Monday, May 22, 2017
Many often dream of stardom. The excitement of the spotlight, an adoring audience, and public idolization sounds lustfully glamorous. Center member Christine Danelson, of the touring cast for Broadway’s hit Hairspray, shares the role fitness plays in the life of a star …

Behind the Scenes of Broadway

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Currently 22 years old and size 8, Christine is in control of her weight. This was not always the case, although not from typical causes of weight fluctuation. Changes in diet, exercise, and lifestyle are not the main determining factor in Christine’s weight. Her latest role dictates her size.

As the standby for lead character Tracy Turnblad in Hairspray, Christine was not permitted to lose weight. This musical’s storyline focuses on the issue of Tracy being an unlikely dance star because of her excessive weight. “My contract forbade me to lose weight,” confirms Christine who was a tight size 16 at the time. “Even though I was heavier then, I still had to wear a fat suit to bulk up my appearance,” she adds.

Christine transforms backstage on the Hairspray set.
Christine transforms backstage on the Hairspray set.

Being forbidden to lose weight might sound appealing to all who struggle to do so. It might even sound easy. However, Christine shares otherwise. “Dancing nonstop during each show with only a 3-minute break is a powerful workout. At one point, I lost 15 pounds and had to work to gain it back,” she indicates.

It’s a fast-paced lifestyle without much downtime. Christine remarks that she never has off on holidays when touring, even though the performers have personal and vacation time.  Holidays sell tickets. People are feeling festive and have free time so they opt to see a show. This doesn’t prevent a family-loving Christine from spending holidays with her relatives. “My sister, Gina, traveled to have Thanksgiving dinner with me and the cast. For Christmas, my entire family traveled across country with dinner in tow. We ate a homemade meal together in my hotel suite,” informs Christine.

After the stint in Hairspray, Christine could return to her preferred weight. Her supporting roles in television’s Law & Order and two movies didn’t require the added pounds, so fitness took Center-stage. Christine partook in Group Fitness classes with her sister. Yoga, Pilates, and swimming were her favorites, the latter helping with breath control.

“I can definitely notice an improvement during my vocal rehearsals and practice if I exercised prior. My voice is stronger,” she attests. “Control of breathing is particularly important in opera. Exercising those muscles makes it easier to maintain breath to hold long notes,” she explains. Christine considers swimming a type of voice training. The aquatic techniques help the body to perform and the voice to be powerful. “Time in the pool can relieve stress as well,” adds Christine, who dries off feeling refreshed and charged for her next performance.

Despite her crazy schedule with school and work (she assists a lawyer when not on stage), Christine manages to exercise at the Center 3 or 4 times a week. “It definitely pays off,” she says, noting her first place regional victory in an opera competition sponsored by Classical Singer magazine. In May 2010, she will compete on the national level. Also, strong stamina has allowed her to accept a part in the cast of a production at her university. “I get bored easily. I have to keep active.”

“The Center is great for my physical and mental well-being. My time there provides an adrenaline rush. I’m ‘mentally on’ after I finish a good workout,” shares Christine. “Everyone is cool at the Center. I’ve made some fun workout buddies, who help me stay committed and energized.”

Christine began dancing as a kindergartener when she took ballet classes. With a love of performing arts, she continued dancing, singing, and acting throughout her school years. Currently, she is studying opera and applying to graduate programs in music performance. She’s earned a place in two of her school’s Honor Societies for theater and academic achievements. “I consider myself more of an actor and singer than a dancer, but I’m often required to be a dancer. I guess I’m pretty good at it, even though I’m more confident with vocals and acting,” shares Christine modestly.

A muscular Christine remains after losing the stage weight.
A muscular Christine remains after losing the stage weight.

With an impressive work ethic driving her, Christine enjoys the reward of applause from appreciative audiences. She carried this same attitude to the Center. This time, her reward was a 45-pound weight loss (since her days as Tracy Turnblad). However, Christine emphasizes that weight on the bathroom scale is not always important. “Sometimes, I actually gain weight from a good exercise program. It’s all muscle,” says Christine, who manages to be fit even when carrying the extra weight of her latest character. She sculpts her body to a shape that suits her and the role she is playing.

“The Center helps me maintain a healthy lifestyle, regardless of my weight. I only wish I could break out in song on the treadmill,” says Christine in that lovely voice of hers.

See “Sing Your Heart Healthy” for tips on how a little tune can make your day.

Image Credit

Introductory photo: www.flickr.com/photos/yumiang

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