Physical Therapy Corner
The Power of the Plie
Abbey K Wills, PT, DPT, ART
Happy 2015 to all!
For many people, January marks the beginning of race season, pre-season training, and
working towards all the goals and resolutions you have made. This is especially true for young
dancers; January marks the beginning of competition season. This means rehearsals,
costume fittings, master classes, and many performances. Dancing on multiple surfaces in
many different settings can be very demanding on the body. The same goes for other athletes
as well, many sports are transitioning to from outdoor training to indoor training. So, how can
we take some positive steps to maintain good health during the New Year?
The answer can be found in technique.
Plie (plee-AY)- as defined by the American Ballet Theater (ABT) dictionary: A bending of the
knee or knees. This is an exercise to render the joints and muscles soft and pliable and the
tendons flexible and elastic, and to develop and sense of balance.
The concept of the plie is not only applicable for dancers, but can also play an important role
in many other sports and activities. Knowing how to identify abnormal alignment and learning
to correct abnormal postures can ensure improved sports performance and decrease risk of
Having a good, well-balanced plie (or squat) is key here. When it is done correctly, the weight
of the body is held out of the hips and legs. Muscles in the hips help to position the knees and
ankles to act like hinges, minimizing the tension in the leg muscles with the feet flat on the
floor. When done incorrectly, many problems can occur such as decreased jump height,
increased impact with landing, excessive tension in foot and ankle muscles, overuse injuries,
joint problems, muscle imbalances, stress fractures and more!
Don’t worry! There is a simple, easy way to tell if you are on your way to better jumps, softer
landings, and healthy movement! Just watch the tibialis anterior- a large muscle that is found
along the front of the leg and ankle. It can be seen prominently if the improper position is
used in plie. If you catch yourself using this muscle, stop and reposition your feet. While going
down, use your gluteals to roll the hips under and bring the knees over the toes. Poof! Tibialis
anterior will turn off, allowing your foot to be relaxed, firmly on the floor. Doing this simple
check during class can help to improve carryover into performance and enhance your power
Wishing all athletes a happy healthy new year. Now get out there and break a leg!
Abbey Willis is a Doctoral PT and one of Achieveʼs Performing Arts Medicine
Phyisical Therapist. Abbey has an extensive competitive dance and musical theater
background including minioring in Dance at Ithaca College. She has been privileged to
work with NeuroTour on many Broadway tours including “Book of Mormon”, “Motown
the Musical”, “Amazing Grace”, and many more. Abbey is available for scheduling out
of our Burr Ridge, Sports Medicine Clinic.