The Way of the Tendu

23 March 2019

How to Execute Tendu Correctly

Tendu comes from the French word Etendre which means “to Stretch”.

So, Tendu means “Stretch”. The full complete term we use in ballet class is “Battement Tendu” which means a Stretched Beat but for short, we’ll just call it “Tendu”.

So, in the execution of a Tendu, your legs will start from 1st or 5th position, open (stretch away) to the front, side or back and then close back to either 1st or 5th position. The toes remain in contact with the floor throughout the whole movement. The opening and closing movement of the leg is called “Battement”.

Tendu tracks the path to the front, to the side and to the back. It is very important that from the very start of learning this step, proper execution is observed. Tendu paves and directs the way & path the legs move so that you will learn how to travel to the front, side and back with the legs correctly placed (turned out). This becomes extremely important when you execute pique to arabesque and balance, grand jete, pique (or pose) turns, penche, entrelace, fouette saute, grand fouette entournant, just to name a few.

If you open your leg and not close it, that is called Degage (to disengage).

Points to Remember:

  1. Tendu is executed terre a terre, that is along the floor. At NO point in the movement, should the toes leave the floor throughout the duration of the exercise.
  2. The knees of both legs should be stretched at all times during the exercise to strengthen the knees. If this exercise is done in a haphazard manner, bending knees and not turning out the legs, etc, then the whole purpose of executing this step is wasted.
  3. Full weight should be placed on the supporting leg. No weight should be placed on the working leg and toes.
  4. This exercise is done to the front, side and back to train students to recognise intrinsically where is their front, side and back. This will aid them to dance safely later as they execute Battement Jete, Grand Battement, Grand Jete and jumps in all directions like Sissonne and Assemble.
  5. In executing the movement of the working leg away from the supporting leg, keep the hip “square front” and over the supporting toes. Do not allow hip to “sit” or follow the movement of the leg or twist the hip in an attempt to turnout the working leg (thereby forgetting the turnout of the standing leg). This will distort alignment which is crucial for balances and turns like pirouettes, flic-flac entournant, etc..
  6. Before you begin a Tendu:
    • Transfer and keep your weight on the supporting leg as you can only Tendu with one leg at a time.
    • Take special note Not to “sit” on your supporting leg, that is to let the weight of your hip (of the supporting leg) “hang” over your supporting leg instead of lifting it up and over your supporting toes. This also help in turning out the supporting leg.
    • Maintain the “liftedness” over your supporting leg throughout the whole exercise.

Bearing the above mentioned in mind…

In executing Tendu Devant (either from 1st or 5th):

  1. In the Opening Movement:

    • Transfer your weight to the supporting leg (as mentioned above).
    • Release the heel of your working leg from the floor only slightly so that you can slide the foot forward (hint: in the direction of your nose) while still turning out the whole leg. The heel is the one that leads the leg, foot and toes to stretch to a high demi-pointe position (avoid sickling the foot). The “leading by the heel” action helps students to consciously maintain the turnout of the whole leg.
    • As you continue to stretch the legs forward along the floor, lift the whole leg up enough so that you can extend the foot forward to fully point your toes on the floor with the side of the heel lifted up towards the ceiling and toes pointing down on the floor to prevent sickling the foot.
      • Do not “bounce” the toes to point your foot as you are to stretch the toes, extending it to a full pointe.
      • Do not curl the toes under or put weight on it as that will cause inflammation behind your heel if you do this often enough. Also, serious injuries may happen should you lose balance and fall in the direction of your toes. Keep the toes straight when fulling pointed. This will prevent blisters on your toes in pointe shoes when you’re dancing en pointe in the future.
    • This process of whole foot on floor to high demi-pointe to full pointe a terre is called “Foot Articulation”.
    • Keep stretching the whole leg down into the floor and beyond while turning it out at the same time. (Remember to keep the turnout your supporting leg too.) If this is done correctly everyday, the shape of your leg and thigh muscles will change to be longer and leaner. DO NOT EVER grip muscles in any exercise or step as that is detrimental to ballet training which requires fluidity in movements, not rigidity.

