The Importance of Plié
The plié is one of the first things done in a ballet class and one of the last. It is employed in almost every combination in some form or fashion. We can have a demi plié where the depth of the move is more shallow and the heels stay on the ground or a grand plié where the depth of the movement is deeper and in several positions the heels come off of the floor. It can be used as a way to warm up, strengthen and stretch or it can be used as a powerhouse for the following movement and cushioning for the previous movement. However, the principles of the movement never change.
In the words of David Howard, "you must go up to go down." If you simply think down in a plié you will sink into the position letting all of the body weight settle into the legs which makes it impossible to explode out of the position and non supportive for a cushioning landing. A plié is not a resting point but something that is actively controlled. So, when you execute a plie you need to think of lengthening up through the core and through the top of the head and pulling the knees outwards then think of squeezing the inner thighs together to rise. Never stop the movement or momentum but time it such that you reach the depth of your plié just in time to propel yourself out of it. This can be tricky for those with a more shallow demi plié but possible. Even when a plié is the final movement of an exercise that plié is not a resting point. It is to slow and cushion the movement and steady the body. The resting point would occur after the legs are straightened from the plié and the body stills.
Of course attention must be paid to the proper alignment of the plié. You need to make sure that your spine is kept very straight and not drop the chest forward nor tailbone out. You will find that it is tempting to pop the tailbone out behind you to get a deeper demi plié but do your best to fight against that tendency. You will be better served to hold onto your correct alignment and learn to work with the depth of your demi plié.
So the next time you take class pay special attention to your pliés. Start noticing how you are executing them. Are you sitting at the bottom? Do they feel like a spring of potential energy or a resting point? Also start noticing how they are used throughout the class and how integral they are to dance. Notice how they propel your jumps but also cushion the landings. Pliés can be really useful and can transform your dancing when used correctly. And now when you hear me shout out "Beautiful Plié" you will know exactly why I am so excited!!