What is the first thing that’s learned in ballet but the last thing that’s mastered?

From Ballet to the People

We start with plié at the barre not just because it underpins all movement in ballet, but because it happens to be one of the most efficient ways to warm up the entire body. It is not a movement isolated to the legs – even without any accompanying arm movement, it requires engagement of the hips, back and core muscles.

To plié correctly, the bending and stretching of the knees have to be continuous and smooth, both in demi-plié (half knee bend) and grand plié(full knee bend). Think of an elevator which never stops: the moment it gets to the bottom it starts its ascent, and the moment it reaches the top floor it starts to drop again (to the terror of the passengers trapped within.) Should you pause in the middle of executing a plié, the muscles around the ankles, knees and hips have to grip in order to hold the position, which is inherently unstable because all these joints are flexed. So you are not truly warming up the muscles but stressing them inappropriately at the beginning of class.

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