Health & Body

Ask Deb: “What Language Should I Use to Correct Students?”


When teachers say, "Tuck under" or "Pull in your belly button," what is happening anatomically? Is there better language I should use?

Our language should be as anatomically accurate as possible. Phrases like the two you mentioned can create a variety of responses, and not all desirable ones.

For example, a teacher may say, "Tuck under" when a student has a swayback and the teacher is trying to get the student to bring her pelvis more upright. Another teacher might use the phrase, "Pull in your belly button" with that same goal in mind. If you use the phrase, "Tuck under," the student may look like they are in better alignment, but muscularly they are contracting their gluteals and shifting forward over their feet.

Rather than say, "Tuck under," I would encourage teachers to describe anatomically what the goal is: the middle of the hip, knee and ankle joint in a vertical line if you look at the dancer from the side.

Ideally, we should give our students different images so they can choose the one that works for them. When I teach dance classes, I use anatomy to describe what is happening in the joints as a way of introducing movement. I try not to demonstrate very much, because I have found that students end up watching me and not putting it in their bodies quickly enough.

Bottom line: When a student isn't getting what we are saying, we need to figure out a different way to communicate the goal, not just say it louder or more often.

To your success,

Deborah Vogel

Director, The Body Series

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

Teachers Trending
Courtesy Lovely Leaps

After the birth of her daughter in 2018, engineer Lisa McCabe had reservations about returning to the workforce full-time. And while she wanted to stay home with the new baby, she wasn't ready to stop contributing financially to her family (after all, she'd had a successful career designing cables for government drones). So, when she got a call that September from an area preschool to lead its dance program, she saw an opportunity.

The invitation to teach wasn't completely out of the blue. McCabe had grown up dancing in Southern California and had a great reputation from serving as her church's dance teacher and team coach the previous three years (stopping only to take a break as a new mother). She agreed to teach ballet and jazz at the preschool on Fridays and from there created an age-appropriate class based on her own training in the Cecchetti and RAD methods. It was a success: In three months, class enrollment went from six to 24 students, and just one year later, McCabe's blossoming Lovely Leaps brand had contracts with eight preschools and three additional teachers.

Keep reading... Show less
Courtesy Shake the Ground

Dance competitions were among the first events to be shut down when the COVID-19 pandemic exploded in the U.S. in mid-March, and they've been among the last able to restart.

So much of the traditional structure of the competition—large groups of dancers and parents from dozens of different studios; a new city every week—simply won't work in our new pandemic world.

How, then, have competitions been getting by, and what does the future look like?

Keep reading... Show less
Getty Images

Despite worldwide theater closures, the Universal Ballet Competition is keeping The Nutcracker tradition alive in 2020 with an online international competition. The event culminates in a streamed, full-length video of The Virtual Nutcracker consisting of winning entries on December 19. The competition is calling on studios, as well as dancers of all ages and levels, to submit videos by November 29 to be considered.

"Nutcracker is a tradition that is ingrained in our hearts," says UBC co-founder Lissette Salgado-Lucas, a former dancer with Royal Winnipeg Ballet and Joffrey Ballet. "We danced it for so long as professionals, we can't wait to pass it along to dancers through this competition."

Keep reading... Show less

Get Dance Business Weekly in your inbox

Sign Up Used in accordance with our Privacy Policy.