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ripresa

The purpose of Grande Plies

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ripresa

:wub: Can someone tell me what Grande Plies are suppose to teach us? I know a lot of barre exercises have a purpose.

 

I've always avoided grande plies in fourth position, but I think I'm going to start avoiding the fifth and first as well. And just do them in second.

 

I notice we rarely do we do them in centerwork, maybe a handful of times in my years of classes. I understand the importance a good demi-plie in jumps and center work. But how about a grande plie?

 

If they are important, is there another way to get that benefit with another exercise?

 

I'm wondering because I've been having cranky knees, and grande plies tend to be the 1st or 2nd exercise we do at the barre.. and I'm definitely not warmed up enough for it. (Yes, warm up 20 mins before class, but time is a luxury to most grown-ups I know.) I'm not sure why grande plie exercises aren't saved for later in the barre.

 

Thanks in advance.

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Mel Johnson

When left to my own devices, I haven't given grand pliés in fourth in about twelve years. I just don't see what good they do. Demi-pliés in fourth are really all right, and I continue to give grand plié in second, first and fifth, but I don't teach any adult classes. I do a lot with port de bras as the first exercise at the barre, but not so much the pliés, which I put into stretches and barre adage later on to make up for the initial shortage. Demi-pliés, now THOSE are REALLY important!

 

Pliés are there to start slowly moving the leg through a range of motion which will warm up the soft structures, like the muscles and tendons, so that further exercise can proceed after them. It certainly beats some of the Old School classes which used to start with grands battements! The way the barre proceeds, the Achilles' tendon and the other muscles around the feet and ankles are made pliant with the plié, then the tendus start an alternating series of tensions and flexions, and the whole barre, if you like, can be seen as a warmup that starts from the floor and works its way up the legs into the body until by the time you're done with ronds de jambe à terre, you should be ready to start extending the legs into the air. Everything in ballet works to encourage the turnout of the feet through the rotation of the femur in the hipsocket, and it all starts from the very beginning of the barre!

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rshevin

For the 4 years +2 I took ballet in college (4 years of college and 2 more living in the same city and continuing classes there), my teachers never gave grande plie in 4th. I had at least 3, probalby 4 ballet teachers in that time plus my jazz teacher (warmups included jazz and ballet positions). 4th grande was always skipped, typically replaced with more demi or port de bras to fill the phrase. I don't know if these teachers somehow all had similar backgrounds, but given their styles, I find it unlikely. It wasn't until I moved to VA that all of a sudden grande in 4th was expected. I hate them! I can feel nice inner thigh stretches and placement improvement in the other positions, but 4th there is just too much to adjust, too many akward places, and too much torque on the knees for me to feel any stretch at all.

 

I stopped ballet lessons around age 12 or 13 so I don't remember how I was trained at that school.

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Victoria Leigh

You know, I often question the real reason or value in grand plié, especially when weighed against the possible disadvantages when executed by people without enough rotation to do them properly. I know that they can help to stretch and warm up certain muscles, but you know, I really think that there is life in ballet without them, always with the exception of second position, which really does help and has much less potential for damage. They are such an ingrained tradition that it is very hard to try and let them go, except for fourth, which is very easy to let go, and should be, IMO, banned! While I don't do first or fifth grands until later in the barre, I really think that we could dispense with those too and never suffer any loss. :wub:

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ripresa

Thanks for all the feedback!

 

I think it makes me feel better about not doing the grande plies (except for 2nd).

In my school, only the intermediate/advanced teachers do grande fourth plies, but they do them pretty regularly as the first or second exercise at the barre. I think I'm going to use those beats of music to really feel my demi-plie instead. I guess it's part of the curiculum there.

 

On another note, my broadway class has a performance piece which is a parallel feet grande plie... still hard, but not as painful.

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Mazenderan

I really like grande plies in second and find them easy - but I *hate* grande plies in fourth position. They're such a wobbly affair and just don't feel right. We do them every class, third exercise in at the barre.

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Garyecht

In her book Ballet: Beyond the Basics, Sandra Noll Hammond says that long long ago dancers did only demi plies. She then goes on to speculate that “Probably grands plies entered the curriculum in response to choreographic use (such as in the nineteenth century Bournonville ballets, which occasionally feature assemble finishing in a deep grand plie.”

 

Personally, I don’t see a connection between grand plies and other balletic movements and think of them more as a warm up and part of class tradition than anything else. In the classes I’ve taken only one teacher has refrained from including grand plies from fourth. They are certainly standard in the classes I’ve taken.

 

As an old duffer, my knees aren’t the greatest, but I have no problem doing grand plies from fourth. For me anyway, I do think they make a reasonable warm up for my knees. Any time you restrict the complete range of motion in a joint, you weaken the joint, so from strictly an exercise point of view grand plies are a good thing to do. Doing them from fourth, however, does place more stress on the knee.

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Victoria Leigh

And because the grand plié in fourth places more stress on the knees, and because they really have no logical purpose in choreography, and because a large percentage of the population does not have the rotation needed to do them correctly and without harm, then why do them? Even those with very good rotation are putting unnecessary strain on a joint that is very vulnerable. Personally, in spite of my great respect for tradition, this is one tradition that I feel seriously needs to be eliminated from the vocabulary of ballet.

