The Science of Dance Training Podcast #1 is ready!

Happy Holidays!

After some trials and tribulations (the learning curve to technology is never easy) the first Science of Dance Training podcast is ready for your listening pleasure! The volume varies some (we’ll get that fixed for next time) but we are too excited to wait any longer to share this with you!

We’ve made it easy for you. All you are going to need to do is to click the link below and you will be taken to a page where the podcast is waiting for you to listen to online – or to save to your desktop or itunes to listen to later.

Click here

Here are the questions that we answered in the first podcast.

Question #1
Thank you so much for all you do to promote healthy ballet information for dancers of all ages. I have a question that I have not seen an answer to as of yet from a physiological perspective. Often, we parents have questions that we’d like to run by an impartial source rather than solely rely on our dance teachers’ answers.

As non-dancing parent of a young ballet dancer, aged 9, who would love to go to class 5 days a week if I would let her, how do I know how many hours of dance daily and weekly would be considered too much for her strong but still growing body?

I don’t want her to sustain injuries that she might not be aware of from dancing too much at a young age. She is studying under a teacher well-trained in the Cecchetti method and is taking mainly ballet classes and a jazz class for variety.

I’d appreciate any information you can provide. Thanks in advance.


Question #2

Thank you so much for taking on this project. I applaud your innovative use of technology to reach this new generation of dancers (especially because incorrect information is so easy to find on the internet).

My question for the Science of Dance Training:

I’ve been told by dance teachers that a movement like a developpe or a grande battement starts from the hamstring muscles. I’ve also heard from athletic coaches that the hamstring does not control this movement, and that it is rather the quadricep. So, which is it? What exactly is the anatomy of a developpe or a grande battement?

Cross-training Confusion,

Question #3

Another suggestion applies to pointe. I know this is a delicate area, but I have several girls that I feel are ready to begin pointe work. Do you think the amount of hours of ballet in conjunction with body readiness are appropriate to assess readiness? Do you feel that an x-ray of their feet and ankles is necessary before commencing pointe work. Also, for prep-pointe, I would like the dancers to have pointe shoes to start working with them at the barre and breaking them in for 6-mos before they begin actual pointe work. Is this advisable? Dana

Question #4

I have three newer students with amazing flexibility, all three of whom are dealing with a snapping hip. It is getting painful, and doctors locally aren’t really sure what to do with them because it isn’t a flexibility issue. I am sure there are some exercises they should be doing to help strengthen, rather than lengthen, the iliopsoas, which they probably aren’t using properly due to the flexibility….I have a feeling they can cheat because the don’t need to work the joint as the rest of us do! What can I have them do to work that area for strength? And am I on the right track with that, or is there another reason for the snapping hip?

Question #5

Thank you for providing this helpful information to all of us.

I have read a good portion of both of your publications, and seen many of the videos. The question I have has to do with the timing and order in which to introduce the exercises and stretches to a young dancer. It seems that they are often overwhelmed with what they are supposed to do. Instead of incorporating these great techniques into their routines before and during class, I see my own daughter reverting to the old ways, such as prone frogs, etc.

What is a good way to introduce these exercises so that they can actually remember what to do. Using a book or video is awkward during class.

And to make the sequence logical and easier for them to remember, and to incorporate into a routine, how do you suggest they start? For example, back, then hip, knee, ankle and foot?

I know your books suggest the routine to follow, but I ,myself, find it daunting to get my daughter to do the exercises as often as she needs to. I thought if there were a way to introduce, say 3 exercises at a time, then maybe she would be more compliant. But, I’m not really sure where to begin. She is “tight” in all areas!

Anyway, those are the issues we have which seem to be the major stumbling block to my daughters progress! This combined with a child’s natural timidity to be seen by her friends doing something new!

Thank you so much for the wonderful work you both are doing! I have learned so much from both of you!


Here’s that link again to click and be taken directly to the podcast!

Click here!

Have a wonderful holiday!

“Education is the key to injury prevention”

Pointe preparation

I am 15 years old and I have read all of your newsletters dealing with the feet and ankles and they have helped so much. Although, I’m starting to have some new problems with my feet. I have noticed after performances and warm-ups my ankles and a muscle between my calf and the heel of my foot becomes very sore the next day. I do not know if it has to do with wrong use of extrinsic muscles or using too much pressure on my feet. I am about to start pointe soon and want to correct this problem before i dangerously injure my ankles even more. Please help me recover and prevent this issue.

