The plié is one of the basic ballet movements learned in elementary-level classes. There are two versions of the plie: the demi-plie and the grand-plie. You can execute both variants starting from any of the five basic positions. In just a few minutes, you can learn the technique necessary to perform a plie. However, mastering this move can take years of practice.
Method 1 of 2: Do a demi-plie
Step 1. Learn the different ballet positions
In ballet, there are five basic foot positions, and you can perform a demi-plie from any of them. This means that to properly demi-plie each position, you will need to be comfortable with the basic positions.
- In all positions, the legs should be rotated 90 degrees outward from the hip joint; as a result, the heels and toes will be perpendicular to the direction of the body, rather than parallel.
- Don't expect to get a perfect rotation right away. It often takes dancers years of practice to get a good rotation.
- A basic position is not only defined by a certain placement of the feet, but also by the corresponding placement of the arms, or "port de bras."
- You can read more information about basic ballet positions in the article How to perform the five ballet positions.
Step 2. Start in first position
Although a demi-plie can be done in any of the five positions, start at first if you are learning. To place the first position, you must bring the heels together, so that they touch or are very close to each other, and rotate the legs out, forming an angle of 180 degrees or as wide as possible.
- You should also make sure to keep your legs straight and your back straight.
- The rotation must come mainly from the hip joint and the legs. Don't force your knees or ankles to get a bigger foot opening than you actually have. You want to keep your knees in line with your feet, rather than opening your feet wider than your knees. Initially, your feet in first position will create a V-shaped angle, rather than a 180 degree angle (a straight line). You will gain rotation with practice.
Step 3. Bend your knees
The demi-plié is a bending of the knees. Therefore, to execute it you will have to lower the level of the body by bending the knees. The torso should remain in the same position (shoulders down, head up, buttocks in) throughout the movement.
One of the most frequent problems among beginners during the performance of the plie is that, when lowering, they tend to stick their butt out, as if they were bending over. Don't stick out your butt or readjust your hips. Just lower yourself by bending your legs and keeping your torso upright and in line with your pelvis
Step 4. Leave your heels planted on the floor
To do a demi-plie, regardless of the starting position, you should keep your heels firmly planted on the floor. Don't bend your knees so much that you are forced to lift your heels off the floor.
Instead of bending your knees deeply (which would turn the movement into a grand-plie), do it only until they are aligned on your toes
Step 5. Go back up slowly and gracefully
Although professional dancers perform pliés quickly and use them to propel themselves before a jump or pirouette, beginners should practice the movement slowly and fluently to perfect their technique. Instead of just straightening your knees, you should push the floor with your legs and feet to return to the starting position.
- By concentrating on using your legs and feet, you will avoid overloading your knees and will achieve a much more fluid movement.
- Don't forget to keep your shoulders down, your head up, and your glutes inward as you stretch your legs up. When climbing after the demi-plie, the torso should appear to rise vertically, as it remains upright throughout the movement.
Step 6. Go back to the first position
To finish the demi-plie, continue to lift yourself up until your thighs and knees come back together. You must return to the first position to finish exactly as you started.
Step 7. Practice demi-plies starting from other positions
Once you feel comfortable performing a demi-plie in first position, you can try to perform it starting from the other four ballet positions. It will be more difficult, especially in fifth position, so be patient and practice slowly.
Method 2 of 2: Make a grand plie
Step 1. Learn the difference between a demi-plie and a grand-plie
Both the demi-plié and the grand-plié consist of bending the knees, and both variants can be performed starting from any of the five positions. The main difference between these two movements is in the depth of the push-up and the effect this has on the placement of the heels.
Step 2. Get in first position
In this section we will also use the first position as a starting point, since it is the simplest and most common in elementary practice for beginners.
Step 3. Bend your knees
Like the demi-plie, the grand-plie requires bending the knees. However, the grand-plié does not end at the point where the knees are on the toes.
Step 4. Lift your heels off the floor
Since the knee bend is deeper in the grand-plie, you will need to lift your heels off the floor. Even though the weight is shifted fully to the front of your feet, you must keep your torso perfectly upright and vertical, which means that you should feel your center of gravity in the same way as if you were standing with your legs straight.
The exception to this rule appears when executing a grand-plie in second position or open fourth position. A second wide allows the dancer to go down to grand-plié while keeping the heels in contact with the floor
Step 5. Continue bending your knees until your thighs are nearly horizontal
Once your heels are off the floor, it should be easier to continue your descent to the grand-plie position. Keep going as low as you can, until your thighs are nearly horizontal and your knees are fully bent.
As in the demi-plie, in a grand-plie the torso must remain aligned and vertical throughout the movement, with the shoulders down, the back straight, the head up, the tailbone down and the stomach supported
Step 6. Go up to return to the first position
Just like to complete the demi-plié, you will have to return to the starting position (in this case, the first position). When you go up, as before, you will have to use your feet and legs rather than letting all the work fall on your knees.
Push your heels down to re-plant them on the floor during the climb
Step 7. Do all the bending movements gracefully
In ballet, all movements must be performed fluently and gracefully, without abruptness. This quality of movement takes a lot of practice.
Step 8. Practice the grand-plies in other positions
Once you feel comfortable doing a grand-plie in first, you should start practicing it in other positions as well.
- To perform a plie of any kind, always keep the original position and the body well aligned, with the weight distributed between both feet. You must raise your body at the same speed as you have lowered to the plie position. Don't forget to keep your legs rotated outward from the hips, with your knees open and in line with your toes.
- Use a ballet barre to learn the different positions and basic movements.
- Don't stick your butt out or lean your torso forward.
- Keep your shoulders low and your back straight. In addition, you should make sure to distribute the weight evenly between both feet in all positions so as not to lose balance or position during the plie.
- Although the preparatory position for teaching the fourth and fifth is considered, the third is typically only used in entry-level ballet classes.
- Rotate your legs from the hip joint. Don't force your knees or ankles into an awkward opening, as you will end up injuring yourself if you do. Start with an opening that is comfortable for you, whatever it is. Rotating each foot out 90 degrees takes a lot of time and practice.
- Do not practice excessively. If you push yourself too hard while practicing ballet, you could injure your muscles, tendons, or joints.