Ballet 101: How to Do a Plié

Photo Credit: Kryssia Campos | Getty Images

Photo Credit: Kryssia Campos | Getty Images

Not only is a plié a fundamental movement in ballet, but it starts and ends almost all ballet steps—it’s a must for the takeoff and landing of every good jump or leap and the initiation of nearly every turn.

What is a plié?

Plié is a French term meaning to bend, or bending. There are two principal pliés: A grand plié is a full knee bend (the knees should be bent until the thighs are horizontal) in which the heels always rise off the ground—except when a dancer is in second position—and are lowered again as the knee straightens. In demi-plié, the heels remain on the floor, making the bend in the knees about half as deep as a grand plié.

While bending and straightening the knees doesn’t seem so hard, pliés are a powering movement that help protect the body from injury (the legs should be turned out from the hips, keeping the knees well over the toes). Therefore, in dance training, the approach to mastering the bending of the legs properly is very deliberate.

How to do a plié:

  • Begin in first position.
  • Turn out your legs at the hip joints like a butterfly opens its wings, with your knees bent over the toes.
  • Align your pelvis so that it feels like your tailbone is pointing straight down between your heels.
  • Keep the weight of your body evenly distributed on both feet, as your whole foot grasps the floor.
  • Bend as deeply as possible while keeping your heels on the floor, but don’t let it change your posture or alignment.
  • Lengthen your torso. Imagine your whole spine growing toward the ceiling as you bend, creating space between each vertebrae.
  • To straighten the legs, press with your whole foot and legs as if you are pushing the floor away from you.

Once you’re comfortable with the basics of doing a plié in first position, try challenging yourself and do it in the other four ballet positions.


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