Plié (plee-AY) literally means "bent." When a dancer bends his or her knees, they open outwardly, with the legs turned out from the hips. The plié is designed to make the dancer's joints, muscles and tendons flexible and pliable. It also helps to develop balance. In fact, the first exercise in most ballet classes involves the plié. Dancers do the plié at the barre and in the center of the floor. The move may be done in all five of the basic foot positions.
There are two main types of plié. In the grand plié, the knees bend fully, so that the thighs are horizontal. The dancer bends slowly and smoothly, coordinating movement with the arm that's not holding the barre. When the knees are at least halfway bent, the dancer's heels rise from the floor. As the dancer rises and the knees straighten, the heels go back down. The rise should take as long as the bend.
In the demi-plié, or half-bend, the heels stay flat on the floor. All jumps begin and end with a plié.
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