I’ve heard somewhere that the beginning is a very good place to start.
So let’s start with the alpha and omega of all dance movements – the plié.
Plié means “Bent, bending. A bending of the knee or knees.” Here is the full definition of plié found at the ABT (American Ballet Theatre) ballet dictionary.
Even young dancers can tell you that plié means ‘to bend’. Many could tell you that you must begin and end a jump with this bending. When you’ve studied dance for a while you come to realize that plié is one of the most sophisticated and nuanced movements in dance.
It’s application or use is endless. It not only appears before and after jumps, but in glides, hops, turns, running, walking, leaps, and more.
It is used while moving forward, backward, upward, sideways, or downward.
No plié is exactly alike, but without it we appear awkward, stiff, uncontrolled, or shaky. Like dance itself, plié is a never-ending story. There is always more to learn and developping a strong understanding of plié will help dancers build a strong foundation for other movements.
The April 08 issue of Dance Magazine features an interesting quote about plié. Risa Steinberg, a Limon teacher at Julliard, states that **”a good plié is an action, not a position. A plié is a ‘Whaaaaaah.’ It is not an ‘Eh.’ ” I love this description.
Try vocalizing ‘Whaaaaaah’ while you plié and see what happens!
This simple action serves as a reminder that plié is a smooth, continuous, and widening motion in contrast to an “Eh,” which suggests little effort or control. Fluidity, width, and control in plié is needed whether performing an explosive jump or a shift of weight.
Some things to remember when doing plié:
- Weight should be equally distributed between both feet. Try not to lean toward one foot more than the other or rest in the heels. All five toes should lie long and flat on the floor.
- Lift the arches of the foot – avoiding pronation, or rolling in.
- Maintain turnout (rotation at the hip joint), keeping the knees over the middle toes and opening your hip joints like a butterfly opens its wings.
- Maintain alignment in the torso, particularly the pelvis – tailbone points downward. Imagine the pelvis as a cereal bowl, and you don’t want to spill your Cheerios.
- Use opposition in the movement – resist as the body lowers and as it goes goes upward. Imagine your whole spine growing toward the ceiling as you bend, creating space between each vertebra.
- Bend as deeply as possible without changing anything else about your posture or alignment. And imagine pushing the floor away from you with your whole foot as you straighten the legs.
Consider the study and mastering of plié a lifelong goal!
Pliés are only boring if you stop discovering new things about them.
Nichelle Suzanne is a writer specializing in dance and online content. She is also a dance instructor with over 20 years experience teaching in dance studios, community programs, and colleges. She began Dance Advantage in 2008, equipped with a passion for movement education and an intuitive sense that a blog could bring dancers together. As a Houston-based dance writer, Nichelle covers dance performance for Dance Source Houston, Arts+Culture Texas, and other publications. She is a leader in social media within the dance community and has presented on blogging for dance organizations, including Dance/USA. Nichelle provides web consulting and writing services for dancers, dance schools and studios, and those beyond the dance world. Read Nichelle’s posts.