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Tendu - always a work in progress


Anjuli_Bai
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As requested......

 

TENDU

 

Tendu is an extremely important part of the ballet technique. Balanchine considered it the most important exercise at the barre - and I agree with that. Most everything extends from it. You can use it for turnout, strength, line, and extension. It should never be underestimated. The student must be – pulling up (not sitting in the hips), maintaining the turnout, and feeling the movement clearly down the entire length of the leg into the foot and the toes.

 

Before beginning the student must be correctly aligned all through the body; lengthened through the spine, arms correctly held, hips square, knees over toes (turnout never forced) and weight on the three major parts of the feet, weight never back on the heel.

 

Tendu begins as you press out and feel your heel begin to lift, then feel your foot articulate through all its parts: first the heel, then the ball of the foot and finally to a fully pointed toe. This will teach you to divide your foot into parts, it will increase the use of the flexibility of the foot at the same time strengthening that flexibility. Without putting any weight on the foot press through the floor like an isometric exercise – never just plop it out there.

 

As you extend to the front “present” your heel to the audience. As you extend to the side – tuck your heel up under the foot – and as you extend to the back, tuck the heel down behind the foot. If you are standing sideways from the mirror, you should not see the heel in the mirror in any of these positions. And, of course, remember that the turnout that is visible in the foot – begins in the hips. At no time does the toe leave the floor. Popping the toe at the extent of the tendu is a common error. Likewise, flexing the toe upwards as you go either out or in is another common error.

 

Then as you come back to your original position, reverse the process, each part of the foot coming back into contact with the floor once again. When you have fully returned to your beginning position – whether it be first, second, or fifth position, be sure the toe comes fully back, and once in the position the weight is now fully on both feet. Don’t make the mistake of ending up with more weight on one foot than another. Each time the foot returns to its “home” position, the weight must be placed upon it.

 

Not to be forgotten is the standing leg, which does as much of the work at the reaching leg. As the weight shifts from two feet to one, great care must be taken that the student does not sink into the standing hip. This is something that the student has to constantly learn to check – I am not sure this is ever inherent. And one side is usually more at risk than another since, each of us usually favors one side more than the other. It can be seen when we stand for any great length of time, in an informal setting, the weight will shift to favor one side. Be aware of this.

 

The four most common faults that I see in tendu are:

 

1. toe popping

 

2. flexing the toes either going out or coming in

 

3. not fully bringing the toes back into the original position

 

4. the foot is not turned out to its full extent from the very beginning of the tendu

 

The first tells me that the student is allowing energy to "escape." It is keeping contact with the floor that is difficult, letting the toe pop is easy. The flow of energy has to be controlled.

 

The second tells me that the student has not correctly articulated the foot. The foot cannot have articulated at the ball - if the toes are flexed.

 

The third tells me that the student has not maintained whatever turnout the tendu started with - the hip has been allowed to loosen and rotate inward.

 

The fourth tells me that the student has not used what turnout is available.

 

And those four things, controlling the flow of energy, correct articulation, and control and maintenance of turnout - are intrinsic (basic) to just about every aspect of the rest of the ballet technique that I can think of. So if the tendu is done correctly - if the student understands the concepts, it is more likely to be used and worked on for the rest of the ballet class.

 

The same idea of fully articulating your foot, pressing into the floor for strength, that you do for tendu is also what you do for degagé (battement glissé), frappé, and grand battement - in fact every time the foot is used.

 

And then in the center it is used for just about all the petit allegro pas such as glissades, petit jetés, assemblés, etc.

Edited by Anjuli_Bai
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  • 3 weeks later...

I like how you call the dancer's legs the "standing" leg and the "reaching" leg as opposed to the "working" leg as I have so often heard. I have often felt this gives the wrong impression that you are only working the moving one or vice versa. Thanks for this :)

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I like how you call the dancer's legs the "standing" leg and the "reaching" leg as opposed to the "working" leg as I have so often heard. I have often felt this gives the wrong impression that you are only working the moving one or vice versa. Thanks for this :)

 

my ballet teachers here in Toronto (and I'm sure they're not alone) use the terms "standing" and "gesture" leg for the same reason. They are definitely both working!

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Excellent explanation.  I would also emphasise that as Anjuli says, the foot presses into the floor like an isometric exercise.  This is how you work the foot, against the floor, not against the sole of the shoe, which can lead to curling the foot.  For this reason working in socks or split soles is just as effective, I am still to be convinced that there is any value in full soles or soft blocks.

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Soft blocks combined with exercises have strengthened my dd's feet no end; I can't believe the difference in them within a year. I think they are particularly beneficial for centre work, as dd says that balancing in them feels much more like wearing pointe shoes. She says it's harder to balance and jump in them but she feels as if they work her feet more in the centre. I agree that it's probably more beneficial to do tendus in split soles though, to really feel the floor.

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My DD says just the same, spannerandpony. She was surprised that almost all of the girls at summer school wore split soles, even those also doing RAD vocational exams, as she agrees that wearing soft pointes or deshanked pointe shoes makes it much harder to work her feet, balance, turn and jump. In fact, she is not allowed to wear split soles at all and even her friends with 'straighter' feet are discouraged from wearing them (even though the RAD now allow soft split soles for IF and split sole soft pointes/pointes -yikes! - for intermediate and above) so that they really work their feet as much as possible.

 

That said, we will buy canvas split soles if she goes to a summer school again, so that she doesn't feel compromised! - and if she goes to an audition.

 

As a footnote, are split sole soft pointes and pointes easily available? Not that I think split sole (or the half sole Bloch pointe shoe, which DD once tried on briefly in wonder and horror!) pointes will ever be an option given how fast she destroys even hard full shanks, but perhaps split sole soft pointes may be worth trying for her next vocational exam - if she can persuade her teachers...!

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Before I joined this forum, I had never heard of soft blocks. I remember inquiring on a thread...

Since then, I have been checking in every dance shop I go to in different cities and some of them really specialised ones and I have never seen them sold once. Like for full soles or split soles, very cultural...

Edited by afab
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Perhaps that's why the RAD has just changed its rules to allow split soles in vocational exams, afab? I'm sure there are huge cultural differences as you say and as a worldwide examining board they may have felt there was little choice.

 

Do students in France wear deshanked old pointe shoes as soft shoes once dead? That may be why the RAD now allows soft shoes to be worn for intermediate foundation, ie students do little pointe work for that exam so may not have had dead/outgrown pointe shoes to deshank and wear as soft pointes? Pure speculation on my part of course!

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Do students in France wear deshanked old pointe shoes as soft shoes once dead? 

Nope... Never heard of it either... I might have missed it but I doubt it as our 3 DDs has been in and out of different vocational schools for the last 6 years...

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That's very surprising, it really must be a cultural thing. Since starting Intermediate, all dd's dead pointe shoes have been "converted" (ripped apart!) to make soft blocks. Saves a fortune as soft blocks can be around £30 per pair.

 

Mind you, I will buy her a new pair of soft blocks next month, so that they can be just softened enough for her Intermediate exam whilst still nice and clean!

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