Health & Body

Ask Deb: Help! My Dancers Can't Keep Their Heels Down in Demi-Plié


Q: Why can't some of my dancers keep their heels down while in demi-plié?

A: There are two primary reasons why heels pop up during demi-plié. The first is tight soleus muscles. This muscle runs from just below the knee to connect with the gastrocnemius muscle to form the Achilles tendon that connects at the heel bone. This muscle determines the muscular depth of your demi-plié. The shorter and tighter it is, the shallower the demi-plié will be. To stretch the soleus muscle, do a traditional calf stretch with a straight back leg, then slightly bend the knee to bring the stretch toward the ankle.

The second reason heels lift is due to misalignment during the descent. Students are generally trying hard to work their turnout, and end up tucking their pelvis under and shifting toward the front of the feet. Not only do the heels lift when this happens, but it puts a lot of strain on the knees, too.

Have your students monitor the weight on their feet during the demi-plié, striving to always keep the weight equal between the pads of the big toe, little toe and heel. This will then stretch the soleus at the bottom of the demi-plié and help to maintain anatomical alignment.

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Securing the correct music licensing for your studio is an important step in creating a financially sound business. "Music licensing is something studio owners seem to either embrace or ignore completely," says Clint Salter, CEO and founder of the Dance Studio Owners Association. While it may seem like it's a situation in which it's easier to ask for forgiveness rather than permission—that is, to wait until you're approached by a music-rights organization before purchasing a license—Salter disagrees, citing Peloton, the exercise company that produces streaming at-home workouts. In February, Peloton settled a music-licensing suit with the National Music Publishers' Association out-of-court for an undisclosed amount. Originally, NMPA had sought $300 million in damages from Peloton. "It can get extremely expensive," says Salter. "It's not worth it for a studio to get caught up in that."

As you continue to explore a hybrid online/in-person version of your class schedule, it's crucial that your music licenses include coverage for livestreamed instruction—which comes with its own particular requirements. Here are some answers to frequently asked questions about music licensing—in both normal times and COVID times—as well as some safe music bets that won't pose any issues.

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A 2019 Dancewave training. Photo by Effy Grey, courtesy Dancewave

By now, most dance educators hopefully understand that they have a responsibility to address racism in the studio. But knowing that you need to be actively cultivating racial equity isn't the same thing as knowing how to do so.

Of course, there's no easy answer, and no perfect approach. As social justice advocate David King emphasized at a recent interactive webinar, "Cultivating Racial Equity in the Classroom," this work is never-ending. The event, hosted by Dancewave (which just launched a new racial-equity curriculum) was a good starting point, though, and offered some helpful takeaways for dance educators committed to racial justice.

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Higher Ed
The author, Robyn Watson. Photo courtesy Watson

Recently, I posted a thread of tweets elucidating the lack of respect for tap dance in college dance programs, and arguing that it should be a requirement for dance majors.

According to, out of the 30 top-ranked college dance programs in the U.S., tap dance is offered at 19 of them, but only one school requires majors to take more than a beginner course—Oklahoma City University. Many prestigious dance programs, like the ones at NYU Tisch School of the Arts and SUNY Purchase, don't offer a single course in tap dance.

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