The Skinny… on Fats…

It is a scary thought when “the Center for Disease Control predicts that our children’s generation could be the first in history to have shorter lifespans than their parents.”  Yikes!  But on the other hand with my own studies into health and nutrition I’m not surprised.  We have to change our relationship with food!

I am so delighted to be able to offer this wonderful article by Lisa Greene, a wonderful woman and mother who is passionate about feeding our children to enhance health.  Check out her free blog and wonderful book!


Just to add a comment to when she is talking about coconut oil for cooking – I’ve been using it for over a year as my moisturizer that I put on my face.  It’s inexpensive… works really well… natural… I figure all of those beautiful Polynesian, Filipino and Indian women who have such beautiful skin and eat/use coconuts daily are onto something:)

Enjoy Lisa’s article!

The Skinny…. on Fats…..

We hear a lot about ‘good’ fats and ‘bad’ fats, but who can make sense of it all?

First, the ‘bad’ fats. These include trans fats and saturated fats. Trans fats are the deadly trans fatty acids that have become popular in the media these last few years. Trans fats are man made fats created by adding hydrogen to an oil to increase it’s shelf life. Unfortunately, this process makes the oil very unhealthy to eat. According to the American Heart Association, consuming trans fats lowers your HDL (good) cholesterol while raising your LDL (bad) cholesterol, and increases your risk for heart disease. They also say that there is no amount of trans fat that is healthy to have in your diet.

Typically, processed and fast foods contain trans fats, or hydrogenated oil. Staying away from these types foods can improve your health dramatically, both inside and out. Not only are these foods bad for your cholesterol and cardiovascular system, they contain many chemicals that contribute to obesity as well. To stay away from trans fats, always read the package ingredients. The FDA requires food manufacturers to label the number of grams of trans fat, but allows them to round down. So even if your food item says zero trans fats, look at the label  for the words ‘partially hydrogenated’. If you see these words, don’t buy it.

Next on the ‘bad’ list is saturated fat. We have always heard that we should consume a diet that is low in saturated fats. However, all saturated fats are not created equal. It depends on the source. A diet high in saturated fat from conventionally raised meats and dairy products will absolutely contribute to high cholesterol and cardiovascular disease.

However, there is one saturated fat that has amazing health benefits – coconut oil. Coconut oil has been proven to boost the immune system, promotes heart health and weight loss, has antiviral and antifungal effects on the body, and keeps the skin healthy and young looking. In studies done in humans and animals, those with diets high in coconut oil, even with their high fat concentration, were thinner and more heart healthy than those with diets without coconut oil.

Fats are imperative to our brains, heart, lungs, nerves, and digestion. They are essential to our eyes, add luster to our skin and hair, encourage hormonal and emotional balance, and lubricate our joints. Choosing the right types of fat for your diet is imperative to creating a healthy, lean body.

Next we have monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Our bodies absolutely need these fats to function properly. Think about what would happen if you never changed the oil in your car. Eventually it would stop running. Just as your car needs that lubrication, so do our bodies and brains!

Monounsaturated fats are usually liquid at room temperature, but can turn solid when refrigerated. Olive, sunflower, and sesame oil are examples of monounsaturated fats. Other sources include avocados, peanut butter, and nuts. Don’t stay away from these because of their high fat content, they are so good for you.

Polyunsaturated fats stay liquid when refrigerated. These fats can further be broken down into omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Examples of omega-6 include vegetable, safflower, soybean, and corn oil, and some nuts and seeds. Omega-3 fats are found in flax seeds and fish. Our bodies do not produce these essential fatty acids, so we must get them from our diets. We need a ratio of 1 to1 omega-6 and 3, but our modern processed diets typically contain 10 or 20 to 1. When this imbalance happens, many health problems can occur. Too much omega-6 without enough omega-3 to balance it can create inflammation in the body, causing problems with the immune system, cardiovascular system, and the brain. Many processed foods have omega-6, so it is easy to get out of balance by eating a typical western diet.

