Health & Body

Ask Deb: What Can I Do for Achilles Soreness?

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Q: I recently returned to a modern dance class after a long absence. While I didn't feel any acute pain at the end of class, the next morning I could barely walk from the soreness in both my Achilles. What can I do to fix this?


A: It's possible that the soleus muscle, which tends to be both weak and tight for most people, got significantly overworked when you returned to class.

The soleus muscle is underneath the main gastrocnemius muscle and points the foot at the ankle. The soleus muscle also determines the depth of your demi-plié and helps you lower with control through the foot when landing from a jump. When the soleus muscle is weak, dancers tend to land hard onto their heels rather than softly through the foot.

To strengthen this muscle, be sure to isolate it by doing bent-knee, forced-arch relevés. To stretch it, try some gentle calf stretches with your knee slightly bent. You want to feel the stretch more toward the ankle.

The soleus along with the gastrocnemius attach to the Achilles tendon. Tendinitis happens when the muscles are being asked to do more than what they are prepared for, and the pull can then tear and create inflammation in its fibers. Make sure you ease into work as you return, so that your soleus muscles are both flexible and strong.

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
Getty Images

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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