Every ballet class begins with plies. The plie is a time to center yourself, prepare your mind, and begin to warm up your body. But, with such a repetitive and seemingly easy exercise, it's easy to just go through the motions. 

Next time you're in class, try these tips to help you get the most out of your class from the very beginning.

1. Work on your core. When you begin to prepare at the barre, check in the mirror that the front of your hip bones are lifted and your tailbone is dropping down. To do this, engage your core (instead of squeezing your buttocks), which enables your legs to move freely when you reach fast footwork. As you demi and grande plie, maintain this position of your hips, especially when coming up.

2. Engage your upper body. A dancer needs a strong upper body to partner, turn, and jump. Use the time during plies to engage your back and arms. If you keep your arm in second position, be sure not to let the elbow drop. If you are using a moving port de bras, imagine that your arms are pushing against something, as if they were moving through water. 

3. Increase depth of demi plie. The deeper your demi plie, the stronger your jumps, releves, and pointe work will be. When you plie, be sure to relax your ankles and feet so that your toes are spread out for maximum balance, and the tendon in the front of your ankle is not active. On the way up from a grande plie, put the heels down as soon as possible by relaxing the ankles.