Jessica McCann of Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre
Posted on September 23 2017
Hello my fellow dream chasers and aspiring artists, all connected in this crazy world, through strong passionate souls and unyielding, undying hearts ; our unconditional love for art, movement and dance. My name is Jessica, (my friends call me Jess) and I've been asked by the wonderful Neta of WorldWideBallet to tell you all what a day in my life is like. I'm thrilled to be here with you and I'm looking forward to sharing my life with you! From my healthy food routines and obsessions, to my intense dance fashion addiction!
My mornings // My evenings (lets talk diet)
PBT Gyronotic tower in our Pilates Room
Mornings are the foundation of a productive day. Back when I was training in school, it was a lot more intense. I would wake up a lot earlier, and workout usually for a solid hour before a day packed with classes starting at 8am. But these days, it's really important for me to be in a motivated, calm headspace in the mornings, so my morning is my time of peace to prepare for the day ahead full of rehearsals. If I'm stressed or anxious about a role I'm learning, or if my body and mind had an exhausting day the day before, having a good dinner, sleep, and a quiet morning is how my mind and body can reboot and prepare best.
I have to take a hot shower the moment I wake up, before I do anything else. It really helps waken up my body and loosen up all my tight muscles from the previous day. Sometimes if I wake up with my body feeling not so great, right after my hot shower I'll roll out whatever part of my body that's protesting against my sudden movement this morning. My time to meditate and reflect is while I'm drinking my coffee and doing my makeup every morning by my kitchen window. It's silent and the birds are waking up and the sun is rising. It's a really important moment for me to have before a busy day.
Recently I've gotten into the routine of having coffee and oatmeal every morning during the week. It's perfect, not too filling, but holds me over all morning. If I don't have my oatmeal, I won't feel as good during class later. (I always need my cup of coffee in the morning, who am I kidding? NEED). For my oatmeal, I always use raw rolled oats, with flax mill (great source of fiber), hemp seeds (a great source of omega 3, omega 6, and protein), raw locally grown honey (better for your immune system if it's local), and cinnamon. I use to always put almond butter in as well, but I've been trying to kick my almond butter addiction. Sometimes too much of a good thing can be bad haha.
I'm really observant when it comes to how much protein I have a day, I try to have as much as I can, and I can definitely tell when I haven't had enough towards the end of a long, exhausting day.
I tend to make a protein smoothie every morning, which usually includes:
mix of berries, coconut water, my flax milk with added protein, banana, almond butter, spirulina powder (a great superfood), spinach, ice, sometimes some frozen Acai berry purée, and my protein power (or sometimes for a quick fix I'll just mix the protein powder with my flax milk and cinnamon in a shaker).
I sip on my smoothie through out the day. If I drink it all at once I'll feel too bloated, it helps support my muscles and my energy through the morning and afternoon.
Flax Milk - so I use to have soy, rice and almond milk all the time for my smoothies and cereal. But there is nothing in there but sugar. It took me a while to find the perfect milk for me. I love the taste of Flax Milk, and I get it unsweetened with added protein. If the Milk has 0g or 2g protein in it, and has maybe 10g or 15g of sugar, your body won't benefit from that. I grew up drinking real milk and loved it as a child, but it's just been a healthy choice of mine to switch. You just need to look at what you're replacing Milk with. There are also some Soy brands that have 2g of sugar and 7g of protein which also works. But I don't like that much soy in my diet so I've tried to limit the amount of soy I intake. It all depends on what you want! But make sure that there is a decent amount of Vitamin D, protein, and almost no sugar.
I also love making fresh juice in the morning. It usually has a combination of: Fresh cut pineapple, oranges, carrots, ginger, and cayenne pepper.