Unfortunately, our western diet has practically eliminated omega-3s. A diet low in omega-3s can cause children to be more impulsive, less able to pay attention, and higher risk for depression. Teenagers may be more prone to anger and violence. In adults, memory problems, higher risk for stroke, and dementia can occur. Creating a better balance by consuming more omega-3s could improve many health issues such as coronary artery disease, depression, bipolar disorder, and may ease the pain of Crohn’s disease and rheumatoid arthritis. The best way to add more omega-3s to your diet is with a high quality fish oil supplement. You can get them at your local health food store in liquid and capsule form. They are not cheap, but they are well worth it for the health benefits you will receive.  (Deborah’s note:  I’m partial to lemon-flavored Carlson’s cod liver oil.. put it in vanilla yogurt.. yummy!)

Not only choosing the right fats, but also choosing the correct balance of fats is so important to our health. By steering clear of trans fats and limiting animal fats, cooking with coconut oil, eliminating processed foods, and supplementing with an omega-3 fish oil, you can create the health and vitality you were meant to enjoy.

Lisa Greene

Penché Tips

Summer is right around the corner and I know that I need to continue dancing. I am going to take a few classes here and there but I won’t be able to take them everyday like I usually do at school. (performing arts) Is that OK? I mean I guess I could do a barre in my bedroom and it wouldn’t hurt anything right? I would really love to progress and gain more flexibility and strength but I am a little scared of pulling a muscle or something. Do you have any tips on how to keep your body warm? I know jumping jacks, a few lunges and things like that but how do you know when you’re REALLY warm. Especially when you have longer legs like I do.

Another thing do you have any advice on “six o clock” penchés and tilts?
Thanks, Angelise

Great questions, Angelise! Summers are a great time to cross train and work in ways that you can’t during the regular school year. If you have the access to a pool, you could increase your cardiovascular fitness through swimming or water walking (a form of jogging in the pool). Biking as hard as you can for a minute and then pulling back is a form of interval training. Biking instead of running is easier on the dancer’s body.

Doing a barre in your room is a good idea. You can work slowly and carefully, paying attention to the weight on your feet, keeping the weight evenly divided between the 3 points of the foot. It would be great to do a barre without holding onto ‘a barre’ or ‘dresser’. I wouldn’t worry so much about pulling a muscle because you’ll be paying close attention to what you are doing, how it feels.

You ask a good question about being warm. Usually in the summer it takes less time to warm the muscles up. A few jumping jacks or jogging in place, should get the body going unless you are working in an air-conditioned room, then it may take a bit longer. Some dancers will feel they are almost at a light sweat. That never happened for me… but there was a sense of inner warmness that I would feel. It’s hard to put into words, so I would simply pay attention to how your body feels and you will learn what is ‘warm’ for you.

Penchés and tilts require the hardest type of contraction of a muscle, which is an eccentric contraction. The hamstrings on your supporting leg are stretching while you are slowly lowering.

My main tip is to practice keeping the weight placed between the front and back of the foot as you are lowering in your penché. Many dancers fall back too much onto their heel as they are lowering. Keeping even weight will help you keep the arabesque shape and the abdominals engaged as you lower.

The depth of the penché will be influenced by your hamstring flexibility. Once you have reached the range of the hamstrings you’ll start to bend the upper body forward – be aware of that and only go as far down as you can maintain your arabesque line. With repeated focused practice you will improve!


“Education is the key to injury prevention”

What you say matters!

When teachers say, tuck under or pull in your bellybutton, what is happening to the body anatomically? What are better catch phrases to use?

You bring up a very important point that dance teachers need to be aware of. Our language should be as anatomically accurate as possible. As teachers, we should be aware of the tendency to teach our students using the phrases that worked for us. The problem is these phrases like the two you mentioned can create a wide variety of responses in the body and not all desirable ones. For example, I can imagine a teacher using the phrase tuck under when the student has a swayback and they are trying to get the student to bring the front of the pelvis more upright and in alignment with the torso. Another teacher might use the phrase “pull in your bellybutton” with that same end goal in mind. If you use the phrase tuck under, the student may look like they are standing in better alignment, but muscularly they are contracting their gluteals and shifting forward over their feet to
produce that command.

It’s important to note here that we all have a favorite perceptual mode that we work from. Mine is kinesthetic. I pepper my language with sentences that include the word I FEEL _____. When I listen to clients, others will say, I SEE what you mean, or, I HEAR you.

