Plié (French – “bending” or “bent”; pronounced “plee-ay”) is one of the foundational movements in ballet technique.
A great majority of ballet steps begin and/or end with a plié, which means that a dancer bends at the knees. Ballet classes most often begin with a plié combination to warm up the legs and stretch out the leg muscles, and jumps end in plié rather than straight legs to prevent strain on the legs, protect the knees, and maintain balance when landing.
Plié can be done in multiple different positions and on one or both legs.
In a demi plié, the dancer bends the knees to the lowest point they can without lifting the heels or shifting the hips. Once the dancer hits this point, they then straighten the knees again.
Demi Plié in First Position:
Demi Plié in Second Position:
Demi Plié in Third Position:
Demi Plié in Fourth Position Ouverte and Croisé:
Demi Plié in Fifth Position:
A grand plié is similar to a demi plié, except that the knees bend even further and the hips come closer to the ground than in a demi. In the first, third, fourth croisé, and fifth positions, the heels come off of the ground once the dancer reaches the maximum bend in their demi plié and then continues the movement downward into a full grand plié. Once the dancer has reached the bottom of the grand plié and begins to rise back up to a standing position, the heels are placed back on the ground as soon as possible so that the dancer passes through a demi plié once more before straightening the legs completely. In second position and fourth ouverte, the heels remain on the ground for the entire grand plié.
Grand Plié in First and Second Position:
Explanation and Example:
Begin in first position with straight legs. Bend the legs slowly, with the knees going out over the toes and leaving the heels on the ground. Slowly straighten the legs again. This is an example of a demi (half) plié. A grand (full) plié is done exactly the same, except the dancer bends the knees even further and comes closer to the ground, allowing the heels to come up off of the ground at the lowest point (except for second position and fourth position croisé, in which the heels always remain on the ground for both demi and grand plié).
Tips for performing a technically correct and safe plié:
– Be cautious not to roll in towards the inside of the foot/arch or to roll out towards the back of the foot/arch. Rolling to one side of the foot or the other can put a strain on the foot muscles, as well as cause knee pain and/or injury. The foot should always be as flat as on the floor as possible when standing and while in plié.
– Make sure to always keep the knees over the toes to protect the knees and prevent injury. When done correctly, there should be an invisible line from the middle of the foot (second/third toe) straight up to the center of the kneecap.
– When performing plié (especially grand plié), be careful not to “sit” in your plié. This means that you have allowed yourself to relax too much into the movement rather than continuing to engage the leg muscles.
– Keep the back up and make sure that the head, hips, and heels remain in the same invisible straight line up and down. An effective way to visualize the correct positioning for a plié is to imagine two walls, both in front and back of you, which do not allow you to lean either forward or backward. The dancer should move up and down this line seamlessly as if on an elevator.
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