Dancer: “We’re athletes”
reprint The Edmonton Sun- Cary Castagna
Prima ballerina Greta Hodgkinson says few people are in better overall shape than ballet dancers.
Strength? You betcha. Stamina and endurance? Most definitely. Balance and co-ordination? Yup. Flexibility? Without a doubt.
“It (keeping fit) is what we do for a living. It’s pretty vital,” explains the National Ballet of Canada principal dancer.
“We are athletes, there’s no doubt about that.”
Hodgkinson, who weighs an almost sinewy yet aesthetic 104 pounds at five-foot-six, points out that dancers work at fine-tuning every muscle in the body – especially those muscles most people don’t even realize they have, like the ones in the foot.
“We use every single small muscle in our foot,” she says. “The smallest injuries could sideline us.”
Hodgkinson was born in Providence, R.I., but she has lived in Toronto for most of her life.
She’ll be in Edmonton to perform in Giselle – known as “the ballerina’s Hamlet” – on Sept. 18 and 19 at the Jubilee Auditorium.
Between rehearsals, Hodgkinson tells Sun Media she hasn’t ever been out of shape.
She began dancing when she was four years old. Her active childhood also included skating and gymnastics. But she devoted herself to ballet at age 11, when she joined the National Ballet School in Toronto.
“I always knew I was going to be a dancer,” she says.
Hodgkinson doesn’t like to reveal her age. But a story in Dance Magazine suggests she’s now 33 years old.
These days, Hodgkinson is in the dance studio from 10 a.m. to about 6:30 p.m. – with an hour lunch break – up to six days a week.
“My off time is spent getting the body prepared,” she says. “I generally need a lot of physiotherapy and massage.”
But Hodgkinson finds the time to supplement her training with Gyrotonics twice a week for an hour each session.
The Gyrotonic Expansion System, as its known throughout the U.S., is the latest trend in working out.
Used by celebrities such as Tiger Woods, Madonna and Gwyneth Paltrow, Gyrotonics melds the circular and fluid movements of swimming, yoga, gymnastics and tai chi into its exclusive exercise machinery, which is comprised of pulleys, cables, rubberized weights and hand-made wooden benches.
Hailed as yoga for the 21st Century, Gyrotonics was developed by Romanian-born ballet dancer Juliu Horvath.
“It’s similar to pilates, but it’s more advanced than pilates,” says Hodgkinson, who did pilates for seven years before taking up the new fitness trend. “It involves everything. It’s not only about strength.”
Gyrotonic equipment, which hasn’t quite gone mainstream, costs more than $5,000 and can only be purchased by a certified Gyrotonic trainer.
Hodgkinson does her Gyro with a personal trainer.
“You feel like you worked out, but it gives you energy,” she says. “It tends to get things moving and makes you feel rejuvenated.”
As for hoisting traditional weights, Hodgkinson doesn’t have the time, energy or inclination.
“I hate it,” she says. “I find gym exercise so mind-numbing. I can’t get myself to do it.”
One thing she always finds time for is eating.
The petite ballerina insists she doesn’t starve herself – contrary to popular belief about dancers.
“It’s a huge misconception,” she says. “Most of us can’t eat enough to sustain how much exercise we’re doing. No matter what we eat, we don’t keep the weight on because we’re working so much.”
Although she treats herself from time to time, Hodgkinson says she sticks to mostly nutritious foods such as chicken, organic red meat, fish, beans and pasta.
She has also been known to supplement her diet with protein shakes and power bars.
“Food is fuel,” she explains. “For us, food is about how it’s going to make us feel and how it’s going to fuel our body.”
And since ballet is a 24/7 proposition, the admitted perfectionist knows she has to stick to her daily routine with all the control of a well-executed pirouette.
“It’s not just a career or job,” she says. “It’s a life.”…view the original article