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I have a student who's going through a growth spurt, and I'm wondering what advice I should give her. Is there anything you recommend?

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I have a student who is moderately knock-kneed and has trouble closing in fifth position without bending her legs. She has a swayback, and her turnout isn't very strong. Do you have any advice?

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I've got an advanced student who complains about pain and cramping in her calf muscles after class. She told me that she even wakes up at night with cramping. Why is this happening?
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My right leg is longer than my left leg, and I want to know what I should do in ballet class to avoid exacerbating the hip soreness I feel after class because of it.

There are some common patterns with uneven leg lengths. Generally, dancers like to stand in fifth position with the long leg in back. This is because when the shorter leg is behind, the front knee will want to bend to square off the hips. It's also very common in everyday standing to shift and stand on the shorter leg and bend the knee of the longer leg. I see most leg-length challenges happening at the barre, when you can use your hand to try to force a square pelvis and evenly balance between the two legs.

Putting a heel lift under the shorter leg will not only help dancers work more symmetrically, but it will help spinal curves straighten, help shoulders become even and allow dancers to feel like they are standing evenly on both feet.

If you have a known leg-length problem, I would encourage you to seek some advice from a physician or physical therapist to see if putting a lift in your soft slipper and street shoes would be useful. They will evaluate your skeletal alignment with and without the lift and determine if a correction is needed. I suspect your chronically sore hip muscles would feel better, too.

To your success,

Deborah Vogel

Director, The Body Series

Got a question for Deb? E-mail askdeb@dancemedia.com, and she may answer it in an upcoming web exclusive.

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I have a lot of pain in my buttock that runs down my leg. I've been told by other dancers to keep stretching and/or do nothing but ice and rest. What do you suggest?

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My pointe isn't very good, and when I try to improve it, I get spasms in my arch. It's frustrating to see other ballet dancers with their toes nearly touching the ground, while my feet are flat. Is there any way I can improve my feet?

Whenever I hear someone describe their feet as flat, I wonder if they mean pronated. There's a difference. Flat feet are structurally strong, but without much instep or arch in standing. Pronated feet occur in dancers when the arches roll in toward the big-toe side, flattening the print of the foot on the ground. Pronation goes hand in hand with weak arch muscles, and that is where I would focus your attention.

Practice lengthening through the ankle, keeping the toes separated as you slowly extend them. This is easiest to do while sitting on the ground with your legs in front of you, so you can watch your toes. You might cramp before you get to a full point. If so, you're doing it right. You've found your intrinsic muscles and need to keep your commitment to strengthening them.

From there, your next focus should be to correctly work your turnout at your hips in order to not pronate.

To your success,

Deborah Vogel

Director, The Body Series

Got a question for Deb? E-mail askdeb@dancemedia.com, and she may answer it in an upcoming web exclusive.

Dancer Health
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I have a young dancer with an open rib cage problem, and I'm trying to get her to stop. What can you suggest?
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No matter how hard I work to change it, I'm often told that I have a shallow plié. Is there any hope for improving the depth of my plié through special stretches to make it juicier? I'm doing a lot of exercises, but I don't seem to getting any results. Looking forward to reading your advice. Thanks!

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