Though you might think twice before snacking on cookies during bathing suit season, eating sweets when you’re covered from head to toe in bulky layers is all too easy. Which is why we reached out to one of the few Philadelphians who isn’t able to hide an expanding waistline or holiday bloat beneath long sleeves and chunky sweaters: local ballerina Katelyn Prominski, who can be found leaping across the Academy of Music’s stage wearing nothing more than a skin-tight leotard in this year’s production of George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker, from now until December 31st. “During the winter, when everyone else covers up their body the most, [The Nutcracker dancers] are in the best shape of the whole year,” says 26-year-old Prominski, who performs in up to three shows a day during the month of December—and whose perfectly toned abs can be seen in the PA Ballet’s new ad campaign. Here, what she eats to fuel her body, how she manages holiday stress and the Christmas treats she can’t live without.
Which foods do you usually eat and why?
I don’t have a set diet of what I can and cannot eat, but I naturally tend to gravitate toward healthier and more well-rounded food options. During practice and performances, I tend to pay closer attention to what I eat because I need to make sure that I eat enough of the right foods so that I can be at my best when I perform. Generally, I eat a fairly balanced diet, and if I don’t, I crave what I’m missing. I can’t live without fruit, yogurt, nuts, cheese and chocolate!
What’s a normal day look like for you diet-wise?
For breakfast, I usually eat Greek yogurt with granola, jam and flax seeds. For lunch I like a sandwich or bacon, egg and cheese bagel. For dinner, I usually eat some sort of pasta creation with chicken, or I make these great “Mexican bowls” with chicken or steak, rice, beans, avocado, cheese, sour cream … anything I feel like adding in. I don’t cut anything out of my diet. I like to eat equal parts of vegetables, protein and carbs all the time. But I really listen to my body to direct how much I eat and what I feel like eating. If I’m craving more carbs, I’ll eat more carbs, or if I’m craving more vegetables, I eat more vegetables.
What do you reach for when you want a snack?
My favorite snacks are a creation by fellow Nutcracker ballet dancer, Caralin Curcio. She figured out a recipe that is loosely based on Lara Bars. I make the little treats by roasting nuts and then mixing them in a food processor with dates. During the day I also like to snack on fruit.
How often do you eat sweets?
I never hold back from eating sweet treats, but I know I’ll get a stomachache if I eat too much! My favorite treats are cupcakes or dark-chocolate bars with nuts.
When you have to be on stage in a leotard the day after a holiday party, you can’t hide too many indulgences beneath a chunky sweater. How do you avoid overeating at the holidays?
I think about how sick I will feel afterwards! If I mix too much and too many kinds of rich holiday food, I know I will be in trouble later that night or [feel sick] the next day.
What are your favorite holiday indulgences that you absolutely have to have?
Gingerbread, pie, and these amazing dark chocolate-covered Peppermint Joe Joe’s from Trader Joe’s — that’s a new one!
What holiday foods or beverages do you avoid and why?
Eggnog, because I don’t like it.
How many hours a day do you dance when The Nutcracker is in production?
Typically, I dance between 8 and 10 hours a day. On performance days, we usually work from 11 a.m. until after the last show, which ends around 10:30 at night—which means I’m dancing anywhere between one and three shows a day. If we rehearse on the days we’re not performing, that usually means eight-and-a-half hours of dancing a day.
Do you eat differently on days you practice or perform?
You do end up watching what you eat because you never want to feel too full or heavy. You focus more on food to fuel your performance. While performing, I like to eat little meals throughout the day so I don’t have something heavy in my stomach at one time. I eat lots of nuts because they give me lots of energy without weighing me down. I also will eat bananas or dried fruit for the same reason. When I have something larger, like a big sandwich—I like chicken salad from Wolf’s on multigrain bread, or ham and cheese from Major’s out in East Falls—I’ll usually eat half of it at once and then eat the other half a few hours later. This helps the food digest so I don’t feel too full. Nothing is worse than feeling like the Sugar Plump Fairy rather than the Sugar Plum Fairy!
How can we spot you on stage this year?
In the first act, I will be the hostess in the party scene and a snowflake. In the second act, I am the lead in the Spanish dance and in the flower corps in the Waltz of the Flowers.
If you only had ten minutes to work out over the holidays, which moves would you do and why?
Planks for abdominal strength and definition and anything using the Bender Ball, my workout weapon of choice! The ball is from a cheesy infomercial on TV, but can be purchased at any sports store. I use it for abdominal and back strengthening. I feel like you have to use more muscles when using this ball, which means you’re getting a better workout.
How do you the manage the stress of daily performances amidst the already busy holiday season?
With such a hectic schedule during the holidays, I need to take everything one step at a time and I try to not get ahead of myself. I’m an avid “to-do list” maker. I also do the majority of my shopping early and online, and I’m a firm believer in Rescue Remedy, a stress-relief spray available at Whole Foods.