Ask Deb: “What Language Should I Use to Correct Students?”
August 21, 2017

When teachers say, “Tuck under” or “Pull in your belly button,” what is happening anatomically? Is there better language I should use?


Our language should be as anatomically accurate as possible. Phrases like the two you mentioned can create a variety of responses, and not all desirable ones.

For example, a teacher may say, “Tuck under” when a student has a swayback and the teacher is trying to get the student to bring her pelvis more upright. Another teacher might use the phrase, “Pull in your belly button” with that same goal in mind. If you use the phrase, “Tuck under,” the student may look like they are in better alignment, but muscularly they are contracting their gluteals and shifting forward over their feet.

Rather than say, “Tuck under,” I would encourage teachers to describe anatomically what the goal is: the middle of the hip, knee and ankle joint in a vertical line if you look at the dancer from the side.

Ideally, we should give our students different images so they can choose the one that works for them. When I teach dance classes, I use anatomy to describe what is happening in the joints as a way of introducing movement. I try not to demonstrate very much, because I have found that students end up watching me and not putting it in their bodies quickly enough.

Bottom line: When a student isn’t getting what we are saying, we need to figure out a different way to communicate the goal, not just say it louder or more often.

To your success,

Deborah Vogel

Director, The Body Series

Got a question for Deb? E-mail askdeb@dancemedia.com, and she may answer it in an upcoming web exclusive.

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