  2. In the Closing Movement, just reverse the process:

    • Keeping the whole leg turned out, bring the leg in to close (keep knees stretched and straight) by first releasing the toes to the floor (avoid sickling foot) to a high demi-pointe position.
    • This time, it is the toes that is leading the foot and heel to close.
      Again, the purpose is to maintain the turnout of the whole leg.
    • Press the toes on the floor while closing to 1st or 5th to avoid sticking the toes up in an attempt to turnout the leg. This also helps prevent rolling or pronation of the foot when closing.
    • If you begin turning out the whole leg from the very beginning of the closing movement of the Tendu, then when you close to 1st or 5th, you would have closed properly. There is no need to add in an additional “push” movement in attempt to turn out the foot when in closed position. This is a very BAD habit which must be avoided at all cost. For one, this “forced” movement produces a false turnout which in due time will injure your knees as you are twisting them in the process. You will not be able to do this in the Centre when executing allegro which requires precision and speed.
    • If this is the end of the exercise, you may transfer weight over both feet and relax, bringing your hands to Bras Bas position to finish. Otherwise, keep your weight over the supporting toes, both legs turned out, hip lifted up and over. Continue to maintain the “liftedness” over your supporting leg.

In executing Tendu a la Seconde (to the Side),

  1. Follow the same process of Foot Articulation in both the Opening and Closing Movements of the Tendu as detailed above.

  2. In the Opening Movement:

    • Move the heel to slide the toes away to the side with some pressure to work the intrinsic muscles of the foot to a high demi-pointe position.
    • When from 1st position, the working leg is to maintain the turnout while at the same time sliding the leg to the side. Remember this position as this is the exact same position to go to when you execute Tendu to the Side from 5th position (regardless it is from 5th Position Front or 5th Position Back).
    • In stretching the leg and foot away to the side to a high demi-pointe position, push the heel upwards towards the arch before stretching further away to a full pointe, taking care not to “bounce” the toes or lift foot off the floor.
    • Do not curl toes as mentioned above.
    • Again, do not let the supporting hip follow the sliding movement of the Tendu.

  3. In the Closing Movement,

    • Move the toes in, pressing them on the floor to a high demi-pointe position. Keep pressing the toes on the floor as you bring the leg in to prevent the toes from sticking up.
    • As you bring the leg in, remember to release the toes first to a high demi-pointe position Before you release the heel to close. This is to maintain the pointed foot “look”. Otherwise, the Tendu will look like it is executed with a flat foot if the heel is released too early.

In executing Tendu Derriere (to the Back),

  1. Follow the same process of Foot Articulation in both the Opening and Closing Movements of the Tendu as detailed above.

  2. In the Opening Movement,

    • Turn out the whole working leg, while maintaining both the “liftedness” and turnout of the standing leg.
    • Slide the toes back first to lead the foot and heel to maintain the turnout of the whole working leg.
    • Make sure Not to sickle the foot or “wing” it too much when in high demi-pointe position: only the big toe joint is touching the floor. The rest of the toes should not be on the floor (this leads to sickled foot).
    • When stretching the leg away backwards to a full pointe, only the side tip of the big toe is touching the floor. Do not press the big toe and joint onto the floor. A very BAD habit again which can cause serious injuries if you lose balance and fall backwards. Weight should be fully on the supporting leg.
    • Made sure the working leg is directly behind your supporting heel (if executed from 1st position) or directly behind your head (if executed from 5th position).

  3. In the Closing Movement,

    • With the working leg turned out, first release the big toe to a high demi-pointe position with the big toe joint on the floor to avoid sickling the foot.
    • Then, release the heel and move the heel first to lead the closing.
    • Make sure toes are on the floor only when heel almost touches the floor to prevent sickle foot look too soon if you put all toes on the floor Before the heel reaches.
    • Again, when you close to 1st or 5th position, avoid the additional “push” into position injuring the knees in the process. This can be prevented if you turn out the working leg from the beginning of the Closing Movement.