My thoughts on some classical techniques: Plié
Plié means “fold” or “bend” in French; in ballet it is to bend the knee or knees of your standing leg or legs. The barre usually begins with demi- and grand plié, it might look simple but it is not! Some people describe ballet movement as defying nature. There are some true in it, hardly anyone is born in those arkward turn-out position. It require years of training to develop the strength of muscle and tendons to hold the outward rotation of the hip- turning out.
Plié warm the muscles and joints of the legs, as well as those crucial muscles that control your turnout. Plie is fundamental in helping establish correct placement and are the foundation of every turn, every jump, and every safe landing.
When you are teaching children, sauté (jump etc), always encourage and educate them the importance of landing with a plié, so that they would not create such a loud and noisy land and injured their hamstrings, tendons if they land with a straight leg! Use fun and imaginative words such as “sound like elephant jumping” if they do not use plie, or tell them a story that baby is sleeping in the studio, ask them to land with plie quietly. All these will create an interesting interaction between teacher and students in class. Most importantly, you get your message across to them effectively, they crack up laughing while learning the techniques.
Another fun idea is ask the children to face the mirror while doing plie, tell them you are looking for big diamonds as they plie. (The shape of knee bend create a diamond shape) Subsequently, ask them to repeat the exercise side way to mirror, ask them to check if their alignment is correct. Use funny words like “Check if your bum bum is sticking out like a duck?”
Important points on plié
Work your turnout properly from the hip joint, and maintain the alignment of your ribs and pelvis. (They should be in a straight vertical, pulling up feeling through the tip of your head)
Keep all ten toes on the floor (prevent ‘rolling boat’ feet!), and controlling your ankles and knees so they don’t roll in.
Keep your heels on the floor at all times during demi- plié; during grand- plié only lift them at the last possible moment going down and replace them as soon as you can coming up. Lift them as little as possible. In second position the heels remain on the floor.
Don’t sit at the bottom of the plié; start the ascent immediately and keep the timing consistent: if it’s two counts going down, it’s two counts coming up.
Use Breathing! Breath. Sometimes students became so tensed up, their movement look as if they don’t need to breath. Encourage breathing, inhale as you prepare for plié, as you bend, eyeline follow arms and exhale. Correct breathing can make plié look smooth, and it is pleasing to watch.
Grand- plié in fourth and fifth positions really challenge the turnout. Always use the mirror to check and keep pelvis ‘square’, do not ‘open’ or move the pelvis.
Straightening and stretching the legs is equally important in plié. Think of ‘Resistant’. Counter pulling effect, imagine a rubber band being pulled upward and downward.
Example of a free plié work for Advanced students
Commencing 1st position, bras bas
1-4 Prepare arm through en avant to à la seconde
1-5 Demi- plié, arm à la seconde
1-6 Rise and lower, retaining arm line
1-7 Full plié with simple port de bras
1-8 Full port de bras forward bend raising arm to fifth position
1-9 Degage to 2nd , opening arm à la seconde
1-10 Lower heel in 2nd
1-11 Repeat 1-8 in 2nd
1-12 Sideways port de bras towards barre, recover opening arm à la seconde
1-13 Degage, rond de jambe to fourth position
1-14 Repeat 1-8 in fourth position
1-15 Full circular port de bras
1-16 Degage, to close fifth position
1-17 Repeat 1-8 in fifth position
1-18 Arm through bras bas, en avant to fifth
1-19 Backward port de bras, recover arm to 1st arabesque line en l’air
1-20 Arabesque penché, recover, close fifth.