Dancers – especially those who are part of professional troupe such as the award-winning Ailey II – are a dedicated and talented crew. They live, breathe and sleep dance whether auditioning or on tour.
It’s tough work (as any Dance Moms’ fan will attest) and only a handful will rise to that upper echelon. Most of us may never be able to leap, spin or soar like an Ailey dancer, but we can all learn from their commitment to health, wellness and beauty. These dancers train hard, eat healthy and are never afraid to show a little some skin.
That’s why Beauty in the Bag went behind the scenes with two of the stars of the Ailey II company — Samantha Barriento and Courtney Celeste Spears. We wanted to learn how they stay so lithe, lean, smooth and well … gorgeous.
Here’s what we found out:
1. How do you stay fit?
Samantha Barriento (SB): “Between performances, I love to go to the gym to use the cardio machines. I also love vinyasa yoga and Pilates to cross train the muscles that I don’t use as much while dancing.
On tour, I typically exercise daily, even when we perform. I feel like a short cardio workout boosts my energy and gets me ready for the day. As far as meals, I eat as many vegetables as possible. I ask for things to be steamed when necessary and I usually eat fish and eggs as sources of protein. “
Courtney Celeste Spears (CCS): “In between shows, I find that trying to keep my body as still and calm as possible helps me conserve my energy for the next performance. We’ve done so much work in the 1st show and exerted so much energy, that for me the best thing is to take time to rest and allow my legs, heart rate, and mind to just rest in ease so that I can give the same intention and energy in the following performance.”
2. And if you need a quick energy boost?
SB: I drink a fail cup of coffee to boost my energy, but if I go overboard, I feel jittery. One cup is just enough.”
CCS: “Once I realized how strenuous the days were, I started making smoothies that would give me a boost of nutrients for the day. They consisted of a frozen banana, other frozen fruit, almond milk, flax seeds, all natural protein powder, spinach, and honey! It was cold, delicious, refreshing and jam packed with so many nutrients that gave me a great boost of energy for the day!”
3. How do you keep your skin stage-ready?
SB: After every performance, I wipe my makeup off with Neutrogena cleansing wipes and wash my face with Cetaphil after that. These are both mild but strong enough to remove the excess makeup. I occasionally use an astringent, like Sea Breeze, to really cleanse my pores.”
CCS: “We sweat a lot during the day, so my biggest challenge with my skin is making sure that I wash and moisturize as much as possible. I use Clean and Clear make-up wipes every day, even if I didn’t use that much make-up, just to wipe off all of the excess sweat. Then I use Cetaphil face wash in the shower followed by a daily moisturizer to give my skin back some of that moisture.
On tour, I do the same thing, but the rest of the dancers and I take off our makeup before we even leave the theater. We are wearing foundation and heavy makeup almost every other day and sweating under bright lights, so it’s imperative to wash your face as soon as you can to prevent any breakouts.
With skin, it starts with putting on lotion every day. Everyone’s skin is different so you have to find what works for you. A really great tip that I’ve learned, especially in the winter is using baby oil gel. When you’re in the shower, after you’ve rinsed off your soap, I’ve found that applying some baby oil gel to your skin, and then doing a final rinse off gives you a deeper moisture and will last longer throughout the day!”
4. Any hair care secrets to share?
SB: “I like to use products that are as close to the natural form as possible for my hair. I wash it every two to three days with Garnier Fructis shampoo and conditioner and use an olive oil-based moisturizer afterward. This helps maintain the shine and helps the brushing process to be easier with my curly hair. I use gel for the performances, but try to apply it one or twice and use mostly water for the rest of the time.”
CCS: “On tour, I get microbraids put in because it helps me not to oversaturate my actual hair with gel, hairspray, etc. I just continue to moisturize my scalp every day, and having braids allows me to do multiple hairstyles in one show and change them very quickly in-between pieces.”
5. What about diet?
CCS: “I’m very blessed to have a very high metabolism, so I love trying different cuisines and almost anything on a menu! But what I’ve learned in my time as a dancer is that for my body, the best way to eat the foods that I like is to eat them in moderation while continuing to give myself the nutrients and vitamins I need. We have very long days so I have to give my body the fuel it needs so that I don’t burn out during an hour and a half ballet class followed by six hours of rehearsal!
My diet on a full rehearsal day would start out with a good breakfast which usually consists of eggs and toast or oatmeal. For lunch, typically I’ll have a turkey sandwich, kettle chips, an orange, grapes, hummus, apple sauce, a Gatorade, and plenty of water! It’s filling and is easy for me to snack on throughout the day. Dinner I usually like to give myself something heavy, such as a pasta dish or chicken. Because of my high metabolism, I do have to eat a lot because I burn a lot of calories in one day and don’t want to be too small. It’s great to eat a lot of food, buts it’s imperative to eat foods that help your body rather than harm it.”
It is much harder to stay healthy on tour because we are being taken out of our consistent routines. We are from hotel to hotel almost every other night, and we have long travel days on a bus which means that you can pack some food, but not a bunch. And during those long travel days we get very hungry and then you just try to eat whatever you can find! It’s easy to get dehydrated which is why it’s important to consistently drink a lot of water even though we aren’t necessarily dancing. A lot of the dancers try to find a grocery store so that they can get food to keep in their rooms which helps having to spend money on every single meal. One of the beauties of traveling is tasting all of the delicious food around this country and around the world. As a company, we do always try to find a great authentic restaurant wherever we go.”