Let’s Play – Tendus at the Barre
The order of exercises in a ballet class will often vary depending on the teacher and the time constraints. However, there will almost always be one or more tendu exercises, and they usually come directly after pliés.
The full name of the exercise is Battement Tendu, which literally means ‘Stretched Beating’ in French, and involves one leg being extended until the point of the stretched foot barely touches the floor. This is often done forwards, to the sides and to the back, and tendu exercises will often include other movements such as demi-pliés.
Musically, a tendu exercise is usually taken at a fairly moderate tempo. The exercises following on from battement tendu are often similar in nature, and increase gradually in tempo to warm up the dancers legs and feet. As regards metre, the overwhelming majority of teachers I have played for take tendus on a 2/4 or 4/4. Having said that, at one of the companies I regularly accompany, almost all the ballet masters prefer tendus on a 3/4, so it pays to be confident with both!
When it comes to choosing music, I like to keep my tendu music precise and deliberate, with clearly defined beats and a rock steady tempo. That doesn’t mean that something syncopated won’t work though, and a jazzy show tune can often be just right – so long as you keep it steady.
For a tendu on a 3/4 the same advice applies, try to keep it precise and clear, and stay clear of big waltz music and anything too complicated for now. There’s plenty of time later on to play bigger music that implies lots of movement – tendu is a precise exercise, and I feel it benefits from clear, straightforward music. Some examples of music I have successfully employed for tendu exercises are shown below:
Battement Tendu on a 4/4 – Female Variation from Grand Pas Classique by Daniel Auber
Battement Tendu on a 3/4 – La Donna e Mobile from Rigoletto by Verdi (Needs editing to fit into 8 bar phrases, but works beautifully!)