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Oh, Plies...

Updated: Feb 15, 2022

How to say & pronounce Plié: plee-ay

Translation: to bend

Pliés are seen throughout every form of dance. It is a basic step in ballet, but arguably the most important. It’s often the beginning and ending of the majority of intermediate and advanced steps, provide explosive power in jumps and pirouettes and help reduce the risk of injury.

What is a plie?

A plié is when a dancer is basically bending at the knees. Of course, when that happens, your ankles and hips are also technically bending. There are two different types of plié: grand plié and demi plié. A grand plié is a full bend of the knees until the thighs are parallel with the floor, while a demi plié looks more like a half bend, where the heels do not come off the floor.

They are typically done in all 5 basic positions of classical ballet, both at the barre and center, as well as with just one leg as part of intermediate and advanced steps. Correct use and development of a plié is a basic but essential movement to every dancer’s technique.

Why are pliés one of the most important steps in ballet?

Plié are a big deal in ballet technique for several reasons.

  • The start and finish of every jump starts with a plié.

  • The start of most turns is from a plié and almost always ends with your standing leg in a plié.

  • Plié is often a transition step, both the end of one step and the start of another.

  • Doing a plié helps condition and stretch your muscles.

  • A proper plié can help prevent a lot of injuries because of the spring-like motion in your legs that helps absorb impact when you land from jumps.

  • A smooth plié is part of the effortless look that ballet dancers try to achieve.

The basics of plié in classical ballet

Here are some basic things to think about when doing a plie.

  • Knees should always bend over the toes. If your knees are pointing inwards way past your big toe, you may be planting your feet on the ground and forcing your turnout and this can be very dangerous!

  • Don’t stick your backside out or adjust your hips to plié.

  • Your heels should not lift off the floor in a demi plié.

  • The movement of a plié should always be straight down and straight up when you straighten your legs.

  • Try to relax your joints. You shouldn’t feel tension in your hips, knees, or ankles.

  • When you plié, you should be just as on balance as you were when you were standing with straight legs.

  • Try not to grip your muscles when you plié, it should be a fluid motion.

  • You must push straight down into the floor with your legs and feet when straightening out of a plie. Don’t just casually straighten your legs, otherwise you’re just bending and straightening your legs, and while that looks like a plie, it’s the intention and the purpose you put into straightening your legs that makes it functional in classical ballet and allows dancers to jump high with explosive energy and do multiple pirouettes.

Saving your muscles from injury

While injuries are sometimes unavoidable, it’s always best to try to minimize the risk. One of the best ways you can do so is by using your plié. A nice and soft plié landing from a jump can help save your knees and muscles. Imagine jumping without a plié at the end (do not try this), after a short time, your whole body would suffer, not just your knees and feet, but the hard impact could eventually travel up into your back and neck.

How many times have you heard “It’s important to have a strong foundation…” Well, a plié is at the base of ballet technique as you can possibly get and practically all forms of dance. A strong and functional plié can greatly improve your jumps, pirouettes and overall strength in all forms of dance.

So… Use your plie!


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