Thank you, Sara

It sounds like you are talking about the Achilles tendon, Sara. The fact that you are feeling fatigue the next day is giving you information that either that muscle is too weak – or – too tight for what you are asking it to do. There are 2 muscles that make up the Achille’s tendon. They are the gastrocnemius muscle and the soleus muscle.

Gastroc-soleus copy

From the information you have given me it is challenging to know what exactly is going on with your calf muscles. Do you tire after jumping on one leg? How deep is your demi plié? Are you in a growth spurt? All of these things will influence your feet and calves.

What I would strongly suggest is that you ask your parents for Lisa Howell’s Perfect Pointe Book. Click here to read about it ….

Lisa is an incredible dance physiotherapist from Sydney, Australia who put together an course for dancers preparing to go onto pointe. This book will guide you through a series of exercises that are essential to master if you want to go on pointe. She has done such a good job with this book (you can easily download it from the internet) that I don’t need to create any products for pointe preparation – because Lisa has done such a good job with this one! Lisa definitely understands the science of dance training and I highly recommend this book.

Pronated versus flat feet

It was so wonderful to meet some of you last weekend in New York at the Javitts Center! Yea to Dance Teacher magazine for putting on a wonderful conference! This Sunday I’ll be in Brockport, NY for the Dance Rochester workshop.

Onto the question of the week…

My daughter has danced for 10 years and had hoped to start pointe this year. Her teacher says she cannot start point due to the fact that she tends to roll her ankles inward, it seems as though she is flat footed. I took her to an orthopedic specialist who said it was a common problem and not severe enough to do anything about it. He said everyone is built differently and people should not be so critical! Is this a problem that should cause her to delay pointe classes or should we look for a new dance instructor?

Believe it or not – I’m going to side with the dance teacher. She caught your daughter pronating her feet, which is rolling in on the arches. That is a different situation from having flat feet. When you have flat feet it means there is no visual instep. Someone with flat feet can be a very strong dancer, they simply won’t look like they have as high of an arch as most people. This is a structural issue, not a functional. Asians and African Americans, for example, have more of a genetic tendency towards structural flat feet.

This image is of pronated feet – these are not flat – rather they are rolling in. If you look at flat feet from the back the heel and heel bone would be straight, not curved towards the floor.


arch1From the side you can see that a flat foot has little or no space between the arch and the floor.

Pronated feet, on the other hand, means the weight is not being evenly divided on the foot and there is more weight on the inner border of the feet. If left unattended, that is a problem and concern for a dancer. You want to see the weight evenly divided between the pads of the big toe, little toe and heel.

Your doctor isn’t the first one who thinks that pronation is something the average youngster will grow out of. What they don’t understand is the challenge of turnout and standing in first position to pronation. The child who is primarily in sneakers (with an arch support) and running around or involved in sports is using their legs primarily in a parallel stance. I can’t tell you how many young dancers I have seen who begin pronating because they are over turning out their feet. Ballet is a wonderful activity – and I love dance – and – pronation is a problem that needs to be addressed as early as possible.

What I would suggest for your daughter, if she really wants to go on pointe this year – she is going to have to prove to the teacher she can stand in first position (or any other position for that matter) without rolling in her arches. It will take first and foremost awareness on her part of when she is rolling in.

If she is in the habit of wearing flip flops – she needs to temporarily stop. They are not good for growing feet with the exception of walking from the car to the beach. Speaking of beaches – walking on the sand barefoot is a wonderful strengthening for the feet and the calves!

She can practice balancing on one foot while tossing a ball back and forth between her hands – again – not allowing herself to roll in, and maintaining good alignment as she is doing so.

She can focus on strengthening the foot and calf muscles. You can find useful exercises in my Tune Up Your Turnout book – as well as in many other useful dance books. Lisa Howell has written a fantastic ebook called the Perfect Pointe Manual. You can check it out at

Your doctor isn’t stupid for not knowing how to guide you in this situation – I think he/she just doesn’t have the insight into the specific challenges for dancers. I remember taking my son to the doctors after he twisted his ankle pretty badly when he was 8. My doctor said I didn’t need to give him an anti-inflammatory or ice or do rehab – that he was active and would work his way out of it. I needed the doctor to rule out anything more significant – which is what you needed to do with your daughter. But after I got that information I went to work with icing and then doing some rehab with my son. Some fun things like each of us standing on one foot and tossing a ball back and forth to each other and slowly increasing the distance. It helped his joints relearn where center is because as soon as you have an injury or a dysfunctional pattern, the body compensates.

With continued guidance and some extra work on your daughter’s part – I’m sure she’ll be ready for pointe work in no time!

Warm regards,


“Education is the key to injury prevention”