Healthy Dancer Summer Features

Leanna Rinaldi

Where do you dance?

I started my career at Miami City Ballet and danced there for six years and I am excited to start dancing with Ballet Austin for the 19/20 season!

Share a bit about your journey in dance…

I began dance classes at the age of 2 and a half. I started getting serious about dance when I was about 13 while training at Chamberlain Performing Arts in Plano, TX. As a teenager, I attended summer courses at The School of American Ballet and Miami City Ballet School.

My path was pretty much chosen for me because I didn’t get into the college I wanted but I received a scholarship to train at the Miami City Ballet School year round. And I’m so glad I went. In the school I began dancing with the company and after two years of that I was hired as a company apprentice. The next year I was hired into the corps de ballet and got to perform many wonderful ballets in many amazing places!

What’s a challenge you’ve faced in pursuing dance professionally? How did you overcome it?

The dance world has never been easy for me. I don’t have a typical “ballerina body” which I hate saying because there shouldn’t be one body that defines a ballet dancer. But I don’t have super hyperextended legs or whacked out feet and I was always self conscious about my thighs.

To offset this, I use my strengths like jumping, turning and performance in my face and port de bras. I have been body shamed in my career and emotionally abused but I overcame it by staying true to my values and telling myself that I am worth more.

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One person’s opinion does not define you as a dancer. And through this challenging time in my life I was questioning my love for dance. I had to remind myself that I became a professional dancer for a reason and I reached outside of my messed up mentality to find my love for dance again.

My love for dance never left, I just had to switch my perspective and have an attitude of gratitude for what I get to do everyday!

What does it mean to you to be a “whole” dancer?

Being a whole dancer for me is having a balanced life. You can’t be ALL ballet ALL the time or you will burn out. By that I mean you have to get out of the studio and find things in life that fulfill you and bring you joy, while also working hard in the studio. Go outside. Go on adventures. Visit family. Go on a walk. Anything that you enjoy that is not dance related, do it.

Do you have any special self-care rituals that help you feel balanced?

I always try to have a nourishing breakfast every morning. I also try to journal and write down things I’m grateful for. By starting my day on a good note I find more often than not that I have a better day. I also meditate to calm my mind, reflect, and re-center. After a really hard day I light some candles and take an epsom salt bath.

What role does cross-training play in your life?

I do a lot of different kinds of cross training. I love to do yoga when I want to have a good sweat and stretch out my body. I also love to do different physical therapy exercises in the morning before class to get my blood flowing and prepare for the day.

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I usually incorporate some Gyrotonics into my exercises. Whenever I have a long break I spend some time on the elliptical to keep my stamina up. On Mondays, which is usually our day off, I take an intense pilates class with an instructor that used to dance with MCB!

How do you keep a positive relationship with food and your body in the face of aesthetic pressure in dance?

It’s really hard. I’m not going to sugar coat it. Having a positive relationship with food and your body is hard especially when you have to stare at your body in the mirror everyday and pick at what is wrong.

I try to keep it positive by telling myself that I am wonderfully made, a beautiful creation, and my worth is not dependent on how I look. Food is fuel and nourishment but also meant to be enjoyed. It is possible to have a balanced life as a dancer.


Do you have a favorite healthy recipe?

Lentil Coconut Curry with Sweet Potatoes and Kale

Ingredients:

1 tbsp. coconut oil
1 can Coconut milk
2 cups vegetable broth
1 cup lentils (any kind but I use red lentils)
1 sweet potato diced
1 bunch kale chopped
1 yellow onion diced
2 cloves garlic minced
1 can chick peas (optional)
2 tbl fresh cilantro chopped
2 tbl curry
1 tsp tumeric
Dash of cinnamon
Salt and pepper to taste

Method:

Heat on medium-high 1 tbsp. of coconut oil in a large saucepan. Add the onion and sauté for 2-3 minutes. Add the sweet potato and garlic and coat with the curry, turmeric, and cinnamon. Sauté for 2 minutes. Stir in lentils for 1 minute. Pour the coconut milk and vegetable broth in the saucepan, bring to a boil and stir. Add chickpeas if desired and the kale, salt and pepper and let simmer on low until the sweet potatoes are soft and the lentils are cooked. This will be about 12-15 minutes. Add cilantro at the end and enjoy as a soup or over quinoa or rice. Enjoy!

Leanna Rinaldi – Healthy Dancer Feature
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