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What’s the Difference Between a Relevé and an Elevé in Ballet?
Relevé is a French term meaning "raised up." It is one of the basic ballet moves. The dancer starts in a demi-plié and then rises up into demi-pointe (on the balls of the feet) or en pointe (on the toes), either on one foot or both feet.
Elevé is another classical ballet term, a French word meaning “movement.” The dancer rises up into demi-pointe or en pointe. Both the relevé and elevé require the dancer to rise to the balls of their feet or their toes. However, only the relevé requires a demi-plié.
How to Perform a Relevé
To master a relevé, follow these steps.
- Begin in first position. You can do relevés from different ballet positions, but as a beginner ballet dancer, it is easiest to start in first position. Your feet are turned out with heels touching and legs straight.
- Descend into a demi-plié. Bend the knees halfway, with the legs turned out from the hips and the knees open and over the toes.
- Rise. Keep the weight on the balls of your feet as you lift up your heels. Your feet should still be turned out. If doing a relevé en pointe, rise to the tips of your toes in your pointe shoes. Maintain strength in your quadriceps and calves.
How to Perform an Elevé
Mastering an elevé requires the same basic steps as a relevé, but without the demi-plié.
- Begin in first position. You can do elevés from different ballet positions, but if you are taking your first ballet class or are just starting out, begin in first position. Your feet are turned out, with heels touching and legs straight.
- Rise. Keep the weight on the balls of your feet as you lift up your heels. Your feet should still be turned out. If doing an elevé en pointe, rise to the tips of the toes in your pointe shoes. Maintain strength in your quadriceps and calves.
5 Tips for Dancers Performing Relevés and Elevés
If you're new to ballet or it’s been a while since you've performed, consider these best practices for ballet dancing.
- Always warm-up. It's essential to stretch your body before diving into any advanced poses. To get your blood flowing, do some basic poses at the barre—pliés, arabesques, and tendus.
- Invest in good footwear. Good footwear doesn't necessarily mean expensive. It means finding a ballet shoe that fits your foot best. You'll want something with grips at the balls of the feet. Full sole or split-sole ballet shoes are both commonly used. Do not use socks or bare feet.
- Wear form-fitting clothing. Wear a leotard, tank-top, or a form-fitting t-shirt with tights, leggings, or an elastic gym short. Avoid baggy clothing and fabrics that will restrict body movement, like denim.
- Stay hydrated. Dancing is a sport and you're likely to sweat a lot, even if you're just doing barre poses. Hydrate well before you start, and keep a water bottle by your side.
- Listen to your body. It takes time and practice before executing proper ballet technique and choreography. Don't push your body to do any pose it's uncomfortable with.
Practice ballet with Misty Copeland, the principal dancer with the American Ballet Theatre. Get the MasterClass Annual Membership and learn how to put individual barre techniques together to create powerful performances and introduce artistry to your choreography.