Ballet Basics: Battement Tendu
This blog post will be all about the battement tendu, and our technique tips and tricks to mastering this quintessential ballet step. Let's get back to basics!
Battement Tendu: “stretched” or “pulled”
Gradually extending the working leg to the front, side, or back, passing from flat to demi-pointe to point where only the toes are touching the floor.
Battement tendu, or tendu for short, is a fundamental movement of ballet that a dancer will never stop training, no matter if you are just a beginner in your first ballet class or a seasoned principal dancer. Tendu is one of the core movements of all ballet steps – an essential building block leading to glissé or jeté (brush off the floor), grand battement (higher), as well as jumps, beats and even pointe work for women. It cannot be stressed enough how important tendus are in ballet and the importance of mastering this quite seemingly simple movement.
Let’s break down how to do the perfect tendu.
There are 4 main components of tendu:
1. Brush the working leg along the floor from a closed position (usually first or fifth position) and extend the leg and foot to a demi-pointe (instep or the ball of the foot) position.
2. Fully pointe the foot by curling the toes under in an arch, keeping a straight leg.
3. Release the toes back to a demi-pointe foot position.
4. Slide the foot back along the floor and return to the closed position (first or fifth position).
Tendus are usually done from first or fifth position extending out to the front (devant), side (à la seconde) or back (derrière).
Here are (just) a few things to remember when practicing your tendus:
Tendu starts from a closed position (usually first or fifth position).
Remember when standing in first or fifth, not to rock back on the heels or roll over the front of the feet. Arches should be lifted at all times and the toes flat on the floor. You may hear this phrase (a lot) in ballet class: “pull up” or “lift up”. When your teacher says this, you must think about constantly engaging the core muscles to stabilize the back and hips in order to maximize turn out in the legs. To feel this, try inhaling and lifting your shoulders up, then exhale and press the shoulders down, but keeping the body open and energy flowing up and out. Or, imagine a string running vertically through your body and pulling upwards from the top of your head. This feeling of “lifting up” and standing tall should be controlled at all times. Finally, remember to rotate in the hip sockets to turn out from the tops of the legs, not in the ankles.
Push through the ball of the foot along the floor to articulate the feet.
Keep the toes relaxed on the floor and push through the instep of the foot. Do not crunch the toes. It is essential to go through this demi-pointe or half-tendu position before fully stretching the foot in a pointe. Feel the articulation of all the muscles and bones in the feet by pushing the foot against the floor. This action is very important to build up strength in the feet for more advanced steps, and for dancing faster.
Remember your standing or supporting leg.
While you must focus on the working leg (the leg that is performing the tendu), you cannot forget about your standing or supporting leg! Do not sink back or sit in your hips as you move your working leg out to tendu. Remember to keep lifted on the supporting leg, continuing to feel the turn out muscles engaging equal to that of the working leg, and feel the subtle shift of weight onto the supporting leg as your working leg is in a fully stretched tendu. Finally, remember to keep the hips and shoulders still, facing forward as you move to each direction without twisting in the upper body.
Tendu Devant (front)
• Heel leads out first, not the toes. Heel should be presented forward or “on top” in the pointed position.
• Little toes release first to close back to first or fifth position, not the heel to prevent sickling.
Tendu à la seconde (side)
• Push down through the floor over the top of the foot.
• Remember to tendu slightly in front on a diagonal rather than directly side. A tendu directly side or too far to the back will be much harder to turn out fully.
Tendu Derrière (back)
• Little toes lead out to the back with the heel down. The leg and foot should be in a diagonal line down to the floor.
• Remember to lift up even more to close, as dancers may have a tendency to release the hip muscles and stick out the butt when performing a tendu derrière.
Here are some feet exercises you can do to help improve your tendus:
Demi-Pointe / Half-Tendus:
Do tendu–demi-pointe or half-tendu exercises to train the foot to open and close properly whilst building strength in the foot and ankle.
Pointe/Flex with a Theraband:
Using a theraband, practice pointing and flexing the feet, moving through every single bone, joint and muscle. Make sure you use the resistance of the theraband when pointing the feet through demi-pointe to mimic the foot pushing along the floor when doing tendu. Feel this articulation in your ankle and toes!
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