Plantar fasciitis diagnosis for dancers

Dancers are often prone to a wide variety of injuries. The overwhelming majority of injuries are of the foot or ankle, which is completely expected given the many strenuous hours that dancers put on them. Many dance styles require repetitious strain on all the muscles, joints, and ligaments of the lower half of the body. Frequent use of these body parts can lead to different injuries. Understanding the nature of your injury can help you avoid injuring the body further, and can help you focus your rehabilitation on the specific injury for maximizing recovery speed!

plantar fasciitis injury for dancers

Plantar fasciitis diagnosis

Plantar fasciitis is a highly specific disorder of the connective tissue at the bottom of the foot. Plantar fasciitis produces pain in the bottom of the foot, both in the arches and at the heel. The sensation of pain is generally very sharp. if the pain is more severe when the foot and toes are pointed upwards (bringing the top of the foot closer to the shin), this may be plantar fasciitis.

Usually, there is pain at the very beginning of the day when you first get out of bed, or if you had been sitting for a while. The insertion point between the ligament and the bone can be injured with repetitive strain, especially in dance styles like ballet, as standing on releve can cause excess stress on the feet. Many of these dance styles actually cause micro tears that can take a long time to heal, especially since dancers get very little rest time in between rehearsal or performances.

After a dance class, the pain may be more severe. If you already have flat arches, and if you day job requires a lot of standing, you may be at additional risk for plantar fasciitis. You may experience tenderness at the base of the foot when you touch it. Outside of the dance studio, heel pain may be a result of plantar fasciitis.

Physical rehabilitation

In the majority of plantar fasciitis cases, the pain resolves itself automatically with rest. Unfortunately, this becomes difficult when a dancer has several obligations. There are a few options that may decrease the pain from plantar fasciitis and help bring you back to full strength.

  • Consider wearing a night splint when not dancing. For example, try putting on the splint for short periods of time while you’re at home. It may take a while to get used to wearing the splint, since it may be painful the first few uses. Over time, the body adapts. Eventually, the splint will help stretch out the tendons and ligaments in the foot, which should decrease the pain you experience while dancing.

  • Ice treatment can ease the pain. Something as simple as a lightly insulated ice pack on the bottom of the foot can for 10 minutes a day can go a long way to relieve the pain!

  • Stretching the muscles in the leg can also help. In particular, the calf muscles and the muscles in the shin can help alleviate the pain in the sole of the foot.

  • If the pain persists, NSAID drugs like aspirin or ibuprofen can help decrease the pain. Remember that pain is a warning sign that the body is experiencing something potentially injurious, so pay attention to your body. If you insist on continuing to dance despite the plantar fasciitis pain, continuing to stress the body could lead to more severe injuries down the line.

How to use small mirrors for building a home dance studio

Dancers experience several challenges: eating healthy, social stresses, and the ever-present difficulties of balancing the many hours of school or work with your dance career. However, one of the biggest challenges as a dancer is getting the motivation to get into the studio. Based on your location, you may have to drive long distances and pay exorbitant studio rental fees just to get some time in a dance studio.

Of course, building your own dance studio at home will give you the chance to rehearse at any time, and for free - after you invest in building the studio, of course. One essential component of a dance studio are the mirrors in which you can see yourself. When building your own home dance studio, you will have the option to choose from a variety of mirrors, of which there are a few options available. Highly reflective Mylar sheeting for the mirror is one option, but the cheaper and simpler method is to use a series of small rectangular mirrors and mount them on the wall. Let’s talk about the pros and cons of using mirrors like these.


Can fit onto irregularly shaped walls

Smaller mirrors come in different sizes and different dimensions, which makes them ideal for filling an unusual space. This means that you don’t need a single, giant empty wall to serve as your mirror. If there are pieces of furniture (like bookshelves or couches) up against the wall, for example, you could simple build the mirrored wall around the furniture. If the wall has an irregular shape, if there is a square sticking out for instance, using a series of small mirrors can give you a larger mirrored surface.

Lightweight, easy to transport

Compared to large vanity mirrors, buying a set of several small mirrors is much, much easier. You don’t have to worry as much about transporting them from the store to your home. Installing small mirrors is a one person job!

Worse case scenario, one of the small mirrors slips and breaks while you moving them. It’s less of a cost, and much easier to clean up compared to dropping and breaking one of those extremely heavy (some of them can weight up to 40 pounds!) vanity mirrors.

Easy to mount onto walls

One of the greatest advantages of using a collection of small mirrors is the simplicity with which they can be mounted and affixed onto the walls. As with any other mirrors, you will have to use a specialized type of adhesive that is designed for home improvement and remodeling. This adhesive called mirror mastic can be found at any home improvement store such as Home Depot. They are also available on Amazon. With mirror mastic, you will need to put multiple quarter-sized blobs on the back side of the mirror, spaced a few inches apart.

Since each small mirror may only weigh a few pounds each, you have less to worry about when using the mirror mastic compared to mounting a large vanity mirror.


