Ballet Tips for Tendu
Battement Tendu is one of the first steps you learn as a young dancer. In french tendu means to “stretch.” It may seem like a simple step, but its importance is high on the scale of dance technique. Through this movement, dancers become aware of the energy expelled through the feet. The strength developed through this articulation is how dancers take off and land their jumps with cushion.
“In ballet and other dance forms, this stretched action (and the way the body reacts to it) is important preparation for just about everything, including rising to pointe, lifting, throwing, or balancing on a leg.” Gail Grant
Tendu is the gateway step for assemblé, grand jeté and entrechat quatre to name a few. Without the dexterity in the feet and toes, jumps would land hard and movements would be lacking the finished look that pointed feet provide for dancers. Whether it’s ballet, jazz or modern/contemporary- tendu is sure to be a part of the curriculum in those styles.
You may think the working leg (the leg doing the tendu) is the most important, but the standing leg is just as important. Tendu is the introduction to standing on one leg, preparing the body for other steps and positions such as dégagé, passe or arabesque.
5 TIPS FOR TENDU
1. Maintain body alignment and hip rotation to ensure proper turn out. I tell my students to start with your best turn out, being careful not to roll in. If rolling in does occur, decrease the turn out. The direction your feet are pointing from first position is the pathway your battement tendu a la seconde (tendu to 2nd position) should travel on. Your tendu will be slightly in front of you, unless you have perfect 180 degree turn out. At that point, it would be directly side. The hips should remain even on a neutral axis with no leaning to either side.
2. Dancers should strive to spread the toes and push them through the floor to create resistance, articulating the toes into the tendu position as the body slightly shifts over the standing leg. There should be no weight on the tendu, just the very tip touches the floor. Reverse that same resistance to close back in to first position.
3. Weight should be balanced over all three points of the foot, keeping all five toes on the floor. Balance points are on the first and fifth metatarsal and The calcaneus (heel bone).
4. Closing in can cause problems in hip alignment. Often times, dancers will lean over the standing leg and lifting the working hip up. This causes the tendu to lose resistance in the floor and can cause problems when approaching more difficult steps.
5. Elongate the toes when working tendus to fullest stretch. They should never be crunched or have weight on them. Again this relates to support in the working leg to maintain balance. After all, tendu is a one footed balance.
“Plie is the first thing you learn and the last thing you master.” -Suzanna Farrell
As beginners, plie and tendu are two of the first moves we learn in ballet class. Many times, we forget the importance of that and take those first few exercises at the barre for granted. Not only do they warm up our bodies, but they are the base upon so many dance movements are built. The tips I’ve provided are just a glimpse into improving your tendu. Hope this gets you started, and on your way to improvement.