Let me use an example of describing little jumps to a group of beginning ballet students. I could describe an image of a merry go round horse, or jumping on a pogo stick to help them keep their alignment upright when they land. I could direct them to listen to how their feet land on the floor. Or I could ask them to monitor kinesthetic cues and have them describe what is happening in their knees and ankles.

Going back to the common phrase of tuck under I would encourage teachers to describe anatomically what the goal is, which is the middle of the hip, knee, and ankle joint stay in a vertical line if you look at the dancers from the side. Try putting the dancers against the wall with their heels a few inches away. In this position the buttocks/pelvis would lightly be touching the
wall, and the upper back would not touch at all. (Let’s face it; even with the skinniest of dancers, our pelvis should be farther back in space than our shoulders). Have the dancer soften in front of the hip joints and deepen into a demi plié. They will see right away if they stay in alignment over their feet.

Some of them will tuck under and their head/shoulder area will hit the wall as their pelvis moves away. Some of them may totally move away from the wall and shift forward over the front of their feet. The wall becomes a way for them to monitor their alignment in the demi plié.

Ideally, we should give different images to our students so they can chose the one that clicks with them. When I teach dance classes I use anatomy to describe what is happening in joints of the body as a way of introducing movement. I try not to demonstrate very much as I have found they end up watching me and not putting it in their bodies quickly enough, or
they have an unspoken goal of wanting to LOOK like the teacher.

Historically, the goal of teaching has been conformity, rather than efficiency. We build our movement vocabulary on our past movements whether or not they are efficient. The plié, relevé, and tendu are the base for a multitude of other more challenging movements, no matter what the style of dance. If your student overly tucks under their pelvis when they do a demi
plié, putting strain on the knees, then that is the base movement that they build their jumps on.

The body is so resilient that often the effects of the inefficient alignment are not felt until adolescence, or into our twenties, when the body finally says enough! That’s when you pick up the coffee cup and your back goes into spasm, or you wake up in the morning and your feet hurt when you start walking on them. You can’t figure out why your body is suddenly talking so painfully to you. Turning your head to back out of the driveway and going into spasm may be the straw that broke the camel’s back and not the sole reason why you are now in spasm.

Bottom line – when a student isn’t getting what we are saying, sometimes we need to figure out a different way to communicate the goal, not just say it louder or more often. (All the teachers who are also parents will agree with that ) Good teaching sometimes means adapting the message so the student can get it. Most of them are trying hard, they are passionate
about dancing, as passionate as we are for helping them achieve their dreams.

Too old for pointe?

What is your feeling about adults (20’s and beyond) dancing on pointe?  Some people (dancers and teachers) feel that adults cannot be successful on pointe, and that, indeed, it is risky because of their “advanced age”.

I have a group of 30-45 year olds who do quite well, thank you very much.  They are strong, take many classes a week, and cross train with Pilates, etc. outside of ballet class.  These ladies are doing double pirouettes, some of them are doing fouetté turns, hops on pointe, etc.  They love dancing on pointe.

Are there any studies you know of that link additional risks associated with pointe work due solely to age?

I’d love to see the topic of myths and misconceptions about older dancers dealt with on your site, as well as tips for dancing safely as the years go by.

Thanks so much!


Great questions! Margot Fonteyn danced the role of Juliet at age 43.  Did she do it in her bare feet?  I think not☺ She did it in pointe shoes.

As is the case with most physical activities – how you do it  – is more important than what age you do it at.  I remember hearing when I was growing up that running will hurt your knees.  (tell that to the 69 year old woman who took up running and did her first marathon shortly after)

I also grew up with the idea that all dancers will get ugly feet and arthritis the longer they danced.

Why?  Because the majority of my teachers talked about their aching feet, I saw their huge bunions, and listened to their complaints of how their hips hurt!

Not a very pretty picture of aging dancers, is it?

Alignment and muscle balance are keys to optimal functioning in any chosen physical activity.  Your group of 30 – 45 year old dancers sound like smart dancers by cross training outside of dance class and maintaining a good relationship between strength and flexibility.

