Technique
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Some corrections have become so ubiquitous in dance training that they're given without much consideration as to what they actually mean.

One such correction: The cue to "lift from the back of the leg" or "lift from underneath" in grands battements, développés and similar movements.

Using the right language to describe what's happening in the body as a teacher is essential, as the way students think movement is happening will influence how it actually happens in their body. So how does "Lift from the back of leg" check out, anatomically?

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Health & Body
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Most everyone has experienced the uncomfortable sensation of a trigger point. A trigger point is a hyperirritable spot in a muscle that often feels like a dull ache or chronically sore point.

Trigger point discomfort (which is more officially called "myofascial trigger points" or "myofascial pain syndrome") can sneak up on you. You don't yell "Ouch!" and think, "I have a new trigger point!" Instead, they often appear after muscle strains have healed, but the area still feels stiff and sore. You may or may not feel a lump or knot in the muscle.

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Health & Body
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Experiencing shooting pain while dancing should always be a red flag.

If you struggle with pain in fifth position—with the outside of the front thigh in particular, and especially when going from fifth position to relevé—it could be an indicator that you're forcing your turnout.

Turnout should be set at the hip joint, keeping the knee and ankle in alignment. Test your turnout range by lying on your stomach, with your feet, knees and hips in a straight line, resting your forehead on the back of your hands. Gently bend the right knee 90 degrees, keeping your belly touching the floor. (The lower back shouldn't arch at all during this test.)


With the right knee bent to 90 degrees, let it rotate and fall gently over the left leg. This is a rough estimate of your turnout. (Forty-five degrees of turnout, which is common, would be halfway towards your left leg.) Then, allow the knee to fall gently in the other direction, which is an estimate of your turn in. Keep the knee in line with your hip when rotating the thigh throughout the test.

If you test with way more turn-in than turnout, fifth position will be a challenge for you. It could be due to a structural challenge of internal tibial torsion. This is when the tibia (shin bone) is turned in with the feet 'toeing in' (this often manifests as being pigeon-toed).

Unfortunately, having internally rotated tibias and femurs isn't ideal for ballet, given its focus on turnout. Pronating, screwing the knee and tipping the pelvis forward slightly are all common ways that dancers cheat to make their fifth positions look right.

But dancers with limited turnout or who are struggling with pain in fifth position should instead decrease their turnout to match their turnout test, and focus on engaging the six deep lateral rotator muscles that are underneath the gluteal muscles. Your goal should be to develop muscular strength and flexibility, working within your own unique structure while developing the grace and coordination to safely increase the body's movement range.

Health & Body
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With the dance world's growing emphasis on flexibility, it's normal to see increasingly younger children doing splits, tilts and other extreme stretches. It's enough to make you wonder if these moves are safe for children's growing bodies and soft bones.

The truth is that there is a range of flexibility in children just as there is in teenagers and adults. And a teacher's first focus with young dancers should always be to develop good movement coordination and proper skeletal alignment.

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Dance Magazine
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If you feel a pain in your back when lifting your leg into arabesque, it's possible the issue is a combination of decreased flexibility in the hip flexors with weakness or restrictions at the spine.

You'll want to check the range of your hip flexors. When your quadriceps and iliopsoas are tight, they restrict the height of your arabesque. The more flexible they are, the higher you can take your leg before tipping the pelvis and creating the necessary arch in the lower back. Try doing your arabesque on both legs, then stretch both the quads and your deeper psoas muscle and repeat the arabesques. Did your leg go higher? If it did, it's a sign that the hip flexors are negatively influencing your arabesque height. If there was no difference, there may be weakness in the upper back that needs to be addressed.

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Health & Body
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It's challenging to make a true postural change—it will take time. The goal is to have your dancer decrease muscle tension and gain spinal strength so it won't take extra effort to stand up straight. I would suggest she explore some fun new types of activity, in addition to dancing, to do this.

Practicing acrobatic skills such as handstands and cartwheels increases both core strength and upper-body strength, which are needed for proper posture. Rebounding on a trampoline can help dancers stand up straight: You can't jump well if you're slouched over. This might go over better than simply doing exercises.

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Health & Body
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Talar compression syndrome means there is some impingement happening in the posterior portion of the ankle joint. Other medical personnel might call your problem os trigonum syndrome or posterior ankle impingement syndrome or posterior tibiotalar compression syndrome. No matter what they name it—it means you are having trouble moving your ankle through pointing and flexing.


I recommend you go to a physician who understands the physical demands of dance to assess your situation. The evaluation, which ideally would combine listening to your history, manipulating the joint to test its mobility and getting a look inside with appropriate imaging techniques, should give you a clearer idea of what's going on.

You may have an issue with an os trigonum, a tiny chip of bone related to the talus that can get caught in the joint and create swelling that causes irritation when pointing. The posterior tibialis tendon may be impaired, especially if there has been a history of pronating.

If the weight is not centered through the ankle and feet, the arches may not be distributing the weight correctly, and an orthotic may temporarily help. (In many cases, this is the cause of the syndrome, because the weight of the body is not going through the foot correctly, and it alters the arch formation to create impingement.) An accurate assessment of your alignment is key for successful recovery. When an injury drags on for months, it can set up compensatory patterns that will also need to be addressed during your recovery period.

Watch your standing and walking posture to stay in good alignment and follow the guidance of your PT for what exercises to do.

Health & Body
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Q: How can students build jump work into their practice while at home? Should they wear tennis shoes and jump only on carpet?


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