Don’t be misled by the apparent gentility of ballet. It is an athletic activity, and, like other sports, it provides a challenging means of exercise. Ballet is famous for using movements that display the natural contours and lines of the body; the movements can appear graceful, but they require tremendous muscle development and control. A ballet dancer keeps the body’s visual line continuous from the tip of the head to the pointed foot. Stamina and control are essential ingredients of the discipline.
Pronounced “plee-YAY”, the plie is likely the most commonly known exercise performed in ballet. It is performed by bending the knees, and the knees bend over the toes while the dancer’s heels remain on the floor. The demi-plie is a simpler version performed by slightly bending the knees such that they do not pass the toes. For a more advanced challenge, the grand-plie requires full bending of the knees, and the heels lift off the floor. While performing any plie, your torso must remain erect, tailbone tucked downward, chest lifted and arms extended and held up at shoulder height.
Tendu (“tahn-DU”) is a movement performed with the foot and leg extending strong and straight from the hip joint The working leg extends with a pointed, turned-out foot, and the toes are in contact with the floor during the extension. The supporting or standing leg is engaged strong, and the quadriceps and gluteal muscles are contracted. Tendu can be performed forward, horizontally or to the rear. In all directions, the torso should be lifted, the trunk or core of the body held firm and arms gracefully held at shoulder height or overhead.
Pronounced “rel-a-VAY,” this is one of the best exercises for strengthening the muscles in the feet in addition to the legs. The dancer pulls up, raises or lifts to demi-pointe, which is on the metatarsal (the ball of the foot). It is more challenging to begin and end the exercise in a plie position. A releve can be performed on two feet or on one foot in first, second, fourth or fifth ballet positions. If you are not familiar with the ballet foot positions, you can perform a releve with your feet at shoulder distance apart or a wider releve with your feet about 3 feet apart. Arms should be held outstretched overhead.
About this Author
Sala Saran is a bi-athlete and certified personal fitness trainer who is passionate about the life-transformative power of sports and fitness. Teaching a holistic perspective of the fitness lifestyle that is rooted in personal development, Saran shares her expertise in articles, columns and seminars to lead others to a discovery of their own power to transform their life experience.