Plié means “bend”, from the verb plier, to bend. A smooth and continuous bending of the knees. A bending of the knees outward by a ballet dancer with the back held straight.
Generally speaking, your plié can create your first impression, whether it be to an examiner or to an audition panel. Your plié can speak volumes about the type of dancer you are, as it is the glue that holds your steps together, or the mesh that links your steps.
So much can be gained from each exercise at the barre, so be sure you utilise each and every one of them. Pliés can often look like a dancer is going through the motions of bending and stretching the legs, or perhaps warming up. In my opinion, class should never be for warming up, it should be for maintaining and/or extending a dancer’s technique. Every plié you perform in class can strengthen your legs, transforming you into a stronger, more controlled and fluid dancer.
I have been to lots of different studios and seen lots of different pliés, and there are some common faults that I will point out, that will be very easy to correct.
Pliés should be controlled, continuous movements, they should not appear brittle or sudden looking. There should not be any stops reaching the depth of your plié, nor alighting from the depth of your plié. Control equals strength, so the smoother your plié is, the better.
Pliés can be used to strengthen your legs by actively working or engaging your legs, and not simply bending the legs and recovering. You can do this by resisting gravity to bend the legs on the way down to the base of your plié, and by using the resistance of the floor to recover to straight legs. With each plié you perform try to visualise opening your turn out from the hips.
Unfortunately, the majority of students perform a grande plié with their backs on an inclination forward. Almost every definition of plié mentions a straight, held back. The hips, waist and shoulders should aim to be in a vertical line when viewed from the side. A dropped back makes it much more difficult to activate the turn out muscles at the tops of the legs, and is an unnecessary action. Another fault I witness regularly is when dancers descend into a grande plié too deeply by almost sitting on their heels. The correct version of this bad habit, is to allow the crotch to hover just above the heels by working the quadriceps strongly. It may be much easier to do it this incorrectly, however, you will be achieving far less.
Your demi-pliés and grande pliés should be absolutely connected to your ports de bras. For example; if you commence with your arms in a la seconde, your arm should be in demi seconde in demi plié, bras bas at the depth of the grande plié, 1st position for demi plié and return to a la seconde on the recovery. I can’t stress enough that the use of the head in conjunction with the arm throughout all your work is imperative. Without this use of co-ordination, you can look disconnected and not involved in your work. This, in turn will not aid you in creating a fabulous first impression!
Written by; Vicki Attard