Cover Story | Fitness

Diversity of Dancing

Stay moving with Shura Baryshnikov


Name: Shura Baryshnikov
Activity: Dance


  • Began in ballet at age 13, then turned to sports 
  • Played field hockey and lacrosse, ran track (distance runner), rode horses competitively, was a diver
  • Has worked as a choreographer and movement consultant for Trinity Repertory Company, The Wilbury Theatre Group, Bridge Repertory Theater, Festival Ballet, Elemental Theatre Collective and on a number of Brown/Trinity MFA productions
  • Instructed contemporary dance at Festival Ballet

She teaches contemporary dance in the Brown/Trinity MFA program, and co-founded Dopplegänger Dance Collective, a contemporary dance duo, along with Danielle Davidson.

How does dancing keep you fit?
“I practice and teach Contact Improvisation, a dynamic and physically demanding form that asks the dancer to connect to their instinctual body through falls, lifts and a shared center of gravity with another dancer. Because it is an improvised form and the structure one creates with the other dancer changes constantly, one develops an incredibly efficient strength and versatility. The movement is challenging and physically diverse. It also satisfies my inherent love of risk, flying and falling.”

Do you do anything else?
“I have also practiced Vinyasa Power Yoga for over ten years – though with my busy rehearsal and teaching schedule, I don’t get to practice as much as I’d like. Plus I train with Michelle Struckholz of Momentum Fitness. She’s also a contemporary dancer, which is nice.”

What kind of diet keeps you in shape for dancing?
“I typically eat four smaller meals per day. I have protein at every meal, including a raw protein powder in my smoothie every morning. I focus on taking in a lot of vegetables, dark leafy greens and good fats. I eat nuts, seeds, avocado and coconut oil every day. I rarely eat any refined sugar or any refined grains. I’m mostly gluten-free as well, so when I have something with white flour and sugar it’s a real treat.”

What can non-dancers learn from your practice?
“I think improvisation is incredibly healthy for our brains and the responsiveness of our bodies. When we engage in movement patterns that are unexpected, we challenge our systems to be quicker and stronger. We have to stop planning our physical pathways and trust that the body knows how to protect itself in moment-to-moment challenges.”

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