Health & Body

Ask Deb: What Is the Cause of Knee Clicking?


Q: I have a ballet student who feels a click in her working knee every time she does a fondu in any direction. It happens just as she straightens it, and it seems to be relatively painful. What do you think is happening?

A: While the knee is a hinge joint that should only bend and straighten, sometimes, when the knee is bent, the tibia (lower leg) will rotate, causing discrepancies. I suspect that your dancer's tibia and femur are not straightening in the same range of rotation, which is creating a torque at the knee when she bends.

A simple way to check this is to have her sit on a table with the lower half of her legs hanging off. Stand in front of her and have her slowly straighten her entire leg in parallel—no turning out! Watch if the kneecap gets pulled to the outside at the end of straightening, or if the foot has changed its facing. This indicates some muscle imbalance or tibial torsion that may need attending to.

If they are not having any pain in straightening the leg in parallel, then you need to look more closely at how they are working their turnout when the knee is bent. If they have pain only when turned out, there may be a problem with over-rotating the lower leg as they are presenting their fondu.

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
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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