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.

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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."

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Robbie Sweeny, courtesy Funsch

Christy Funsch's teaching career has taken her from New York City to the Bay Area to Portugal, with a stint in a punk band in between. But this fall—fresh off a Fulbright in Portugal at the Instituto Politécnico de Lisboa, School of Dance (ESD), teaching and researching empathetic embodiment through somatic dance training—Funsch's teaching has taken her to an entirely new location: Zoom. A visiting professor at Slippery Rock University for the 2020–21 academic year, Funsch is adapting her eclectic, boundary-pushing approach to her virtual classes.

Originally from central New York State, Funsch spent 20 years performing in the Bay Area, where she also started her own company, Funsch Dance Experience. "My choreographic work from that time is in the dance-theater experiential, fantasy realm of performance," she says. "I also started blending genres and a lot of urban styles found their way into my choreography."

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Courtesy Meg Brooker

As the presidential election approaches, it's a particularly meaningful time to remember that we are celebrating the centennial of the 19th Amendment, when women earned the right to vote after a decades-long battle.

Movement was more than a metaphor for the fight for women's suffrage—dancers played a real role, most notably Florence Fleming Noyes, who performed her riveting solo Dance of Freedom in 1914 to embody the struggle for women's rights.

This fall, Middle Tennessee State University director of dance Meg Brooker is reconstructing Dance of Freedom on 11 of her students. A Noyes Rhythm teacher and an Isadora Duncan scholar, Brooker is passionate about bringing historic dance practices into a contemporary context.

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