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Two steps every dancer must perfect to master their technique

Ballet is a beautiful art form that is over 400 years old. It has developed out of the French and Italian courts into the technically and aesthetically miraculous dance style seen today around the world in modern day ballet companies.

It was Pierre Beauchamp that defined the 5 positions of the feet in the late 17th century and it was from these 5 positions that ballet was born. Mastery of "turn-out"- the external rotation of the hips, knees, and feet- is essential but there are 2 movements that every dancer must perfect if they want to achieve their best.

Ballet has a hierarchical learning structure in which each step can be made more difficult and progress to the next movement, so by learning the most basic of steps we can learn anything in ballet.

So what are these 2 steps?

Plie and Tendu

Plie comes from the french word meaning to bend. It is the basis of power in dance. Without the proper bending of the knees we have no strength, and absolutely no dynamic. So how does one plie?

The best way is to start with your feet in first position. Ensure that your hips are creating your turnout, take a breath in causing a lift through your thighs, hips and torso until your hips create so much rotation that your knees bend. When doing a Demi-Plie or half plie, you only bend your knees as far as your ankles will allow you to keep your heels on the floor, then feel as if your inner thighs have magnets attached and they pull back together causing your knees to straighten.

If done correctly plie will not only strengthen your quadriceps and increase your ankle mobility, but it will teach you one of the most important lessons in ballet. In order to do anything we must first do the opposite. If we want to bend, we must first stretch up as much as possible.

So if Plie is the power of ballet, what does tendu give us?

Everything else

Tendu shows us the direction of our leg, the way in which our leg must leave and return to the basic 5 positions, and how to point and use our feet for maximum articulation. Tendu literally means stretched and so is inherently the opposite of plie. Tendu can be done to the front, side and back and should feel like the bottom of your ballet shoe is cleaning the floor as your foot extends from the starting position to a pointed foot.

Tendu also helps to find the connection between the two vertical halves of our body and creates a cross body connection through the extension and retraction of the leg.

Every step we do in ballet can be traced back to these 2 steps and by learning the correct coordination of these movements we can develop the necessary coordination for any movement in ballet.

If you would like to learn more about how to perfect your plie and tendu, be sure to book in for our Friday evening adult ballet classes at the studio and don't forget to check out our ballet dictionary available for purchase in our shop.

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