Health & Body

Ask Deb: How Do I Help Dancers With Knock Knees?

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I have a student who is moderately knock-kneed and has trouble closing in fifth position without bending her legs. She has a swayback, and her turnout isn't very strong. Do you have any advice?

As a teacher, knock knees can be particularly challenging to work with, because they stem from a structural condition that won't change. Further, all of the concerns you've raised can be connected back to this central issue. Because of her knock knees, you've observed that your student releases her knees, which shifts the pelvis forward into a lordotic (swayback) posture.

If she's able to stand with her pelvis more upright in third position, then have her work there as she develops more strength in the turnout muscles. Encourage her to do extra hip-flexor stretching—especially for the iliopsoas muscle—and teach her to self-correct her alignment by monitoring her feet and making sure the weight is evenly placed between the pad of the big toe, little toe and heel. This will prevent her from rolling in on her feet, which tends to go hand in hand with a knock-kneed alignment.

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
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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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