Ask Amy: Got Allergies?

March 27, 2014

Dancers are always talking about how healthy nuts are for you, but I’m allergic to them. What are some good alternatives that will give me the same nutrition? —Alyssa

Nuts are a high-quality source of protein, fiber and heart-healthy fats—and a super-portable snack for the studio. Luckily, good alternatives exist for those with nut allergies. According to Roberta Anding, sports dietician to Houston Ballet, pumpkin or sunflower seeds are great nut substitutes with little likelihood of an allergic reaction. You can also try protein-packed spreads like hummus or soy-nut butter. However, these recommendations don’t have the exact nutritional profile of nuts—for instance, seeds have less calcium and are higher in saturated fats. “If you want similar nutrition,” Anding says, “it may require crafting a combination of ingredients.”

Breakfast smoothies are a great way to do just that. Try this recipe recommended by Anding: In a blender, combine one small carton of Greek yogurt (packed with protein and calcium), a quarter of an avocado (a good source of fiber and heart-healthy fats) and a teaspoon of ground flaxseeds (rich in omega-3 fatty acids) with a½ cup of red raspberries, a cup of blackberries and a banana. While fruit adds natural sweetness, berries provide a good source of anti-inflammatory compounds, much like walnuts and almonds.

I have relatively flat feet, so I hate how they look in pointe shoes. Would you recommend arch enhancers? Are they actually beneficial or just a cheat? —Celeste

Arch enhancers—commonly called “farches” (fake arches…get it?)—are slip-on silicon insteps. They create added height at the top of the foot and ankle, giving the illusion of naturally curvy feet. I have a few friends who wear enhancers for performances to exaggerate their line (though if their costume requires bare legs, they’re out of luck). Their purpose is purely aesthetic—they won’t strengthen your foot or change its structure.

Arch enhancers serve as a quick fix, but if you struggle with your feet, it’s better to deal with them honestly by giving extra attention to your pointework—and you need to see what’s really going on down there to do so. Your teacher may not approve of arch enhancers for this very reason, so I wouldn’t recommend wearing them for class (or at auditions—directors want to see the real you). You may also want to reevaluate your pointe shoes. Perhaps a shorter vamp or softer shank would give your feet a more flattering line. Yes, sky-high insteps are beautiful. But never underestimate the beauty of strong, well-articulated footwork.

I get very few corrections in class and am starting to feel ignored. Is it okay to approach my teacher and let her know I feel like I’m getting left behind? —Lauren
Of course! You want to make sure you’re getting the most out of your training. Besides, it’s possible your teacher is unaware she’s giving you less attention. Go up to her after class and ask to meet with her and talk. Let her know that you’re eager to improve, but that you feel you need more feedback. Tell her what aspects of class you’re having trouble with, and ask her to keep an eye out.

Evaluate your work habits, too—does your classroom behavior contribute to the problem? For instance, if you usually hide in the back of the room, stand passively to the side while she corrects others (instead of applying the correction to your own dancing) or openly yawn while she gives combinations, she may assume you’re not invested. Communicating with her will hopefully clear up any misunderstandings. However, if your teacher acts dismissive towards your concerns and continues to pay scant attention to you in a way that you feel is truly unfair—or if you suspect her silent treatment is some sort of mind game—consider finding a new teacher.