In fact, I would venture a guess that the older dancer is even more particular about their training over the late teen, early 20’s ballet dancer who feels more invincible and much less concerned about the physical effects of poor training – especially if they have accepted myths such as bunions are inevitable.  (Which they aren’t – sorry for my bluntness)

If your older dancers are paying attention to their alignment and proper training and conditioning for pointe work they can work as long as they choose to – or until other challenges such as osteoporosis might crop up.  On the other hand, continuing to dance is a great way to decrease the chances of osteoporosis along with good nutrition.

If they begin to have problems associated with doing pointe work they’ll handle it the same way as a younger dancer.  By checking out their alignment and technique first and then correcting any muscle weaknesses (Lisa Howell’s, The Perfect Pointe book is a fantastic resource for teachers and dancers.  You can purchase it through my website .

There are other interesting aspects to challenging yourself as you age.  The Berlin Aging Study looked at men and women over the age of 70.  This research was looking at how people feel about aging and comparing that to their vitality and resiliency.   Your older dancers (although not truly very old) are engaging in an activity that makes them feel younger and better about themselves!

In unpublished research based on the Berlin Aging Study, they found that people who feel younger are less likely to die than
those who don’t, given the same level of chronological age and equivalent physical health.

“Feeling positive about getting older may well be associated with remaining active and experiencing better health in old age.” “Thus, studies on self-perceptions of aging can contribute to our understanding of potential indicators of resilience in older adults and the aging self.”   (

Bottom line – continuing to dance is good for our bodies, mind and spirit!  Your dancers will know when to hang up their pointe shoes – and it doesn’t sound like it is quite yet!


“Education is the key to injury prevention”

PS:  Remember any order this month will receive a FREE copy of Tune Up Your Turnout:  A Dancer’s Guide or if you order an ebook or downloadable product, I will see a FREE copy of the 440 page Dancing Smart:  Tips to Improve your Technique

Arch in back

Thank you so much for all the information you provide on your web site and in Tune Up Your Turnout! Since I have a sway back, it was a nice surprise to buy a book about turnout and also get so much help with alignment.

After stretching the hip flexors (it’s like a miracle!) I can now lay on the floor with both legs straight and much less arch in my back, but only if my shoulders are forward (my whole spine is on the ground but the sides of my shoulders are up off the ground a little bit). If I press the shoulders down to the ground, the huge arch comes back. Is that a problem, and is there anything I can do to improve?

I know it’s going to take a while to get my alignment figured out, since the sway back has been there for years and I’ve only been doing ballet for a few months. I just want to make sure I’m doing the best I can and not putting any strain on the wrong muscles.


Sounds like you might have a problem with your lat muscles or the muscles on the front of the chest, the pecs.  Either of those will draw your shoulders forward in the way you described.









Try this…. lie down on the floor as you described and get a sense of how much your back arches when you press the shoulders down. Then go a doorway and stand in the doorway with your right arm bent at a right angle and placed against the door frame. (Your hand to your elbow will be on the wall or door frame) Gently press your arm against the wall while you turn towards the left slowly. You’ll feel a stretch in the front of the chest on the right side. Do the same with the other arm.

recheck your alignment on the floor

Then go back to the doorway and this time you are going create a C curve to stretch the lats. Place your both hands on the edge of the doorframe, and then bow your body away from the door in a C shape. You’ll feel the stretch along the upper outside of the arm, going down the side of your body. Do both sides. (you’ll need to be on the other side of the door for the other side)

recheck your alignment on the floor

What did you learn? Did it increase your ability to lie on your back and have your shoulders less rounded forward while keeping your back in good alignment?

For many it will.

Happy stretching!!


PS:  If you are interested in the Science of Dance Training Summer conference please let me know by March 24th.  Thank you!

“Education is the key to injury prevention”

Improving focus

Today’s Q&A post includes an excerpt from Train Your Brain: A Teen’s Guide to Well Being. Enjoy!

I just found your web site and blog and it is really interesting.

I have an almost 7 years old ballerina at home, and I have some concerns.
She’s very lean, but she’s not so flexible and I don’t want her to get hurt while trying to improve her flexibility.

