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How a Ballet Dancer Stays Nimble

Get in Nutcracker shape with the Joffrey’s Amanda Assucena.

Amanda Assucena
Photo: Lisa Predko

She’s been twirling on her toes since before she started dancing at age 8. Now the Rio de Janeiro native lives her dreams dancing with the Joffrey Ballet. This month, the Lake View resident, 24, will again perform the lead of Marie (along with several other roles: “We rotate because the lead is quite demanding”) in The Nutcracker, running December 1 to 30. Here’s how she stays in top form.

Warm-up drills

“The weeks before the show, we start class at 9:45 a.m. and rehearse until 6:30 p.m. I try to be there by 9:20 to warm up. I plank for about a minute, relax, then plank again with leg raises, then do some Pilates moves. I also warm up my ankles because those can get injured easily. I use a resistance band and hold, flex, and point about 30 times, then do it all again with my foot at an angle.”

Eating plan

“Before class, I eat a Clif Bar to wake up the body. A lot of dancers eat something big for lunch, but I don’t want to feel heavy when we get to dancing. I have some yogurt and some granola. Dinner is when I get calories in. I like to cook rice and beans, grill chicken with rosemary, and scramble or fry eggs. I know that’s not typical in America, but I was raised to eat eggs anytime.”

Cheat meals

“The weekend is the time to get a taste of food that brings you happiness. My go-to is Sarpino’s pizza or Shake Shack burgers — with bacon and an egg on top.”

Pain management

“Last year, one of my toenails pushed into the skin, and the nail bed got infected. The doctor took out the entire toenail the day before opening night. I asked him to put anesthesia in, so I was dancing without feeling in my toes.”

Barre beauty

“I used to wear a lot of makeup and that started damaging my skin, so I’m really into skin care. I use Korres Greek Yoghurt Foaming Cream Cleanser, a chemical exfoliator to break away impurities, then a coconut moisturizer. And I always, always, always take my makeup off as soon as I get offstage and into a dressing room.”

Preshow ritual

“I’m superstitious. Before performances, I say a little prayer, kiss the stage three times, and do three little jumps. Of course you are nervous. But if you’re not, then I think you’re not ready to enter another world.”

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