What's a tendu?
Well it is a ballet term, so you can call it something else if you want. Personally I think calling it "the one where you stick your leg out" sounds a lot less pretty, but whatever, right? In essence, a tendu is this (though the person who made this image appears to have spelled tendu with an -e):

Maybe that looks out of context.
Here's another tendu:And another:

This is probably starting to look familiar now. If you are holding your weight on one leg (we'll call it the "working leg") while you dance, you kind of have to do something with that other leg and foot, both for balance and for aesthetics, and whether it's lovely or awful, you are now in tendu.

Why do I care?

For ballet dancers, the tendu is a core barre exercise. Seriously. Being able to properly hit that position reliably with beautiful feet, perfect stability and an aesthetically pleasing path is really important, and not that easy. Not to mention the fact that it sets dancers up for more complex and demanding movements like arabesques and even jétés. I don't think I have ever attended a ballet class where I didn't do tendu at the barre, including my first one. It's a primary building block.

For belly dancers this is even more complex because on top of having to master hitting this pose beautifully and with stability, we often layer torso and arm movements on top. Why is this so hard? Because we need to divide the attention of our core muscles between stabilizing and say, undulations or glute squeezes or whatever the eff you want to do in tendu. We will also frequently lean into the hip or to the side like in the pictures above which can further upset balance.

It's not that I see dancers flying offstage or tipping themselves over on a regular basis when moving onto one leg, but there are two issues here. You could go lower and stronger with more confidence and grace if you practiced your tendu, and you also wouldn't end up with ugly feet, which is something I do see all the time.

Look at that picture of Zoe up there. There is so much energy coming through her right foot, it's crazy. I love that she's pulling the attention toward her extended foot with her gaze and the line there is just awesome. It completes the movement and matches the energy in her hands. It's crazy and not that common for belly dancers, but it looks so damn good and everyone should know how to make the most of that foot it even if they choose not to emphasize it in that way.

Anatomy of a tendu

There's a disparity between a strict, sharp looking ballet tendu and what we often do. For example, we may lean, like the belly dancers in the pictures above, while for the most part in ballet, the matching shoulder will stay directly above the working leg.

Ballet dancers also turn out when they dance, and you probably think I'm an idiot for pointing this out, but I'm sure not everyone knows. This means that their legs, from the hip (not the knee/foot!) are turned out such that the toes face outwards instead of forwards, meaning that the feet are somewhere between 45 and 90 degrees from "parallel" to each other.

Modern and jazz dancers (who are generally ballet trained as well) sometimes use tendu with traditional ballet turn out, but also have the option of leaving the foot parallel, for a different look. As belly dancers, we also have the option to choose how to use our non-working leg. Credit time: Samantha Emanuel really got me thinking about this while she was in town last spring and I've noticed that it's come up for me repeatedly since then.

With turn out, the knee and the top of the foot face outwards, showing the heel to the audience. It looks crisp and energetic and the heel gives the leg interesting dimension. Without turnout, the knee and the top of the foot face forward and the knee can sink inward, giving a sexier look. The absence of the heel can make the leg look really long.

Basically I think they're both awesome stances and I think it's important to know both so that you can use the one that works best instead of just using the one that you know or the one that you use be default.

Point your damn foot

In fact, not only point your damn foot, but point it in a way that works for what you're doing. And in the interest of full disclosure, my foot sometimes doesn't point the way it should. It happens.

Basically there are two ways to do this--pointing your foot, or pointing your toes and your foot. I'm going to draw another ballet/not ballet analogy here, because we have a lot of options. Ballet dancers don't get that beautiful look by pointing their toes. They point, or rather extend, their whole feet. Basically, a beautifully pointed foot starts in the ankle, moving to the arch, and then finishing with the toes.

Here's a diagram that's for figure skaters, it comes from an article here, but I think it works to illustrate the difference:

Having elegant feet means having strong feet. I like the kinds of exercises in this video by Anna Botelho for strengthening the feet and often use similar ones. I also used to get really nasty cramps in the bottoms of my feet and have found that the combination of making them stronger and remembering to stretch and roll them (with a tennis ball or a rope) has really been helping.


  1. Its really informative blog i like your to choose this ballet technique about shoes i loves like to wear full sole because its reliable for me thanks .

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