How to Use Your Plié. Plié is Your Friend!

“Plié is your friend”

Plié is my best friend. “Use your plié”! To do a plié well has many challenges but the rewards are great!

Plié turnout

Use your plié

A plié done well is helpful in many ways:

  • increasing turnout
  • initiates all your movement
  • gives strength to your relevé and jumps
  • is part of your roots and wings to your stance
  • is the timing for every sequential step

You will hear teachers say “use your plié”. Beginning and some intermediate dancers may wonder what this statement means.

Let me explain.

When you “use your plié” you take advantage of all the benefits it brings. For example, here is a very basic instruction for the beginning of a petit allegro combination:

“plié on 8”. How many times do I look around the room and see dancers plié late or sometimes just flinch at the last second into their plié?

A plié with downward push through the feet (toes, heel and intrinsic muscles) allows you to engage the rotation all the way up the legs to your pelvic floor and rotators. You cannot activate all of those muscles at the last minute and expect to jump or relevé well.

Remember it takes a “down to go up”. Plié accomplishes this for you. All of this can be demonstrated in jumps when the teacher gives a jump in first position with NO plié. Have you ever had that one? Nothing like information through movement~ not much explanation needed as to how a plié assists you!

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How to get more rotation in plié without “cheating”

My secret weapon in plié is a special small muscle called the “vastus medialis” or commonly called “VMO”. It will definitely help prevent knee injury, improve your pointe work and turnout. Not a bad mix 🙂

In the photo below my fingertips are just above the VMO muscle. I am gently pressing my knees back while in plié. Never try to get more turnout but just moving your feet backward as this can cause a multitude of bad habits and injuries!

using your plié

  1. Sit down on the floor with your legs extended out in front of you. If your knees do not touch the floor, you need these exercises! You may think the culprit could be “short” hamstrings. However, one of my students cannot do this but her hamstrings are very flexible. I believe that she does not strength in her VMO.
  2. Sit up unassisted with legs outstretched in front of you, parallel. Keep your core engaged and straighten one leg.
  3. Feel the back of the knee touch the floor. (If you are hyperextended, you do not need this exercise. Do the next one). Place your hand underneath the knee in order to feel the muscles on the back of the knee touch your hand.
  4. Work up to holding for 30 seconds per leg for a total of 6 per leg.

Variation for hyperextended dancers:

With slight rotation of the working leg, put one hand on the VMO muscle and feel it engage. Hold for 30 seconds. Six sets.

Exercise #2:

    1. Still sitting on the floor with your back against the wall. Engage your core and bend one knee in towards your chest and resting flat on the floor. Extend  the other leg in front of you slightly rotated.  Place your hands on the floor and activate your VMO in the same manner as before.
    2. Add an elongated lift at about degagé height and sit up taller for 8 counts. Gently place the leg down.
    3. Change legs and alternate for a set of 4-8. Be sure to inhale and exhale with effort!
    4. Want more challenge? Add an ankle weight but be sure that you mainly using the VMO and not other quad muscles. No gripping allowed 🙂

The Reward!

Your ability to rotate your legs in plié, fondu will increase because you will be able to stabilize your knee placement. Of course, other muscles must do their job for stability and rotation but this little addition is super helpful!

Start at the barre with your first position plié. Check out how the negative space in your plié is now much larger. Your plié will look deeper and more turned out. Watch the video above or on YouTube where I demonstrate this technique that is great for any plié or fondu on one leg as well.

As a bonus, I also show how to activate your adductors in order to bring your shin bones around to a straight line whilst in parallel. This translates to much better alignment and true rotation when in turned out positions.

using your plié
Legs in parallel showing some tibial torsion and slight bow-legs.
using your plié
Using the adductors (inner thigh muscles) squeeze legs together to create a straight line through the tibia (shin bones).
 Transferring this to relevé and jumps

Finding that strength in your rotation and the “bottom” of your plié will help find the power in your dancing. Just beware not “kill” or “sit” in your plié once you find the depth.

Remember my last post~ plié is an action verb. Say  and dance it as a multi syllable verb: puh–leeeee—aaaaaaaay.

One other useful exercise for landing jumps with stability is “clamshell exercise.” Watch it here on my YouTube channel. Subscribe to get the latest videos~ next video is how to find your pelvic floor and turnout in second position plié~

Want to more workouts at home? Check out my Ballet Floor Barre videos.

ballet floor barre
Guaranteed to improve your ballet performance!
Plié is my best friend.

About Sarah Arnold

Ballet blogger, ballet teacher and adult ballerina. Creator of TutusChic and Sans Souci Printables.

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