Improving Pliés

Plié is one of the MOST IMPORTANT things you can learn to do properly in ballet.  Sadly, my blog does not produce posts in chronological order as they should be learned – but if my blog did manage this – this would be the very first post, even before etiquette, nutrition, tendus, and artistry.  Plié is ALWAYS first.

If you are having trouble with a complicated step in center or a turn…your problem is…basically…50% likely to be your plié.  At least that’s the way it was for me until I discovered the techniques that are to be discussed in this blog post and video.

Can’t wait?  Well…wait no more.

First…a video

The muscles

This is my favorite part!  By knowing which muscles you need to use to support the movements of a plié, you can adequately adjust your technique and conditioning momentum and reigmens to suit your weaknesses and strengths.  Let’s hop in:

NOTE: Click on the photo for more details and a description of the muscle pictured.


Now that we know the muscles involved in your plié, let’s see how each of these can benefit us and where we can look to be using them:

The hamstrings: These are used in the straightening of the legs.  Think of using these to pull your legs upward in the descent from the plié.

Quadratus femoris: As one of the main external rotators of the hip, it’s important to keep this engaged during all aspects and sections of the plié for maximum control, turnout, and injury prevention.

Adductors: Also known as the inner thighs, this muscle is another one vital to external rotation of the hips.  As mentioned before, it’s vital to all sections of the plié for maximum control, turnout, and injury prevention.

Core: This is vital in all ballet movements, but in plié it is especially vital for the lift and placement control needed.  It’s easy for dancers to tuck during the ascent of their plié and tip during the descent.  Use your core muscles to keep your pelvis nuetrally aligned and steady.

Ella’s advice!

Lift up to plié and push down to stretch.  If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you know how much I love opposition.  (I also talked about this in my Improving Pointework post).  Do that during plié to actively engage all of the muscles throughout your body and to create a sense of lift and alignment that is unparalleled by your basic “pull up” thinking.

Think quadratus femoris during the descent!  Way too many people allow their hip muscles to release during the descent from the plié, creating screwed-up alignment and an unneutral pelvis, which is dangerous and unstable.  Keep the turnout and think of the inner thighs coming forward every time you stretch from the plié and straighten your legs.

Think of your third metatarsal grounding into the floor at all times.  If you let that sense release, your weight will roll either to your 1st or 5th metatarsal.  Feel that sensation of your third metatarsal being glued to the ground to prevent pronation or supination (rolling) in plié.

The great grand plié

I know that we don’t live in Denmark, but it’s important to have a strong grand plié in order to develop strength in other related steps.  Here are my tips for grand plié:

Think of having magnents in your heels.  You have a positive charge on your ankles and a negative charge on the ground.  As you descend, that magnent won’t let your release until the force is too strong for the magnents to attach.  On the descent, as the force decreases, the magnents automatically spring back together.

Imagine a giant magnetic wall behind you.  You have magnents attached on the outsides of your knees.  As you slide down, the strong magnents can’t detach your knees from the wall, they stay attached as they slide down.  I actually like to imagine the sound of a magnent sliding down a metal slab during grand plié to help me.  Shhh…but while other people are thinking, “Turn out, deeper plié, belly in,” I’m thinking…”ERRRR!”  Don’t tell my teachers.  Haha.

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