This post was inspired by the class I taught this morning, an Intermediate Ballet class for adults. It was a small class so I could interrupt their plies after the first side to discuss them.
What should we think about during the opening plie combination?
Most of the time, frankly, we're scouting the scene during plies. It's usually the first combination we do, aside from a warm-up, and it's typically the same from class to class. As much as I believe in shaking things up at the barre and inverting and reversing combinations, I like to do at least 1 or 2 things the same all the time so people have a familiar guidepost for the class. In most classes, like mine, that familiar guidepost is plies.
So...we don't think about anything. We might be easing ourselves into class, making the transition from work to post-work, or from sleepiness to wakefulness. We might be planning dinner or the rest of our days. Some of us in larger classes might be looking around for friends, seeing who has a tan after her last vacation, whether that cute guy is there again. Who knows the thoughts that run through our heads?
But I can guarantee you it's not your inner thighs you're thinking about. It's not your rotation and it's not your abdominals or your upper back. And those are the 4 things you need to engage right away. Get started during plies and you'll have them all warmed up and ready to go by the time you hit center, if not sooner.
1. Inner thighs - from the demi-plie, think about closing with the tops of the legs, not the buttocks. Don't clench your large derriere muscles but use the smaller, longer, inner thigh muscles.
2. Rotation - not just the standing leg but both legs need to have their rotators engaged. These are small muscles, the ones that move the thigh bone in the hip joint. Get these warmed up right away when you recover from demi-plie.
3. Abdominals - concentrate on closing the rib cage every time you return from a cambre or a circular port de bras and you will automatically start to lift up the abdominal muscles and center your core.
4. Upper back - when you port de bras forward, be sure to keep the weight over the balls of the feet and not sunk back in your knees and heels. Keep the arm straight out to the side and move as a single unit to engage the back muscles instead of the shoulders.
It's easy to be lazy during plies - we do them all the time and in the same way - but it's also the easiest exercise of the class to start working. Happy dancing!