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Ballet Talk for Dancers

How to Get Back the Plie


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Hello All,

I've read somewhere that Suzanne Farrell said that in ballet, the plie is the first thing you learn and the last thing you master. I see her point. I now understand that I do not have nicely linked echappes en pointe because of a brittle, short plie in both legs... I usually do a double bounce and can't do fast pique turns en pointe because I don't have nice "gooey" plie on one leg. I have good plies at the beginning of barre in pointe class but in the center when I have those darn blocky shoes on it takes extra effort to bend my knees properly to move to the next position!!!! (even for like pique soutenou turns...) but I have no problem bending in soft shoes. Is this some type of psychological thing or what?

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It may be that you have a short achilles tendon and again it may be psychological! For pique turns if they're afraid to take that pose on pointe or demi-pointe into the turn, students often do a double bend on the supporting leg to try and get more push off - of course it doesn't help! If you can will yourself into retaining the fondu (plie on one leg) a fraction longer and really pushing against the floor with that supporting leg, you might find it easier to step up onto pointe and turn.

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I have (now) quite short achilles tendons so my plie is VERY shallow. I can't get a juicy plie even in flat shoes, let alone in pointe shoes. That said, because the technique is there, I don't do damage to my knees or ankles. Rolling through and using what you HAVE helps immensely. I managed to reduce the bounce on one side (my metal ankle side) simply by solidifying my core and piriformis muscles when I plie. Surprisingly, the other side appears trickier in terms of reducing that bounce using the same muscles. I think it's mainly fear, really for that side, really, because there's an old, old ankle injury (from my original dancing days) that won't ever really go away.


I've also learned to take the time to find the center and use that plie and muscles, instead of really trying to keep to fast music. All my teachers understand and are happy to let me take that time as long as I make the effort to keep up within the limitations.


At our age, the achilles may not really ever get any better, so we have to learn to work with what we have, sensibly.

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Guest Pas de Quoi

Hi Gerlonda: It sounds to me that you may have an issue not with pliés themselves, but with maintaining your turnout and muscle engagement while wearing "those darn blocky shoes" (I love your choice of words!). Because it is harder to feel the floor and maintain balance in shoes that have a shank, one's turnout is challenged beyond what one would experience in flat shoes. I suggest you try a simple experiment - Do a plié in your ballet slippers and really assess how you are perceiving that action from start to finish. How do your hips, thighs, lower legs, ankles and finally feet feel during the whole movement? Look in the mirror to see if legs lose turnout, if feet roll even slightly at any point in the plié. Then try the same thing in your pointe shoes. Because the shank raises the shoe ever so slightly, one tends to wobble and perhaps tense the muscles in the ankle area if good control cannot be maintained. If you cannot feel secure in your plié, you will not be able to "attack" steps such as piqué, and be able to control the preparatory pliés between echappés (hence the feeling that they are brittle). You can do the same experiment with fondu as well. I wish you good luck. Dancing on pointe can be really fun!

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When considering the demi-plié, everybody knows about the due attention to be paid the achilles' tendon, but the relaxation or release of tension over the dorsal side of the foot and the front of the ankle is not often brought up. If you don't release the front of the structure, then the back won't have anywhere to go!

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I know what part you're talking about, Mr. Mel. I just tried it and do realize that I do tense up in that area!! I'll try to focus on relaxing it (along with everything else!). Thanks!

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Well after some analyzing, I don't believe I have a short Achilles Tendon. I can do a pretty deep demi-plie in first position before my heels lift off the floor. It must come down to the fear factor (fear that I don't necessarily feel !). My pique turns are fine in flat shoes so it must be something going on inside my head. My pique turns on pointe can almost look decent if I practice alot before hand. Once again this confirms that if I had pointe everyday my feet may feel more comfortable in pointe shoes... my body may adjust better to the needed change of weight/balance. Whoa is me :D

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Try practising the pose coupe at the barre by forcing yourself to leave go of the barre until you've stepped up on to the pointe. Once you see that you can do that safely, it might give you more confidence in the centre.........

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Placing the weight of the body too far forward, not standing with the weight correctly distributed through out the whole foot can restict the demi plie. The upper, middle and lower back must connect into the legs down to the heels in order to have a useful deep demi plie.

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Well, I tried the plies while relaxing the dorsal and front and now have a bit of pain on the outside of the ankle. So I think I shall go back to proper stance and a shallower plie, as I hadn't been injured doing it that way. *sigh*

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