Plié [plee-AY] is one of the first steps we learn in ballet, but is used in many different forms for dance.
The word, plié, means to bend. In ballet we demonstrate this with our legs. Plié is used to start and finish the majority of dance steps, provide power in jumps, turns and most important to prevent injury.
A bend at the knees seems pretty simple. But, why is it so important to understand? We use it…A LOT!
Plié helps us warm up and stretch our muscles and tendons. This will help in the development of flexibility in the lower body. As well as bring awareness to our turn out in the hip sockets. It’s a great exercise to do before performing more active stretches.
We us it in every jump and turn! Every jump starts and ends with a plié. We use our plié to push and spring off the ground and again to help absorb impact on the landing. Most turns start from a plié and almost always ends with your standing leg in a plié.
We use plié a transition between steps.
It prevents injuries! While participating in any physical activity can open ourselves to unavoidable injuries, we must do all we can to minimize the risk. In dance of of these ways is to pay proper attention to our plié. A soft plié landing while jumping can protect your knees, hips, back and even your neck.
Some things you should think about when doing a plié.
Knees should always bend directly over the toes. Imagine your knees as an umbrella of your toes. To keep your toes dry you’ll need to keep your knees placed directly over your toes. A slight bend inward can cause stress on the knees. Positioning the knees too far back will cause you force your turn out or fall. All of which can be very dangerous!
Keep your bottom underneath you. When practicing good posture, your feet, hips and shoulders should be in line.
Your heels should not lift off the floor in a demi plié.
A plié should be a fluid motion down and up.
When you plié, you should be just as on balance as you were when you were standing with straight legs.
As a teacher, I like to use plie not only as an exercise for warm up and training but as a welcoming ‘ritual’. While most classroom exercises will change week to week, I prefer to use the same plie exercise each class. This allows my students to familiarize themselves with their balance, focus on the expression, execution, and mentally prepare themselves them for class. While each teacher will perform a different combination, a ballet class will always begin with a plié plie exercise.
Remember, a strong plié can greatly improve your jumps, pirouettes and overall strength.