Health & Body
Photo courtesy of Schaeffer

Picture the knee joint as a crowded intersection in a busy city, with people and cars moving through it: up and down, from side to side. When this junction is flowing smoothly, traffic is a breeze and it is easy to get to where you need to be. But when there is an accident or stalled vehicle anywhere linked to the crossing, your route is derailed.

"The knee doesn't work in isolation," says Marissa Schaeffer, a physical therapist at Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in New York City. "It is constantly affected by forces above and below."

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Health & Body
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Q: Despite stretching, my knees stay at least a foot off the ground when I sit or lie down in butterfly. When I gently push my knees down, I feel a sharp pain deep in the hip joint. What can I do?

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Q: I've just seen the most extreme case of hyperextension I've encountered in 30 years of teaching. When the dancer stands in second position, her knees are only a few inches apart. How can I help her have a beautiful line without hurting herself?

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Q: My daughter was recently told that her hyperextended knees are causing her hips to sway out, which is inhibiting her ability to get over on the box of her pointe shoes. She had a significant growth spurt in the past year, could this be part of the problem? Can things be corrected, and what kind of time frame am I looking at?

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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.

Health & Body
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I dislocated my right kneecap, and it popped right back into place while I was doing a lunge stretch at the barre. When I went down, my right kneecap went out and then somehow ended up back in line. Also, when I turn, sometimes I feel a little weirdness in my knee. Is it possible to just turn out in my knee and not in my hip flexors or turnout muscles? Please help me understand what happened.

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