 

Demi plié in fourth is, of course, a very necessary part of training, as it is used for many things in choreography.

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Dance_Scholar_London

RAD Adv1 syllabus starts with two grand plies in each position (no demi plies) :wink: I always found this very irritating (literally) at the beginning of the class (first exercise!) :shrug: I hope they will change it when revising the syllabus.

 

Having said that, I took classes last year where we did pirouettes from 5th grand plie :wacko::wub: Choreographically, it certainly offers new perspectives, especially in neo-classical work.

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Hamorah

Just to note - you are supposed to warm-up before starting the barre in Adv.1. At that level you don't go straight into doing plies cold turkey and certainly for the exam you are supposed to be thoroughly warmed up, because the barre is not marked and only a selection of exercises are seen.

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Dance_Scholar_London

I agree on the warm up!

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Pirou

I take from a teacher in whose class the grand plié in 4th still exists. I'm like Gary in that I don't feel any discomfort doing grand pliés in 4th. I have one of those turnouts which is like a normal person when my legs are straight, but which easily increases to 180 or more once my legs are bent and my hip joints are released from their locked-in position (which doesn't really count, I know, if you can't also achieve it standing pulled up with straight legs). Is it possible that this particular joint structure makes it so that my knees aren't endangered by the low 4th plié? In other words, should I still be worried or might it be okay for me?

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Hollywood Ballet

This topic recurs frequently on the boards and rightfully so, because first, it is a health and safety issue, second, it is questioning hundreds of years of "tradition," and re-examining practices based on the biomechanical knowledge of yesteryear (which was essentially nil).

 

In the old days, the saying was "no pain, no gain." As a former high school football player and wrestler brought up in the old school, I'm quite familiar with this attitude- no water during practices, running in a hot room in a rubber suit to make weight, "playing through pain," etc. I think that these practices have been largely re-examined, and often discarded in many sports, over the last couple of decades. Yet dance still clings to some practices founded in fancy and in fact, things like grand plies in 4th are set in syllabi in stone, despite the lack of any proven benefit to their use, and the multitude of complaints of knee pain.

 

Someone argued with me on another website a while back that grand plies in 1st, 4th, and 5th help stretch the Achilles. Nonsense! Once the heels release, at the bottom of the demi, the Achilles starts shortening. This to me was an example of dogma replacing direct observation, and rational thinking.

 

When I first eliminated grand plies in 4th, I got no complaints from the kids. Then when I first decided to put grand plies in 1st and 5th later in the barre, sometimes we actually never got back to them, although I had intended to. Again, no complaints, and I noticed no difference in the performance level of the students later in class.

 

My favorite plie combination is: demi-demi-grand in 2nd. Repeat. Then, proceeding 1st-4th-5th, I do demi-demi-releve twice in each position. The releves are slow, taking the same amount of time as a grand. Students hate them at first, but then learn to breathe by doing them! I make them use all the music, stretching to the top of their demipointe in the slow releves, and have found that the height of their demi-pointe increases over time.

 

I believe that deep, fully breathed demi-plies accomplish much more than grand plies. I am unsure at this point if the supposed benefits of doing grands even in 1st and 5th are real, or if these benefits, if real, outweigh the trauma, particularly in the less-than-perfectly aligned. I'm not discontinuing grand plies in 1st and 5th yet, but will not do them early in the barre. I don't consider them a good warm-up exercise, but an exercise to be done when the legs are already warmed up, in particular when the blood flow to the leg muscles and soft tissues of the knee and ankle joint has been adequately increased through lower risk exercises.

 

As a teacher I don't feel comfortable assuming that students have 15 or 20 minutes before class to warm themselves up, or that they can adequately self-assess their own readiness to start ballet class with grand plies. I think that to do so would be abrogating my responsibility for their physical safety.

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Victoria Leigh
I take from a teacher in whose class the grand plié in 4th still exists. I'm like Gary in that I don't feel any discomfort doing grand pliés in 4th. I have one of those turnouts which is like a normal person when my legs are straight, but which easily increases to 180 or more once my legs are bent and my hip joints are released from their locked-in position (which doesn't really count, I know, if you can't also achieve it standing pulled up with straight legs). Is it possible that this particular joint structure makes it so that my knees aren't endangered by the low 4th plié? In other words, should I still be worried or might it be okay for me?

 

Pirou, I feel that it is still dangerous, because of the fact that you are fully rotated at the bottom of the plié, but then cannot maintain that much rotation when straightening, there is most likely a moment when knees and feet roll in as you finish the plié.

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citibob
Just to note - you are supposed to warm-up before starting the barre in Adv.1

I would love to warm up before starting barre (more than just a few mild stretches and a bit of footwork), just as soon as I find a studio with enough extra space to warm up before barre. I don't think such a beast exists in New York, but maybe elsewhere.

 

I'm able to get a good groin stretch in grand plie. I focus on moving my knees sideways, and then un-sideways, while keeping my hips forward and my spine elongated.

 

I had one teacher who had us do extra-slow demi plies, completing one demi plie in the time it normally takes to do a grand plie. I felt this was very very good. I will often modify demi-demi-grand exercises to be slowdemi-grand instead.

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