The most wonderful time of the year can also be the most stressful when it comes to eating. Goodies lead to guilt, sweets lead to shame and dinners can be a disaster to navigate. One of the most unlikely advocates for holiday indulgence during the holiday season is Atlanta Ballet dancer Ashley Wegmann. Even during the busy Nutcracker season, Wegmann allows visions of sugarplums to dance in her head.
“The holidays are a time to celebrate and enjoy,” Wegmann said. After a full day of dancing, she’s not afraid to have a cookie or toast a performance well done with a cocktail. “Don’t feel guilty about that, judge yourself or make it a bad thing. It’s a wonderful thing and the holidays are great for that exact reason.”
Wegmann eats luxuriously because she understands balance. She’s quick to warn people against an “all or nothing” mentality to prevent overindulging in a moment of weakness. Since the Nutcracker is so physically demanding, she knows she has to fuel her body with an arsenal of healthy food to keep her hands off sugar. She grounds herself by doing prep work on her days off, creating meals for the entire week so that she has healthy, wholesome meals ready to go with her to the studio.
“Make choices you are going to feel good about in the long run. I try to eat intuitively. If I want something I’m going to eat it, but I also make decisions so that I won’t feel bad later on,” she said.
Chia seed pudding is one of Wegmann’s favorite snacks. When soaked, superfood chia seeds form a thick gel, or pudding, with a texture similar to tapioca and can be used as a healthier alternative to pudding made using milk and eggs. It’s her go to, filling but not heavy, snack that satisfies her sweet tooth. Sometimes she’ll even add pumpkin for a seasonal flair.
“There has been a lot more awareness and education on healthy eating as opposed to a time in the dance world when there was a mentality of restriction,” Wegmann said. She credits social media for making body image much more transparent and encouraging dancers to identify as athletes. After all, dancers typically spend eight hours a day in the studio. Wegmann’s pro tip is to eat small things throughout the day to keep her energy levels up. She’s known for having a snack at every five-minute break, carrying jars of food with her in the studio. “We try to make it look as easy as we can on the stage, but it is very physically demanding.”
This is Wegmann’s third season with the Atlanta Ballet. She studied at the Princeton Ballet School on scholarship and previously danced with BalletMet in Columbus, Ohio. Through the years, Wegmann has danced in the Nutcracker as a snowflake, Mrs. Petrov, the shepherdess, dewdrop and a Spanish dancer. With so many different roles, ballerinas of all ages play a part in the nostalgic Nutcracker.
“Nutcracker is special because it is such a tradition for so many people,” Wegmann said.
Her own path to becoming a ballerina was sparked by seeing the Nutcracker, her very first introduction to dance. “My mom took me and my dad to the Nutcracker, saw all the kids on stage and thought, ‘I want my daughter to do that!’ She put me in lessons that following year and the rest is history.”
Atlanta Ballet’s Nutcracker runs Dec. 8-28 at the Fox Theatre. Visit atlantaballet.com for tickets and information.