I recently started making my own homemade protein bars and granola. (You can contact me for my full receipts if you're interested! xox) I put a lot of yummy stuff in the bars like rolled oats, banana, dates, coconut flakes, almond butter, and lots of different nuts and seeds. Now a days they are so expensive, why spend all that money when you can make what you want at home for less! I bring those with me to snack on through out the day, as well as a banana, and sometimes an orange. I believe that snaking through the day is better then huge meals, I always have little bites between every rehearsal to hold me over. For lunch I usually bring left overs from whatever me and my fiance Yoshiaki (Principal in the company) made for dinner the previous evening. But nothing too heavy. I can't dance with a full stomach!
t's really important for us to cook our own meals during the week, to have the best quality and most control over what we put in our bodies as possible. My fiance and I have a lot of fish and veggies as well as red meats. We do a lot of research on where we can get the best quality meat. Getting the organic grass fed, with no hormones and all that jazz can be more expensive, but it's so much better for your body, it's a lot better in so many ways really. We're also pretty obsessed with Orzo at the moment. (It's an Italian pasta with 7g of protein! Yes please) We use our Vitamix and blend tons of vegetables together to make yummy fresh purées and sauces to pour over our Orzo. We also enjoy making our own soups and ramen with the Vitamix. It's our baby - we love that thing.
Protein balls (very thick and filling, lasts over a week between me and my fiance)
Life in the studio //
Every day we have class at 9:15am (unless it's a theatre week) and we rehearse 11:00 - 2:00, have an hour for lunch, then work 3:00 - 6:00, Monday through Friday. The first thing I do when I get into the studio is pick out my outfit (which honestly takes way too long some days hah) and put my hair up. Depending on my schedule that day will depend on how I do my hair and what I wear. Sometimes if I have the first hour or two off after class, I will just dress for class, (then probably do a bit of Pilates or Gyrotonic) and most likely change again for my rehearsal later. On busy days, I tend to wear around 3 leotards a day. (One outfit for class, then I might change for my next three hours of rehearsal, and change again after lunch for the afternoon rehearsals 3-6)
While rehearsing for our new production of Gisellethis season, I had particularly busy days. Not only did I have my own spot in the Willies corps de ballet and one of Giselle's friends, I was also a Willi Demi soloist (Zulma), as well as learning Myrtha. To say the least, my days were completely full - and I was practically rehearsing every part of the ballet. Giselle is one of my favorite ballets so I was enjoying every second of it, but doing that much classical work is very strenuous on the bod, you have to be smart in how you work.
I remember doing an ice bucket at 6pm at the end of the day, and going home and ice bucketing there as well! I'd ice bucket at least twice every evening, as well as a hot epsom salt bath or bucket for my feet.
When I'm preparing for a day full of intense pointe work, I prepare a bit differently than if I was doing multiple different styles and rehearsals in one day.
Before class, I roll out my body quite intensely, as well as stretch. My body is very sore and tired so if I were to work out in the morning, before class and all my rehearsals, I would be doing my body a disservice and exhausting my muscles before I even get to my rehearsals. Of course, when you're rehearsing classical ballet, it's tons of repetition on the same side or the same leg. If you're rehearsing a variation, you get really lopsided from practicing the same steps over and over. So of course, I try to strengthen in that sense, to attempt to even my body out and try to prevent injury. I also take a nice easy class and make sure I'm setting myself up right.
I remember one day when we were beginning to learn Giselle, my first rehearsal of the day was actually for James Kudelka's The Man in Black, where you're stomping, running and jumping around in cowboy boots. (1 girl with 3 men) I would rehearse that for an hour and 1/2, then I'd throw my pointe shoes on for Giselle corps work for 2 and 1/2 hours. Then lunch, one hour for lunch for me means visiting the PT and getting work done depending on how my body is feeling, eating a quick lunch, changing my leotard and most likely redoing my hair and makeup, before rolling out and re-warming up. That one hour goes by so fast most days. Then I would have Mrytha rehearsal, followed by Moyna and Zulma Demi soloist rehearsal, followed by another all corps rehearsal at the end of the day, which was usually Act l peasants and friends. That schedule was also sometimes reversed. Where I would have Willies corps for the first two hours of the day, then maybe Demi soloist rehearsal, followed by lunch, then Mrytha rehearsal, back to corps rehearsal, and finish in my cowboy boots for TheMan in Black. There was a lot of rolling out, lots of protein, and lots of icing!
