Teaching Tips

Ask Deb: How Can I Improve My Middle Splits?

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Q: How can I improve my middle splits?

A: Middle splits can be quite challenging depending on your hip structure. Sitting in a straddle and leaning forward, as well as having your legs in a straddle against the wall, are both stretches that dancers can do to lengthen the inner thigh muscles.

I find that dancers often get a deeper (and safer) stretch when they focus on one leg at a time.

Start by first sitting in a straddle and bending forward. Note how it feels and how far you went. Next, stand and place your right leg on the seat of a chair. Your leg will be on a slight forward diagonal from your pelvis. Drop your weight into that right sitz bone as you bend the left knee and flex your spine forward.

Now tease out your tight spots by slowly changing where your torso is facing, as well as how much inner or outer rotation your right leg is in. Try engaging the quadriceps on the right leg to alter the stretch. There isn't one right spot—just explore. If you feel strain on the inside of the knee, slightly bend the knee.

After doing both legs, go back and check out your flexibility in the straddle stretch. Did it improve? If so, try doing this stretch daily, especially after class when the muscles are warm and loose.

Teaching Tips
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 onstageblog.com, 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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Teaching Tips
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After months of lockdowns and virtual learning, many studios across the country are opening their doors and returning to in-person classes. Teachers and students alike have likely been chomping at the bit in anticipation of the return of dance-class normalcy that doesn't require a reliable internet connection or converting your living room into a dance space.

But along with the back-to-school excitement, dancers might be feeling rusty from being away from the studio for so long. A loss of flexibility, strength and stamina is to be expected, not to mention emotional fatigue from all of the uncertainty and reacclimating to social activities.

So as much as everyone wants to get back to normal—teachers and studio owners included—erring on the side of caution with your dancers' training will be the most beneficial approach in the long run.

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