Health & Body

Ask Deb: What Could Be Behind a Pinching Pain in the Calves?

Q: I have a student who isn't pressing her heels into the floor when she pliés, because she feel a pinch in her calves. What can she do for this problem?

A: Your description sounds like a muscle strain (meaning muscle fibers have torn and adhesions have set in). Symptoms of mild muscle strains usually go away within a few weeks, but more severe strains may take months to heal.

Try having your student sit on the floor, place a pinkie ball under her calf and gently massage any tight areas. Then, have her stand up in a lunge position and place her hands (or elbows, depending on her flexibility) on the seat of a chair in front of her. First, encourage her to contract the quadriceps of the back leg while at the same time letting her weight drop through the foot and heel of the back foot. Keep the quads contracted and slowly flex the toes to deepen the calf stretch. Try this first with the foot square, then again with the weight slightly more on the outside edge of the foot, and again with the weight on the inside edge of the foot. Be deliberate and slow, taking time to relax the foot, toes and quads between shifting positions.

Hopefully these exercises will allow her to feel an appropriate stretching sensation rather than the pinch in her calf muscles.

Teachers Trending
Alwin Courcy, courtesy Ballet des Amériques

Carole Alexis has been enduring the life-altering after-effects of COVID-19 since April 2020. For months on end, the Ballet des Amériques director struggled with fevers, tingling, dizziness and fatigue. Strange bruising showed up on her skin, along with the return of her (long dormant) asthma, plus word loss and stuttering.

"For three days I would experience relief from the fever—then, boom—it would come back worse than before," Alexis says. "I would go into a room and not know why I was there." Despite the remission of some symptoms, the fatigue and other debilitating side effects have endured to this day. Alexis is part of a tens-of-thousands-member club nobody wants to be part of—she is a COVID-19 long-hauler.

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Teachers Trending

Annika Abel Photography, courtesy Griffith

When the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis last May catalyzed nationwide protests against systemic racism, the tap community resumed longstanding conversations about teaching a Black art form in the era of Black Lives Matter. As these dialogues unfolded on social media, veteran Dorrance Dance member Karida Griffith commented infrequently, finding it difficult to participate in a meaningful way.

"I had a hard time watching people have these conversations without historical context and knowledge," says Griffith, who now resides in her hometown of Portland, Oregon, after many years in New York City. "It was clear that there was so much information missing."

For example, she observed people discussing tap while demonstrating ignorance about Black culture. Or, posts that tried to impose upon tap the history or aesthetics of European dance forms.

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Studio Owners
Courtesy Tonawanda Dance Arts

If you're considering starting a summer program this year, you're likely not alone. Summer camp and class options are a tried-and-true method for paying your overhead costs past June—and, done well, could be a vehicle for making up for lost 2020 profits.

Plus, they might take on extra appeal for your studio families this year. Those struggling financially due to the pandemic will be in search of an affordable local programming option rather than an expensive, out-of-town intensive. And with summer travel still likely in question this spring as July and August plans are being made, your studio's local summer training option remains a safe bet.

The keys to profitable summer programming? Figuring out what type of structure will appeal most to your studio clientele, keeping start-up costs low—and, ideally, converting new summer students into new year-round students.

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