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Photo by Scott Shaw, courtesy of Williams

Have you ever looked at a student's posture and said: "Close your ribs" or "Don't grip your glutes" or "Use your abdominals more"? While that pinpointed correction may or may not have achieved the desired results in the moment, such phrases naturally raise a bigger question: "But how?"

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Dancer Health
Deborah Vogel is a neuromuscular educator and director of The Body Series. Here, she works with Mariah Aivazis. Photo by Jim Lafferty

Turnout—the outward rotation of the hips that dancers are constantly striving to improve. Yet few actually have the 180-degree outward rotation that is so idealized. In her 40-plus years of working as a movement analyst, Deborah Vogel has only come across a handful of dancers who have it. "That's structural," she says. "They have a shallow hip socket, so the head of the thighbone can move in a greater range. The rotation at the hip for the general population, though, is 90 degrees—about 45 degrees in each direction."

Although a dancer's range of motion depends on her structure, Vogel says she can still improve her turnout. "They're not going to get to 180. But if they have good muscle balance, they can improve their ability to stand in greater than 90-degree turnout."

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Dance Teacher Tips

One of my dancer friends was told by a doctor that she had reverse curve in her spine due to constant forward curves, head-tail movements and backward rolls. Do you have any advice for how to remedy or prevent this?

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I have heard you say that tight hamstrings prevent full extension of the knees and that you prefer hamstring stretches in a standing position, rather than on the floor. Can you explain why?

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One of my dancers has knee pain that is baffling me. She dances 5–6 hours a week and has had the pain for a few months. She says it doesn't hurt until she starts dancing, and certain strenuous movements make it worse. She says the pain is at the bottom of her kneecap and mentioned that her locker at school is on the bottom (which means 4–5 grand pliés a day). I have been encouraging her to see a doctor and wondered if you had any thoughts on this?


Having pain at the bottom of the kneecap, especially if it is between the kneecap and the tendon attachment on the top front of the shinbone, is often diagnosed as jumper's knee or tendinitis of the quadriceps tendon. You are right in thinking that a deep squat or grand plié would put extra stress on that tendon. Couple that with potential growth spurts and you've got problems. Encourage her to focus more on stretching and releasing the quadriceps muscles and see if that helps.

Going to a doctor is a smart move. She will test the knee for ligament laxity and watch whether the patella, or kneecap, moves straight and smooth as your student bends and straightens her knees. Pain underneath the kneecap can come from cartilage or meniscal problems.

Good luck with getting a proper diagnosis. She's lucky to have you as her teacher!

To your success,

Deborah Vogel

Director, The Body Series

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

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