The New York Diet

Ballerina Michele Wiles Eats, Drinks, Dances More Than You

Michele Wiles, in between rehearsals at the American Ballet Theatre.
Michele Wiles, in between rehearsals at the American Ballet Theatre.haha Photo: Melissa Hom

What does a dancer eat to stay in top form? In the case of Michele Wiles, principal with the American Ballet Theatre, whatever she wants. It wasn’t always so: When she attended boarding school at the age of 11, her ballet instructors kept close guard over her diet. “They made sure we weren’t eating fattening foods,” Wiles recalls. “We got weighed once a week and were told if they thought we were overweight. When I got out of that and moved to the city, I ate nothing but junk food.” So what fuels a dancer for a spate of upcoming performances?

Saturday, October 6
For breakfast I had a toasted everything bagel and a large coffee. I usually order from Andy’s Deli, right down the street for me on 74th and Amsterdam. Every morning I get a banana and one of those chocolate Cliff bars, and I get a small lemon-lime Gatorade. I have to get extra food to take with me because I have class and then rehearsal starts at 12 p.m. I like to eat something in my fifteen-minute break before rehearsal.

At my break at 3 p.m. I went over to the Equinox, and I had the tilapia and brown rice and broccoli. The food is great there — it’s all healthy and fresh every day.

For dinner I had Chinese food at a friend’s house — we ordered from Empire Szechuan on Columbus.

Sunday, October 7
It’s my day off so I’ll order a big breakfast because I have time — I usually get two scrambled eggs with bacon and potatoes, coffee, and orange juice. Because the breakfast is big, I generally don’t eat again till dinner. Sometimes I’ll have a banana or an orange.

I had a performance that night at the Guggenheim. For dinner I had sushi, since it’s pretty light: I had a hamachi and scallion roll, a tuna roll, and I had a miso soup with extra seaweed. Then at the Guggenheim they provided fruit and cookies and coffee.

Monday, October 8
I had a Dannon yogurt, and I ordered the banana from Andy’s Deli, and a Cliff bar, Gatorade, and coffee. I need to constantly keep something in my system to keep me going until I have time to eat a larger meal. You need to keep fueling throughout the day.

For lunch I had a tandoori-chicken wrap from the Equinox. It has chicken, brown rice, and a light Russian dressing. I had a fruit shake. When I go there, I get a big Poland Spring water, too.

I went to Rosa Mexicano where they have this pulled-pork dish that I really love. It comes in a banana leaf with pineapples and zucchini, and you get rice and corn and beans on the side.

Tuesday, October 9
I had the same thing in the morning. Then I went to Le Pain Quotidien and had a turkey sandwich — it usually comes with a little side with mixed greens and little slice of cantaloupe — and a cappuccino.

There’s a great restaurant Pappardella on Columbus Avenue — it’s an Italian place, and everything seems very fresh. I like it because it’s really dark inside. It’s a great place to relax. I had the pollo Milanese. It’s breaded chicken with mixed greens and zucchini and carrots, and for an appetizer I generally get the asparagus in a pesto sauce with mozzarella. And I’ll have a glass of wine. When I have a glass or two, I make sure I drink lots of water with that or I’ll be dehydrated.

Wednesday, October 10
I went to the Equinox, and they have this amazing turkey chili — they usually put some Cheddar cheese on there. I don’t really think about my diet like you would think a ballet dancer would think about it. Some dancers are obsessive about counting calories. I think that adds more stress, and when you’re stressed out, you tend to gain weight.

I had Chinese again for dinner. I usually get the chicken with broccoli and the sauce on the side. And I get brown rice and I love the hot-and-sour soup. I crave carbs because I’m really physical during the day. Before a big show I generally have pasta the night before. After a show I’m really not that hungry because you’re so pumped with adrenaline.

Michele Wiles will appear in the American Ballet Theatre’s Ballo Della Regina on October 25, 27, and 28. She will also appear in Fall River Legend, The Leaves Are Fading,” and “Baker’s Dozen” in November.

Ballerina Michele Wiles Eats, Drinks, Dances More Than You