Health & Body

Ask Deb: I Have Pain When I Push My Knees Down in the Butterfly Position

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Q: Despite stretching, my knees stay at least a foot off the ground when I sit or lie down in butterfly. When I gently push my knees down, I feel a sharp pain deep in the hip joint. What can I do?

A: There are wide variations in hip-joint shapes and facings. The socket can face more forward or more to the side, and the femur head (or ball) can also vary in its angle to the hip joint. All of these structural variations (meaning you were born with them and they will not change) influence your ability to sit in the butterfly position. Don't push your knees down in this position if it creates pain. That's a good indicator that this position is not optimal for you to work out inner-thigh tightness—the primary purpose of stretching in this position. We don't want to stretch in positions that don't allow us to start from neutral.

You can test if the butterfly position is useful for you by noticing if you can sit up easily with your feet together even with your knees way up, or whether you roll onto the back of the pelvis. If you can't easily sit upright in neutral, try stretching out the hip flexors and hamstrings to see if that makes a difference. If that doesn't work, find other ways to stretch out your inner-thigh muscles—such as placing one leg on a chair and slowly flexing forward as you drop your weight into the sitz-bone area of the leg that is elevated.

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, 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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