Ballet etymology: Tendu

Learning the etymology of ballet words can help you visualize the intention of the position or exercise. It also makes for great trivia for your next class! Let’s dissect the word Tendu [tahn-DEW].

IMG_4765What it looks like in ballet: A tendu refers to a movement in which the working foot  is stretched and usually held. In a tendu, the working foot slides from the first or fifth position to the second or fourth position respectively without lifting the toe from the ground. Both knees must be kept straight. The working leg is fully extended and the foot reaches away from the body (extending to the front, side, or back) and is fully pointed and turned out.

Etymology: Tendu, in French, is the past participle of the verb tendre meaning “to stretch.” Dictionary.com says it was originated in the French language between 1920-195.

How to use it in barre: In the Barre Certification exercises, the tendu is used in exercises like à la sebesque tendu lifts and arabesque battements. (See Chapter 8 of the IBBFA Barre Certification Level 1 manual).

Other meanings of the word today: Tendu is known only as a ballet term in English, but is still used as the past participle of tendre (to stretch) in French. It is also an adjective in French meaning “tight; taut” which can help us dancers and barre-tenders understand the intent of the movement even more so.

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