on you. If you’re not already knee-deep in fake snow, you will be any second now. And if you’re lucky enough to have Thanksgiving off to hang with friends and family, you try to keep from falling asleep in the sweet potato casserole and fend off well-meaning family questions like, “Why are you so tired? You’re living your dream!” or “What do you want for Christmas - other than new toenails of course, ha ha!”

As you drag yourself back to the Land of the Sweets and screen your mom’s “I have no idea what to get you!” phone call for the seventh time, tell her you’ll send her a list pronto. Then just email her this, tape up your toes, and get onstage.

For all the friends and family receiving this list, let me remind you ONE MORE TIME: dancers don’t want any more Nutcracker ornaments. We really don’t. Nor do we want another framed poster of a model who’s clearly never danced on pointe, laced in pointe shoes incorrectly and standing in a truly awful arabesque. Here’s a list of things dancers will really, truly use and enjoy. And in case you’ve missed it or need more ideas, there are lots of other great dancer necessities on my lists from 2016, 2017, and 2018: if your dancer doesn’t have some of these balls and rollers in her repertoire she will love you for helping her fix that. Once again: I make NO MONEY on any of these referrals, and I’ve linked to Amazon just to make it easy - you can very well find these items in multiple places, quite possibly at lower prices.

On to the list!

Lacrosse ball Nothing screams “Merry Christmas!” like a $3 sports ball, right? But if your dancer doesn’t already have one in his or her dance bag, this is the perfect stocking stuffer. Every dancer should be plopping on the floor pre-warm-up and rolling out tight or troublesome spots. The ball will quickly become her new bestie.

Parasetter I’ve listed this in years past but it bears repeating. This long piece of foam is a lifesaver for tight backs, and many of my dancers who own one use it on a daily basis. Perfect for crabby tailbones, and a great place to lie and do some mindful breathing. It’s also useful for standing balance work - I use these all the time and I’m always happy to chat about it if you have questions so shoot me a message!

Tightans leggings This is mostly for the guys, but the leggings are actually unisex and have been appealing to men and women alike. Designed and made in Europe by dancers, for dancers, Tightans dance leggings and shorts really enhance a professional dancer’s lines, and I hear matching sports bras are coming in the future! Built well and beautiful to look at, I think these will be around for a long time. Check out the gorgeous photos on their website or Instagram at @tightans_official!

Apolla K-Warmers Apolla Shocks footwear have been on the scene a couple years now and I’ve appreciated several of the styles. I recently got a pair of the K-Warmers, their leg warmer/compression warmer hybrid, and really love them. For tired, achy legs, it feels fabulous. I can see it being especially helpful for hypermobility and loose joints. I appreciate the compression and snug feel - it helps me keep going several hours into a long day!

Scenery bags My sister-in-law introduced me to these and they’re incredible - small multi-purpose bags made out of upcycled scenery drops. Want a makeup zip bag made out of one of the drops from The Phantom of the Opera? Get it here. Looking for a clutch in something from Kinky Boots? Cross that off your list. The bags are great for toiletries, the theatre, and more, and you know you’ve got a one-of-a-kind piece of theatre history. AND you’re recycling! So many wins!!!

A New Approach to Core Stability or really ANY book by Lisa Howell. She’s an Australian-based physical therapist who’s written a series of incredibly easy-to-understand, highly researched and backed-by-dance-science books. The core stability one takes you through safe progressions for exercises that will really help your core stability (crunch-free!). Her Training Turnout is also excellent. Or just be smart and get all her books.

An online subscription to The Ballet Blog This is Lisa Howell’s website and it’s packed full of great articles and instructional videos on everything from taping for bunions to dealing with Achilles pain. Much of her content is free, but some is accessible only to subscribers and it’s a great resource for a pre-professional or professional dancer.

English National Ballet's Giselle DVD You’ve probably heard me say MANY times that I had seeing this production of Giselle on my bucket list. Now, thankfully, it’s available on DVD and it’s moved from my bucket list to my wish list! By the ground-breaking Akram Khan, it’s a Giselle like you’ve never seen, and all the clips I’ve watched leave me wanting more. Check out this scene with the Wilis here -

Twyla Tharp’s Keep It Moving An icon in the dance world, Twyla Tharp’s written a book in answer to everyone asking her, “How do you keep working?” As she says, “This book is a collection of what I’ve learned in the past fifty-five years: from the moment I committed to a life in dance up until today.” Whatever she has to say, I want to hear it.

Money for self-care Every dancer is cash-strapped. At the same time, maintaining your instrument is expensive. Whether your dancer is adolescent or firmly on the professional scene, money towards self-care would be hugely helpful. A gift card to her favorite masseuse; a subscription to the gym with the pool so he can swim laps; money for a few sessions with a personal trainer; a paid appointment with a nutritionist; money towards working with a private ballet coach - there are So. Many. Things. for a dancer to spend money on in this area. As a professional it was always hard to justify making room in my budget for “luxuries” like private coaching or body work. Your dancer will be hugely grateful! Because out of all the gadgets and implements designed to make a dancer better, nothing beats one-on-one time with a mentor, coach, professional who can cast a compassionate, helping eye on them.

So that’s my wish list for 2019! Hopefully some of these items will show up in my own stocking - share this list with your loved ones, and help take the guesswork out of shopping for their favorite dancers this holiday season!

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