How to Tendu: Laban Analysis Technique

By Marianne Salza

Dance instructor, Kristen Young, demonstrates a tendu at the bare. Photo: Marianne Salza

We’ve all done that elementary school project where we guide another classmate in tying their shoes or walking step-by-step. We thought it was silly and insignificant then (But, woo hoo, we weaseled our way out of reading from our social studies text book!); however, these exercises help us organize our inner energy impulses.

We constantly initiate and respond to movement sequences, our surroundings and states of mind without realizing the effort that is involved.  I tried teaching my partner (who had no previous ballet training) how to perform a tendu. It was trickier than I thought. I have become so accustomed to participating in this warm up that I never think about how it is done, so this activity helped me carefully analyze myself. I paused periodically to listen to my internal sensations

  1. Delicately place your fingertips on the barre for extra balance. (Do not grip your hands. It will cause unwanted tension.) Keep your spine in a neutral upright position and your gaze forward.  Imagine your plumb line lifting your head into the sky and planting your feet into the ground.
  2. As you exhale, slowly extend your working arm in preparation initiating from your shoulders. Relax your neck, shoulders, elbows and fingers creating a small curve at your elbows and wrists.  Poise your hands slightly away from the body.
  3. Place your feet in first position by rotating your legs externally from your hips with the balls of your feet turned out and your heels hardly touching. A “v” shape will form. (Be sure not to spread your feet too far apart [only as far as it is comfortable] because that will contract your glutes and hyperextend your back into secondary position.)
  4. Inhale and upon exhalation, begin your tendu by initiating from your heel and engaging with your iliopsoas. Extend your gesturing leg to the front, keeping your leg straight and your toes pointed. Your space effort is direct, your weight light, your time sustained and your flow bound. Picture yourself taking in a ball of energy from the top of your head when breathing in, and it radiating through your torso legs and toes as you breathe out stretching your leg.


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