Plie, More Than Bending

Plie – (plee-AY) Bent, bending. A bending of the knee or knees…..Oh but it is so much more.

The plie makes the joints and muscles soft and pliable and the tendons flexible and elastic and develops a sense of balance. At the beginning of class, during the barre exercises, plies accomplish so much for the dancer. They begin to warm up the joints of the feet, ankles, knees and hips. They help in the development of flexibility of the muscles in the lower body and bring an awareness of the turn-out in the hip sockets. The alignment, balance and control of plies are the strengthening beginnings for the look the ballet dancer so desperately seeks. The plie is the beginning barre exercise to each and EVERY ballet class. The repeated, continuous motion of the plie in all the basic ballet positions is the foundation in learning the connection between steps in the center. The action of demi-plie is essential in the development for pliable, cushioned landings in jumps.

The demi plie is done that the knees bend as far as possible with the soles of the feet remaining on the floor, without lifting the heels from the ground. In the grand plie, the dancer continues in the demi plie as far as possible without lifting the heels and continues the decent raising the heels, until the thighs are horizontal to the floor. After reaching the depth of the grand plie, the dancer begins to rise to the base of the demi plie, by pressing the heels into the floor, then to the straight leg position. Throughout the execution of the plie, the movement is continuous, gradual and free from jerks and the knees should be at least half bent before the heels are allowed to rise. The body should rise at the same speed at that it lowered, pressing the heels into the floor. Beautiful,fluid por de bra is normally added to this barre excerise.

In all plies the legs must be turned out, to their fullest, from the hips and the knees open and well over the toes and the weight of the body evenly distributed on both feet, with your whole foot grasping the floor.

Plies are done at the barre or center floor in all five positions of the feet. Plies at the barre are essential for warming up the muscles and tendons of the legs. Plies, executed center floor, teaches balance and strength. Whether done at the barre or center floor, when using fifth position, third position is usually omitted. Various stretches, cambre, and por de bra added to the exercise combination make plies interesting for the dancer and adds fluidity to the plie combination.

The plie is such a foundational movement in ballet and is essential in its use. Every element in ballet has the demi-plie at its base. From dance class to the stage, everything that a ballet dancer attempts to accomplish, begins and ends with the demi-plie. Plies are so essential, that pre-dance classes ages 3 and 4, should also be taught them to begin each class with.

Many dancers speak of how they emotionally feel about starting each class with plies, the emotions that comes with the “ritual” of starting with plies at every class, day in and day out, year after year. They understand that it is the process they must go through to leave behind the world outside the studio and begin their transformation from ordinary students in school into dancers. Executing a plie is one the first moments of intentional movement in dance class. In beginning that first plie the dance student is saying, “Hey, I am a dancer.” In that sense a plie is a movement of great importance not only for the body, but for the frame of mind as well. By executing that very first demi-plie of class, it brings about a deep sense of peacefulness as your heart is captured by ballet and your inner dancer surfaces, even if it is only for the class time.

The ballet class uses the plie throughout the entire class time and the dancer so much in performance that neither class or performance is complete without the use of plie in their reverence. The demi-plie awaits the dancer even there. From beginning to end, the plie has carried the dancer, from class time, to rehearsal time to the final bows at a curtain call. Plies are essential in preparing the body and dance spirit at the barre, to the magnificent jumps center floor, and to a role on stage. All of ballet points to the plie as the most important movement in ballet.

Without the plie there is no dancer, there is no dance.

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