Another concern of mine is if she’s I’m the right age range to be at the RAD primary level. Unfortunately I don’t have the syllabus dvd available for her to practice at home (she goes to ballet and jazz classes twice a week). I’m asking this, because even though the teacher has told me that she has improved a lot in the 3 years of ballet class, I see that she has trouble following her older classmates, and gets distracted and looses motivation because she’s always at the back of the class.

My daughter loves ballet and dance I general, and I would love to see her blossom in what she loves, any tips for me so I can help her?

Best regards and congratulations on your wonderful work


Hi Diana,
You are asking some good questions, Diana! First, I want to say that her sometimes lack of focus and motivation is absolutely normal for an almost 7 year old. Has she tried any other type of movement classes besides ballet? It’s possible that trying a gymnastic class or creative movement, etc. might help her come into her body in a different way which then will help her ballet. How does she do in her jazz class?

There are some studios that don’t start their student in a ballet class until 7 or 8. I know students who didn’t start in ballet until 9 or 10 years old – and became beautiful ballerinas!

My personal bias might be coming out here which is dance classes for the youngest of our students should have a goal of making a student more comfortable in his or her body as well as improving their physical health and abilities.

Every young student will go through periods of being less flexible. That’s because whenever they go through a growth spurt their bones grow faster than muscles and that can be a very awkward stage.

My initial thoughts on how to help her blossom into a confident, beautiful woman would be to teach her to focus on what she wants. When you talk to her why does she like ballet class? Does she dream of dancing on stage? Does she like how dancing makes her feel? Does she feel good when she’s dancing? That’s so important!

Wanting to help our young children gain confidence in their abilities is why I wrote the Train your Brain book for the 8 – 12 year old. It has exercises in it to help the young child learn how to follow their own guidance and become confident – following the same guidelines that I have for my own life.

I’m going to do something that I haven’t done before and that is share one of the chapters with you. Each chapter follows a child’s challenge – and while the book is not just for dance students – I will share the chapter that talks about Chelsea, a young dancer.

Train Your Brain: A Teen’s Guide to Well Being
Chapter 3

If you saw Chelsea playing with her brothers or talking in class, you’d think she was always happy and carefree. But, if you saw Chelsea walk into her ballet class, you’d see a whole new girl.

For some reason, Chelsea got nervous when dance class rolled around. She didn’t know why and didn’t want to quit because she loved dancing…and had been doing it since she was three. But for the last few months she’d become so nervous-everyone was improving it seemed, except for her. Chelsea’s body started feeling stiff and her feet felt like lead. She was clumsy and her dancing wasn’t smooth at all. Even stretching was hard for her…she felt as if her muscles were too short for her body.

Chelsea wasn’t sure what to do but she knew that she didn’t want to keep going to class if it was going to be like this. Was it time to quit doing something she loved?

This may sound confusing but it’s really easy. Before I tell you how to do, let me share a little brain secret. Your brain if full of little paths, like roads, that are formed whenever you do something or think something. So, let’s say you eat 10 hot dogs and then you throw up. Well, you created a path. So then, the next time you eat a hot dog, your brain will return to the path that goes with hot dogs. Along that path is also throwing up. So, now, when you think hot dogs you also think throwing up. And when you think throwing up, you think hot dogs. And each time you think those thoughts, the path becomes stronger…kind of like putting new cement on the road so it’s stronger.

The cool thing about these paths is that we can purposely create paths that help us. That is what Create a Feeling is all about. We’re going to connect a simple action (like making a fist or curling your toes) with positive, confident thoughts. That way, you’ve created a path. And you know that positive, confident thoughts create positive, confident feelings. So, when you need those positive, confident feelings, you’ll be able to do a simple action that is connected to those good thoughts and BAM, positive, confident feelings come along.

Let’s Rewind and Replay Chelsea’s dance problem and see if Create a Feeling can help her out…

If you saw Chelsea playing with her brothers or talking in class, you’d think she was always happy and carefree. But, if you saw Chelsea walk into her ballet class, you’d see a whole new girl.

For some reason, Chelsea got nervous when dance class rolled around. She didn’t know why and didn’t want to quit because she loved dancing…and had been doing it since she was three. But for the last few months she’d become so nervous in class that she could barely move.

