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How to Master a Plié: 4 Tips for New Ballet Dancers

Written by MasterClass

Last updated: Nov 8, 2020 • 3 min read

The plié is a fundamental ballet move and is the basis for many other poses in dance. Almost every type of ballet dancer, from beginner ballerinas to those who are en pointe, practice their pliés, constantly looking to improve this classical ballet movement.

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What Is a Plié?

Plié (pronounced plee-ay) is a French term meaning "creased" or "folded." It is one of the most recognizable and fundamental ballet positions. The plié is defined as bending the knees in either a grand-plié (full bending of the knees) or a demi-plié (half bending of the knees), with the legs turned out from the hips and the knees open and over the toes. A plié can be done in any one of the five ballet positions.

How to Do a Demi-Plié

A good plié is dependent on the strength of your thigh muscles, glutes, and core. Below are tips on how to perfect a demi-plié. These tips apply to both female and male ballet dancers.

  1. Turn your feet outward. The positions of the feet make a big difference in the proper alignment of your body—they should be turned outward in a straight line. If you are just beginning, you can practice your demi-plié in either first position or second position.
  2. Engage your core and hips to make them strong. Straighten your knees and lock in your shoulders and keep them open. Keep your hamstrings, inner thighs, and lower-back activated as well.
  3. Bend your knees halfway. Push down through your heels without lifting them from the floor for the demi-pliés. Don’t put the weight on the balls of your feet.
  4. Fully straighten your legs. Lift after each demi-plié, straightening your legs without lifting them from the floor as you move upward.
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How to Do a Grand-Plié

A grand-plié and demi-plié require the same basic foundation. The only difference is that in a grand-plié, the dancer is fully bending their knees.

  1. Turn your feet outward. Turn out the feet to a straight line. If you are in first position, your heels should be touching. If you are in second position, the feet are separated by a distance of one foot.
  2. Engage your core and stand up straight. Straighten your knees and lock in your shoulders and keep them open.
  3. Bend your knees fully. Push down through the ball of your foot, keeping your inner-thighs engaged. If you are in first positon, allow your heels to come off the ground. Keep your heels on the ground in you are in second position.
  4. Straighten your legs. Lift after each grand-plié, straightening your legs without lifting them from the floor as you move upward.

4 Tips for New Dancers Performing a Plié

If you're new to ballet or it’s been a while since you've performed, these tips below are best practice for ballet dancing.

  1. Always warm-up. It's essential to stretch your body before diving into any advanced poses. Do some basic poses at the barre to start, like tendus and arabesques, to get your blood flowing.
  2. Invest in good footwear. Good footwear doesn't necessarily mean expensive. It means finding a ballet shoe that fits your foot best. You'll want something with grips at the balls of the feet. Full sole or split-sole ballet shoes are both commonly used. Do not use socks or bare feet.
  3. Stay hydrated. Dancing is a sport and you're likely to sweat a lot, even if you're just doing barre poses. Hydrate well before you start, and keep a water bottle by your side.
  4. Listen to your body. It takes time and practice before executing proper ballet technique and choreography. Don't push your body to do any pose it's uncomfortable with.

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