When a ballet pianist performs ballet class music for the tendu exercise, he or she needs to watch the teacher’s demonstration carefully. Tendus can be performed slowly or quickly and the music is different for each one. The tendus are done on both the left side and the right side. Usually it is more satisfying for the dancers if the switch from one side to the other is accompanied by an arrival back to the main theme of the music.
Tendus, as with plies, releves and eleves are used to warm up the legs. The careful and correct practice of a tendu will also improve turnout. The dancers will push the leg away from the barre while stretching the foot along the floor. The muscles of the inner thigh resist the movement away, which accomplishes a pushing effect. At the completion of the tendu, the foot ends in a point. Tendus are performed in three directions which are known as devant, a la seconde and derriere, meaning to the front, to the side, and to the back, in that order.
The pianist can improvise music which enhances the dancers need to use muscle resistance in the exercise. This can be accomplished by contrasting a lyrical accompaniment with an accented melody or the other way around. Much of the playing technique of the ballet class music depends on the tempo of the tendu exercise as specified by the instructor. The slower tendus will be more fluid musically with lots of fill between the beats to take up the time and keep the dancer from arriving at the pointed foot too early. Stretching the phrase and delaying the completion of each tendu will help the dancer feel the muscle resistance.
When the teacher requests a faster tempo for tendus, the music can be more punctuated and driving. Many teachers will do two tendu exercises in their classes, a slow tendu and a tendu, each which has its own unique tempo and ballet class music characteristics.
For an example of tendu music you can visit Ballet Class Music and hear free samples by composer/pianist/dancer Don Caron from his First Class Album series of ballet class music.
For more descriptions of how ballet class music is performed for the various ballet class exercises, read the posts about degages, ronds de jambe, and fondus.