Chelsea wasn’t sure what to do but she knew that she didn’t want to keep going to class if it was going to be like this. She needed to find a way to start enjoying dance class again.

She decided to get her brain to help her find a way to get her confidence and joy back. She decided to create a path. First, she came up with a small action. She decided she would take a deep breath in and slowly let it out. At the same time she thought of her past dance recitals. She remembered how comfortable her body felt dancing, how loud the clapping was when she bowed, how her legs moved to the music.

She practiced taking a deep breath in and slowly exhaling while thinking these positive thoughts a few times everyday.

By the time dance class rolled around, Chelsea was ready. When she felt her body start to freeze up at the dance studio doors, Chelsea took a deep breath. Automatically, her body relaxed and the confident, positive feelings of past recitals flooded her body. Chelsea smiled; she’d created a path that would help her look forward to dancing again!


The doors will close on the Inner Dance of Success 3 – month coaching program to create a healthier you…. through changing your body/brain connection to diet and exercise.

Email me at if you’d like more information. I only sent information to the people who took the survey and left their email address for me to contact them – but if you want to learn more about it – and didn’t fill out the survey– act fast and email me – because the program will close on midnight, Monday, February 1st. That’s tomorrow!!

Warmest regards,
Deborah Vogel

Balancing Tips!

Anneliese Burns Wilson was kind enough to talk to me about training for balance and why it is so important!  You can listen to the podcast by clicking here

Thanks to all who took the quick survey. I’m going to keep it open for a few more days and then I’ll send more information out by the end of this weekend.


The dance is a poem of which each movement is a word. ~Mata Hari

Different sizes of pointe shoes

A dancer has asked me for help with her pointe shoes. One foot is much smaller than the other and she had been stuffing extra padding into the bigger shoe, but this caused her a lot of pain and lots of problems on pointe. She has found out that one foot is actually 1/2 size smaller than the other and ever since she purchased two pair of shoes (1/2 size difference, but the same exact brand) she has been doing much better. She’s now fine with her pointe shoes, not having any difficulties with pointe, but she asked me a question that I really can’t answer.

Will the 1/2 size difference in her pointe shoes cause any imbalance in her hips, or cause problems with her spine? Is she better off working in the exact same size pointe shoes and building up the inside of the bigger shoe? My gut feeling is that it is more important that the pointe shoes fit properly and that 1/2 size is not that big of a difference. I had this same exact issue with my pointe shoes and always bought my shoes in two different sizes, and although I’ve hung up my pointe shoes many years ago, I DO have problems with my spine and hips — that’s why I’m beginning to question whether or not this is actually a good idea. I did have a few definite injuries that caused my back and hip problems, but could I have weakened this area or caused an imbalance by wearing two different size pointe shoes?

I don’t want to advise this dancer incorrectly, so I’m really curious to know what your thoughts are on this subject. I do not know this dancer personally, so I do not have any other details about her. Generally speaking, what do you think? I’m really stumped!

Thank you in advance for your time and your help.


Great question Lorie! I agree with your opinion that it is more important to wear pointe shoes that fit correctly instead of padding the larger shoe so you are wearing the same size.

I do not believe that wearing a half size different shoe is going to create problems for her at the hips and spine. You don’t spend that much time with the exception of sous sus and échappé being on both shoes. Typically, you are transferring from one foot to the other, or doing an exquisite balancing move on one foot.

Different sized feet are pretty normal, in fact. Having leg length difference is not unusual either, but greater the difference between leg lengths – the more influential on the pelvis and hip placement.

I have not personally seen shoe size be a leading factor in spine and pelvis issues. The fact that the dancer feels better with the 2 different size shoes is good feedback that she is on the right track.

A Celebration Gift!

I’m inspired today by Obama’s words – and seeing the energy of hopefulness about the future. (plus the sun is shining today! Always a good omen for NE Ohio in January!)

I’d like to share a mp3 file with you of guided imagery that I created for my students. As I talk about in the Body/Brain connection ebook – your brain doesn’t know the difference between what is real and what is imagined. I first learned about ideokinesis (using imagery to change neuromuscular pathways) from Irene Dowd and it has guided my rehab work ever since then. In order to make a real physical change you have to go back to the cortical or brain level and change the message that is being sent out.