Small breaks in the mirror image

And herein lies the biggest annoyance to having your home dance studio mirror made out of several small mirrors instead of one or two large mirrors. Think of the last professional studio you went to. Because their studio mirrors are likely very large, vertical pieces, there are very few breaks in the mirror image - only at the intersections where two mirrors meet. When you build a studio mirror, the more pieces you have, the more disrupted the image will appear. So, in order to minimize this, you’ll want to find the largest dimensions for your mirrors as you are comfortable with.

Limited in type of mirrors you can buy

A slant in the shape of the mirror near the edges is a common aesthetic feature that can be seen in many commercially available mirrors. This slant is called a “bevel,” and will greatly disrupt the way the image is formed standing in front of the mirrors. The larger the bevel is, the more disruptive the mirror images will appear. Some mirrors have bevels that are close to an inch wide! Because of the need to maintain as close to a real image as possible in the mirror, it’s essential to only purchase mirrors that have no bevel.

Tips for owning a dance studio

For many of us, being a dancer is only a small part of the bigger, lifelong goal. Ultimately, dancers want the chance to inspire a new generation of dancers, to train younger dancers to reach their goals, and to provide the opportunity for the youth to become more educated in the ways of dance. Additionally, the sustainability of building a career out of dance relies on having a strong clientele that allows you to keep dancing in the long term. All of these dreams can be fulfilled by owning your own dance studio. At Dance Work Balance, we have gathered information from dancers who have set up their own dance studio, and we compiled a list of some of the most valuable pieces of advice that may help you get your own studio up and running.

tips for owning dance studio

Being a dance studio owner is different from being a dancer

This one is fairly self explanatory, but one of the most overlooked aspects of running a dance studio. As the owner of a studio, you will spend a significant amount of time doing things that are peripherally related to dance, but aren’t actually dancing. Some estimates say that you will be working on all other aspects of your dance studio (running your business and promoting your business for a start!) by an order of magnitude: For every hour you spend dancing, expect to put in about ten hours doing all the behind the scenes logistics that needs to go into making your studio function.

Develop your interpersonal skills

Being a studio owner involves interacting with clients much more than you ever did working in the entertainment industry. In the end, you will be spending much energy trying to make sure that your clients remain with you over time. The first year of being a studio owner will force you to learn new modes of interaction. Although the younger dancers who are in the studio are under your wing, in the end, you still need to be willing to appease the parents or the adults who are part of the studio.

Spend more time listening than speaking, especially when meeting potential new clients. Make sure you get an understanding for what their intent is on joining the studio, or what they want their children to gain after being a part of your dance studio. What skills do they want to gain? What dance styles are they most interested in? Are they interested in pushing and challenging themselves, or do they just want a venue to dance?

Of course, you can’t teach every class there. Naturally, you’ll also have to think of the instructors who you hire in your studio to teach classes. This is another time for you to work on your interpersonal skills. Some of your instructors will be wonderfully responsive, great teachers, well loved by their students, and responsible. They are obviously not your problem! The issue will be the handful of instructors you hire who are irresponsible, who do not regularly show up on time for their classes, and do not respond to your texts, emails, or messages. It now becomes a difficult question of what to do: Can you inspire them to become a better employee? Or do you warn them a few times before letting them go? It becomes a difficult question in the middle of the dance season when their students still depend on them until the recital.

Related to your interpersonal skills, spend time networking.

Learn secondary skills

The two main important skills as a dance studio owner are obviously dance and business sense. But on top of that, there are so many other skills that you should learn to become a successful dance studio owner.

You will have to become knowledgeable in legal issues regarding your city and state with respect to running a business. On a related note, there are many differences in business taxes that are different from doing your personal taxes. They can be quite overwhelming the first year, but they soon become routine. Just expect to put aside extra time at the beginning!

own dance studio tips

To be successful in your endeavor, you’ll have to learn videography, photography, and marketing skills - something that dancers aren’t always knowledgeable in. Luckily, in the generation of the internet and YouTube, you can very quickly and easily find how to run a marketing campaign using a combination of your Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and every other social networking site available. You’ll have to learn the most basic features of photo editing software, you’ll learn the foundations of video editing software, and you’ll learn how to manage analytics like a pro.

Of course, music editing is an essential skill for any dancer, but you may have gotten away with not learning how to do it yourself. When you start running your studio and you have several groups of dancers who need their own cut of music, you may have to learn how to do it yourself. Software such as Adobe Audition isn’t free, but it’s wonderfully intuitive software. Alternatively, Audacity is the premier free, open-source audio editing software.

As stressful as it will be running your own dance studio, in the end, you will learn the business from the inside out. You’ll acquire a wide set of skills that are applicable across any other career. Your CV will be full with after running your studio for just a few years! Don’t be afraid to ask for help! Talk to other studio owners, they were once in your shoes.