Dance fashion // My obsession
First, let me start this section by saying that almost 100% of what I buy to wear everyday to support what I do and make me feel good in the studio, is bought with the warming thought that I'm supporting another professional dancer or dance lover who made the clothing. The industry of buying and selling dance clothes has changed SO much even within the last few years. I keep finding incredible professional dancers or retired dancers, on Etsy and instagram making beautiful high class, top quality dance wear and thus my obsession has grown deeper and deeper still. But the thought of supporting them and building a relationship with them through their clothes and the art form warms my heart and makes it worth it to me. I love getting to know the creators, and often think of them while wearing their beautiful clothes.
From left to right: on the barre is: a black wool cardigan that's so old I can't remember where it came from, but something I'd completely mourn over if lost; one of my gorgeous Maldire dancewear leotards, the art on each leotard is mesmerizing and stunning, they're so unique - and I love a low back leo; my Rubiawear romper, something fun and different, one of my many beloved Rubiawear items; a treasured new find of mine are these beautiful handmade rehearsal skirts from Paris, 'Les Petites Jupes De Patricia'. She was kind enough to gift me this gorgeous tapered blue skirt and I wear it almost every day; a beautifully custom made ombré romantic tutu from Nuikobo in Osaka, Japan; One of my favorite Luckyleo dancewear leotards, again a low back always wins for me.
On the floor with me: my absolute favorite Jule Dancewear leotard; my favorite pair of Rubiawear leg warmers; a black rehearsal tutu my friend got from Etsy and sold to me, score! ; my favorite DECO dancewear leotard, they are so comfortable and very well made ; my treasured white Chacott rehearsal skirt and black trash bag shorts I'm wearing, they are the only trashbag shorts that ever won my heart over. I love that they're matte and they are specially made to make you sweat like crazy, I love them! ; I'm wearing my favorite Maldire leotard (gorgeous) ; in the back is a custom tapered floral slip on skirt by DECO dancewear ; my gorgeous one of a kind Bakytgul dance shop bag. So unique and fun! And huge! It fits everything; an old handmedown scarf I use as a wrap, sometimes old finds are the best ; another gorgeous rehearsal skirt from Paris, I never let her skirts out of my sight ; some compression calf socks for those days when I do a lot of standing around, it helps the swelling ; as well as a bunch of little things I use every day like my feet spacers in a mint tin, my mini iPad, tons of balls in different sizes, my mini rollout stick, and perfume and hair products ; my little red box, is full of earrings and little necklaces. Every morning I match my earrings to my outfit, I really can't go a day without wearing earrings for some reason. It's like the finishing touch to my outfit.
There are many other brands that I love and am obsessed with that aren't pictured because it would be way too much to bring out from my dressing room, like Eleve Dancewear, Yumiko and Classin Dancewear - I looove Keto Dancewear, as well as Zarely and Lonereed Designs. I'll stop there - but I can go on. There's so much beautiful talent out there, I love searching and finding new people in different corners in the world making one of a kind pieces. It's so special and it's refreshing to me when I see something new.
I started a really fun Leotard Library within the company where you can put leotards you don't normally wear, so other people can borrow them and return them, and if they like the leotard they can buy it off the owner if they're willing to part with it. A lot of us share our normal every day leos too, but this was a fun idea to kind of slowly part with the leotards that would usually sit in your locker for months untouched ;)
- When I'm home after work, my fiancé and I love to cook together and unwind by watch Netflix. I also either sew pointe shoes... or pretend I don't have to sew pointe shoes lol. Because it's a never ending, constant thing, that I'm very thankful for.