The focus of this mp3 file is to simply release all unnecessary tension and to increase your physical state of well-being. When you listen to it you can either be in constructive rest position which is lying on your back with your legs supported over pillows or on a chair – or sitting easily upright, supported comfortably in a chair. (note: it is 26 minutes)

Enjoy! (and if you do listen – please leave a comment!)

click here!

May we all dance today in gratitude and hope!


“Education is the key to injury prevention”

Hyperextension and Pregnancy tips


I now have a facebook account – and I invite you all to become my friend! If you have an account just search for me…. Deborah Vogel. (there are actually 10 women on facebook with my name – but I’m the only one holding a spine:)

Also…. I’m uploading videos to YouTube! You can subscribe to my Dance Smart Channel at Or… just search Deborah Vogel and you’ll find me too!

Onto the questions….

I returned to ballet about 5 years ago. I have been getting some pain in my knees which was diagnosed by my physiotherapist as anterior knee pain caused by weak thigh muscles.

A new teacher at my ballet school said that my hyperextended knees would also be causing the problem. I am working with her to try and stand straight without locking the knees but I am having problems trying stand properly on one leg while working the other.

Any help that you give would be much appreciated as all my teachers have differing opinions on hyperextended knees.

I am now 28 and also suffer from pronation.

Thank you


The three issues you mentioned, weak thigh muscles, hyperextended knees and pronated feet all go together. The good thing is as you start to address all 3 of them at the same time your knees should start to quickly feel better!

I’m assuming your physiotherapist is giving you quad strengthening exercises – so I won’t talk about them except to say that a single leg demi plie is a wonderful strengthener! (As long as your knees and feet are in alignment)

My opinion on hyperextension is that it creates a beautiful line in the air – and – needs to be controlled on the ground. When the knees go back into hyperextension the thighbone rotates inward, and the feet tend to pronate. This definitely opposes your goal of maintaining good turnout!

It’s not easy to change a chronic habit of hyperextending the knees – but it is well worth it! You can monitor your knees from your feet, making sure the weight is equal on the 3 points of the feet. You can also catch yourself dropping into your legs (as most dancers with hyperextended knees are rather loosey-goosey) and put your hand on top of your head and press into your hand, lengthening your spine. Practice balancing on one leg (not in hyperextension) to help your nervous system learn where the center of the joints are. It will take some time to change the habit – but I have seen many dancers do it!

Good luck!


I am just into my pregnancy and work as a contemporary dancer and physical theatre performer. I hope not to stop my work and performances until my 7th or 8th month. However I know that I will have to modify my work and I’m game for that. I can’t seem to find a good resource — a book, a detailed article, anything! — that explains what activity should be modified and how to modify the activity as time goes on. Most of what I’ve found is very
general or specific to elite athletes like runners. Do you have any recommendations?


I don’t know of any specific resources to send you to, Lucy, so I will give you my personal opinion after having 3 of my own – and counseling a few friends through their pregnancy and births.

chair-psoasThe first is – your iliopsoas is going to take a beating with being pregnant. As the baby gets bigger, the pull on your lower back is significant. The one stretch you cannot stop doing is some form of iliopsoas stretching. (I actually have a youtube video on 3 different ways to stretch your psoas) The one stretch that I don’t have on this video is a sitting stretch – but here it is on the right.

Ballwork all around the pelvis will be very useful for keeping the muscles looser. As your belly pulls the pelvis into a forward tilt, the abdominals contract to counter that and the gluteals also tend to contract more than normal to keep your pelvis upright.

Continuing dancing will help keep the abdominals in good shape – and stretching and ballwork will definitely help the gluts!

Those are my primary tips for a healthy pregnancy. It goes without saying that listening to your body is key – and – it is an amazing process that you are engaged with. Typically, the pregnant dancers I’ve known have, for the most part, had easier pregnancies than non-dancers. They danced as long as they were comfortable – and easily modified their movement. (for example, rolling down the spine becomes almost impossible – so do hamstring stretches standing with your leg on a chair instead) I truly enjoyed all 3 of my pregnancies. Best wishes and…



“Education is the key to injury prevention”