Building a wall-mounted ballet barre for your home dance studio

Building a home dance studio is a rewarding experience on it's own. In the end, you will have a space of your own to rehearse, practice, make mistakes, experiment, and train. Renting studio space elsewhere can quickly become expensive, and for those of us who take advantage of studio space when we can, building a home dance studio might be the best option. For classically trained dancers, having a barre is helpful for mastering many of the foundations of ballet and for strengthening the muscles that are so important for ballet. They are great for your children to be able to practice at home also!

wall mounted ballet barre

The following tutorial is an explanation for how to set up your own ballet barre. The barre itself should be mounted on the wall close to the mirror if you already have a mirror in your home dance studio. This way you can see your form and technique as you practice. You will need the following materials:

  • Ballet bar about 4 feet long (PVC, wood or metal)
  •  2 brackets
  •  Wall anchors
  •  Screws

1. Measure the length of the studio space. PVC pipes, smoothly polished wood, or metal pipes are all good materials to build your bar, but the PVC and wood are the easiest to work with, but metal pipes are the sturdiest and safest. You will need the diameter to be 1.5 to 2 inches. Generally, pipes or wooden bars are sold in 10 feet long sections that can be cut in half by the shop. Home Depot, Menards, or any standard home improvement store will be able to do this for you.

2. Choose the height you will mount the bars. For the average adult, have the ballet bars installed three and a half feet above the floor. But the most important thing is to make sure that the height is appropriate for the dancer who will be the primary user of the studio. If in doubt, you could always purchase two bars and have one lower than the other mounted onto the same bracket.

3. Figure where the brackets need to be screwed into the wall. Measure three points on the wall at the height of your choice. Use a level to ensure that all three points are on the same plane, parallel to the floor. Mark the points and drill into the wall at these points. Use the drill bit that is equal to the diameter of the wall anchors. Insert the wall anchors - metal wall anchors are more sturdy and more stable. Use the appropriate wall anchors for dry wall or for wood.

4. Fix the bar with a screw that goes through the bracket. Brackets generally have a small hole into which you can drill a screw. Use this hole to affix the screw into the barre, and this will keep it from rotating when your hands are on the barre.

Once you have your own wall mounted ballet barre mounted, you'll be able to rehearse, strengthen, practice technique, and stretch on your own at any time!

Meniscus tears for dancers: symptoms, recovery, and strengthening exercises

Through my years of dancing, the most devastating injury I've ever had was a right inner meniscus tear that I experienced in the week leading up to a competition in 2008. I still know the exact move that led me to that permanent injury (don't turn your knee in too sharply!) In case you get lost about where the meniscus is and what it does, take a look at my post on the anatomy of the knee for dancers for a more detailed explanation.

In this post, I'll talk about my experiences with my meniscus tear, including the symptoms, how I managed to deal with the pain, and the exercises that I did to get my knee back to (almost) full strength.

dancer meniscus tear knee injury

Symptoms - aka, "Do I have a meniscus tear?"

1. The most obvious injury is pain in the knee. Unfortunately, this description is not very diagnostic, as a lot of injuries from minor bruises to severe ACL tears can produce this symptom, so I'll just assume you're aware of this point already. The pain is often sharp and very localized in one area.

2. The knee "locks up" until you move it in a certain way. When the knee is "locked," it feels painful or unstable until it is "freed" again. This tends to happen after the knee remains inactive for a long period of time, as in driving or sitting still for hours, or when first waking up. For me, I discovered a specific pattern of motion to unlock my knee. First, while keeping the knee bent, bring it up towards the chest. Unbend the knee, kicking outward, while lowering the foot back to the ground. The exact motion will differ depending on your meniscus tear.

3. Difficulty bending completely, or a decreased range of motion. For many meniscus tear injuries, you will be losing a range of motion. For example, I can't bend my knee any more than 30 degrees without causing a sharp pain. As such, my movements are limited on this half of my body. Wearing a knee brace during rehearsals and performance always helped.

4. It hurts going down stairs. This symptom is similar for several knee injuries, but the pain tends to persist for a long period of time. I find it difficult to walk down stairs without holding on the rail, and I put a lot of weight into my stronger knee when descending. This is almost a hallmark symptom for a meniscus tear, so keep an eye out for it!

Recovery exercises

Short of surgery, which is risky, expensive, and not guaranteed to improve the knee, there are a handful of exercises that you can do to strengthen the muscles around the knee, hip, and back to compensate for the weakness.

1. Resistance heel slide. (Requires exercise bands) Lie down on your back, and place your foot into the resistance band as you hold the handles. Bend the knee, as your foot slides towards your body. Try to bring your knee as close to your body as you can, maximizing mobility - although early on you might not be able to bend much. Kick your foot away, pressing against the band until your leg is fully extended. Repeat 10 times daily. Make sure your knee is aligned with the direction of your foot; avoid twisting. If you experience pain, either use a lower resistance band or try the exercise without resistance.

2. Single Leg Calf Raise. Find a ledge where you can hold onto something for balance. A stairwell is a perfect place for this. Put the ball of your foot on the platform with the heel off the ledge. Lower your heel below the level of the step, and come up on your tiptoe (releve, for you dance folk!). Repeat 20-30 times, then switch legs. This is also a great exercise for improving the small muscles around your ankle that help your balance.