Talking to some of the stage’s hottest dancers about staying fit, getting into dance class and taking it all off.
By Jeffrey James Keyes
If you’ve ever had the opportunity to attend Broadway Bares — the annual event at which nearly 200 of the Great White Way’s best dancers show off their assets to raise money for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS — you know the dance community keeps themselves in peak (and peekable) condition.
“The best thing about performing in Broadway Bares is dancing around naked in public without the fear of getting arrested,” says dancer David Schepis. “Supporting a good cause and helping those in need comes in a very, very close second, though.”
We talked to some of these powerhouse performers after they participated in the most revealing event of the theater year about how they prepare to bare and what tips they can share with people looking to achieve a Broadway-worthy body or even just dabble in dance class.
Prepare To Bare
For Jon Cooper, who’s been dancing for 20 years, one of the keys to being prepared for Bares is keeping his training consistent thoughout the year. His mantra? “I don’t believe in swim suit season, “ he says. However, in addition to regular workouts, he preps by staggering exercises through the day that use his own body for resistance. “I usually do pushups in the morning and after breakfast,” says Cooper. He’ll even put a workout inside a workout: “I do them between sets.”
Alfie Parker Jr., who’s been dancing for 18 years and part of Bares cast for seven, says that being performance-ready is all about being prepared. “You’re always training; the only reason why you aren’t is because you’re injured,” he explains. “Don’t give yourself excuses.”
Brandon Leffler shared a tip he learned while preparing for the recent Bares benefit. “I always try to start my workout with legs,” he says, explaining, “I have been told that releases natural growth hormones that make your whole workout more productive.”
Dancer Judah Frank, who’s been part of Bares for the past two years, emphasizes the importance of getting ample time to bounce back. “My body responds better when I take at least two rest/recovery days,” he says. “I’ve also learned that eating well and finding the right times to fuel are super-important.”
The dancers are unanimous in their opinion about regulating caloric intake — with a little room for individual expression. “For my body, eating clean is the best,” Parker states. “Vegetables, lean meats, not a lot of bread — a little sweet here and there.”
Cooper also believes in moderation. “I won’t set an unrealistic goal like not drinking [over] a four-day weekend. The only thing I really avoid is fake food like Taco Bell, and I don’t drink soda.”
Adriana James, who’s attended ballet class since the ripe old age of two, still craves sugar. But, she says, ”If I reduce it for a few weeks, I can see huge results.” Discipline does have its rewards, however. “I never tell myself I can’t have something,” she says. “But I will wait for the proper time to have it.”
In The Gym
Since dancers are required to display varied strengths and abilities, it follows that they need to vary their workout routines. In addition to the dance classes, Cooper tries to make time for workout classes like flybarre, cardiotap, bootcamps, and yoga.
Parker, Jr. and Schepis both recommend heating things up in yoga class. “It’s a pretty torturous practice, but nothing says you’ve worked hard like wringing a liter of sweat out of your yoga mat after class,” says Schepis.
Meanwhile, Frank likes to flip out — literally. He comes from a competitive gymnastics background, and often visits the gym revisiting old routines. “Nothing,” he says, “compares to the feeling of flying.” Frank also finds definition can come from the funniest things: “I’m a fan of laughing ‘til it hurts. Check your abs after a laughing fit — you won’t regret it.”
Tips For Newbies
If you haven’t taken a dance class (in a long time or ever), the idea of signing up for one might seem daunting but it shouldn’t.
“Dance classes make your body move and I support anyone who gets in there and moves for the entirety of a class,” says James. She cautions against the assumption that you’ll be out of place because you’re not a pro. “We all know you’re a newbie, and the dance community supports you! Get in there and try it! We love it and hope you will too.” She recommends beginner jazz or hip-hop classes when starting out.
Cooper also suggests that Zumba, beginner ballet, contact improvisation, or beginner modern class for those easing in. “Anything with ‘basic’ or ‘beginner’ in the title is a green light,” he says. “If you are completely lost in a class, at least you tried something new and sweat it out and made a new friend or two.”
And it’s okay to dance like no one’s looking, says Frank. “No one is watching you. We’re judging ourselves and making sexy model faces in the mirror,” he says. “Just dance your heart out and try not to smack anyone in the genitals.”
Last modified: September 29, 2017