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Where Do You Hold Your Tension? 6 Top Trouble Areas and How to Ease the Strain

Anna Greenberg of ABT's Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School, photographed by Jayme Thornton for Pointe.

All dancers have their go-to tension area: shoulders that creep up towards the ears, a hand that becomes a claw, or feet and ankles that grip. Yet "Just relax" can be the hardest correction to apply. We spoke with four teachers for their tips on releasing tension throughout the body—and how it's all connected.

Gripped Glutes and Hip Flexors 

Cartwright notices that many dancers are "squeezing the butt, tucked under and trying to hold it." This can cause a chain reaction of problems, including hip-flexor pain.

"Lift the carriage of the back," says Jaffe, "breathe, and put the energy in the core and hamstrings." To help students find their hamstrings, Cartwright has them relevé in first and try to make their heels meet on the way down. "That makes you engage the back of your leg, and not tuck. It's a natural shape."

To avoid overworking the hip flexor in extensions to the front and side, focus on lengthening the standing leg. "By pushing down through the floor, you're engaging the lower abdominals and the psoas, which is going to let the other leg unfold," says Cartwright.

The Conversation
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