I chose this as the first word because it is typically the first move done in a ballet class. It's meaning is bent or bending. It is a knee bend that can be done in any position, turned out or parallel. Demi-plie means "half-bend". In all positions aside from second you will typically take the deepest knee bend possible while still keeping your heels on the ground. How deep your demi-plie is will depend greatly on the flexibility of your achilles tendon. To execute a grande plie (grande meaning big) you start by doing your demi-plie and when you reach the deepest point you will continue your decent downward letting the heels release off the ground. From my reading, sources are saying that the thighs should be close to horizontal at the bottom of the grand-plie. I had honestly never thought too much about this. You want to make sure that your legs and pelvis are staying very active in all parts of the plie so that you do not end up "sitting in the bottom of your grand-plie". It is a common fault to get to the bottom and relax. All turned out plies should start with the inner thighs separating, the knees bending and the muscles in the lower pelvis resisting this by staying active and lifted. The torso should maintain it's length and should only lower as a result of the knees bending. When you straighten the legs from any plie you want to think about the legs continuing to turn out, not by pushing your heels forward, but by feeling the energy of all the muscles in the legs (calves and inner thighs) spiraling outward. You also want to feel you are pushing the floor away so that your are reaching into the ground in opposition to having a very active and lifted pelvis. I may not write so much about all the terms but as this is something that we do everyday as dancers it gets a great deal of thought. What do you think about when you plie?
Term of the week
For people who are complete beginners to ballet, it can all be a little overwhelming. You are asking your body to do things that are completely foreign and you're asking your brain to work in a completely different way. On top of that your instructor is spitting out terms you have never heard before. Even for people who have been dancing a long time and hear the terminology every day from your teacher, you may never learn what all the different terms mean. Most ballet terms are derived from the French language. I am going to post a ballet term each week with it's meaning and a little bit about it. I am no ballet god so I am hoping that if any of my ballet nerd friends have anything to add, or disagree with anything I say, that they chime in and leave a comment. To be honest, with teaching ballet twice a week and only taking it about once a week I feel the vocab slowly slipping away from me. Not only is the purpose of this to educate others, it is meant to help me to keep up with what I feel is important to know. I am using Gail Grant's Technical Manual and Dictionary of Classical Ballet as a source for the direct translations and or definitions.
JENNIFER D. YACKEL