Work Out Like: A Professional Ballerina From The Boston Ballet

How a professional ballerina stays in shape for her physically demanding profession.

Dusty Button in Boston Ballet’s Don Quixote by Gene Schiavone. All photos provided by the Boston Ballet.

Dusty Button in Boston Ballet’s Don Quixote by Gene Schiavone. All photos provided by the Boston Ballet.

Professional ballerina Dusty Button—yes, that is her legal name—takes the stage in London next month with the Boston Ballet, which is currently on tour. Button is learning nine different parts for the current tour, and although the same pieces were performed here in Boston, she will be debuting all new roles in London. While her performances may look effortless on stage, those pirouettes, plies, and jumps take a lot of hard work to master. The ballerina from Myrtle Beach, South Carolina joined the Boston Ballet in 2012, and although ballerinas are in peak physical condition, and their long, lean bodies are the envy of women everywhere, they have to put in the work, just like the rest of us. Button talked to us about how she stays fit, her love of biking, and the hardest part about being a ballerina.

What is a typical day’s workout?

My routine is pretty similar everyday whether or not we have a performance. Each day I cycle to and from work, about four to five miles each way on both performance days and non-performance days. On non-performance days we still have rehearsal from 9:45 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. On the weekends, when we don’t have rehearsal or a performance, my fiancé and I cycle the same distance as the other days and then we go to the gym. Since I get so much cardio on a daily basis I usually mirror his workout for a change of pace, which is mainly weight training. I think it’s important to be strong in a lot of areas, and since I am on my feet all day it’s really easy to be weak when it comes to upper body strength.

Dusty Button in Boston Ballet’s The Nutcracker by Gene Schiavone.

Dusty Button in Boston Ballet’s The Nutcracker by Gene Schiavone.

What is your favorite exercise and why?

My favorite type of exercise would definitely be dancing. I don’t even think of it as exercise while I’m in rehearsal which is probably why it’s my favorite. Outside of dancing my favorite type of exercise would be cycling.

What is your least favorite way to exercise but you do it anyway? 

My least favorite way to exercise is the elliptical. I really have no passion for running or anything along those lines but I know that it helps my stamina so I usually try and spend at least 30 to 45 minutes on the elliptical when I’m at the gym. Aside from that I like everything else I do.

Dusty Button and Lasha Khozashvili in Boston Ballet’s The Nutcracker by Rosalie O’Connor.

Dusty Button and Lasha Khozashvili in Boston Ballet’s The Nutcracker by Rosalie O’Connor.

How strict are you when it comes to your exercise routine?

Occasionally I will take a break from the routine to have a more relaxed weekend but for the most part I stick to the routine, otherwise it’s hard to get back into it.

How is your exercise routine different during the off-season vs. in-season?

When we are off in the summer my routine is different. Since I am not at work at Boston Ballet I usually spend a lot of time teaching and choreographing for various studios and companies. As far as the gym schedule goes, I do a lot more exercise at the gym than I would normally, along with the weight training I already do when we are in-season.

Dusty Button in Boston Ballet’s The Sleeping Beauty by Rosalie O’Connor

Dusty Button in Boston Ballet’s The Sleeping Beauty by Rosalie O’Connor

What is the hardest part about being a professional dancer?

I think the hardest part about being a professional dancer for me is that I am always doing someone else’s work. We learn several ballets each season that are choreographed by other people and although I enjoy learning and seeing what other people have choreographed, I feel the most comfortable doing my own choreography. So I think at times the hardest part for me is wanting to have more control over the work I am doing.

What advice do you have for people that are just starting out on an exercise routine?

Try to create a routine that you enjoy. And maybe find someone that enjoys doing that routine with you and supports you. I like my routine so much more when my fiancé is doing the same things with me, it’s almost like healthy competition. Don’t do exercise that you know you hate or that you think will help you just because someone else does it. You will never get into a long term routine that way.

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  • Sushruthi

    As ballet dancers, do you recommend doing weights training (especially for the lower body). Does weights training affect the turn out or flexibilty of a dancer?