The word plié in French means “to bend.” A plié in ballet is a movement where the body dips towards the floor by bending the knees. It may sound simple, but performing a plié properly means carefully aligning the body and utilizing not only one’s knees, but also the muscles in the core, thighs, and feet.
A proper plié is a fully vertical movement – the bending of the knees makes the body go up and down. One of the trickiest aspects about pliés is not to allow the body to sway either forward or backwards, but to use the abdominal muscles to hold the body from the waist-up so that it is fully erect. The thigh muscles must be strong enough to bend the knees without pushing the body forward (or causing the dancer’s bottom to stick out!) This is one of the reasons that all dancers, from beginners to prima ballerinas, begin their exercises at the barre with a series of pliés in all of the different positions.
In our classes, we work to perform two types of pliés: the demi-plié, or half-bend (a small dip at the knees), and the grand plié, or big bend, wherein the body sinks downwards (sometimes causing the shoulders to dip below the level of the barre). We move through the demi-plié when progressing to perform a grand plié. With demi-pliés and grand pliés in 2nd position, we have an additional obstacle – working to keep our heels on the floor! In all forms of the plié, we must also remember to utilize the turn-out from our hip joints to keep our knees over our toes (a phrase that will be repeated in more than one ballet class).
The plié is one of the most important movements in ballet – it is the basis for a number of jumps and turns, as well as a way to perform rélévés (coming up and down from our toes). Pliés provide strength to jumps and cushion to landings, as well as power to the beginnings of turns and spinning movements. As such, we’ll continue to open every class with a full round of pliés, and work together to make sure that this important fundamental is practiced in each class.