Friday, 30 May 2014

Ballet Steps: Relevé

Photo: Merlin Hendy
In the latest instalment of my ballet steps series, I discuss relevés. The word relevé means 'rise', but the step has a very particular technique where the knees bend to prepare and the legs suddenly straighten as the heels leave the floor and the body is lifted up. In this upward position, the body is either balanced on the balls of the feet or on pointe. The relevé action is then completed by reversing the movement to end in plié. (A different 'rise' involves the knees staying straight as the heels and legs lift up and return down.)
Relevés on two feet can be performed in lots of different  positions, but are most common in 5th position. When the relevé action takes place in 5th, the two legs should come together as the knees straighten, creating a 'crossed' pose where one leg is in front of the other (giving the appearance that the dancer has one leg with two feet!).

Releves may also be performed on one foot, such as in arabesque, or may go from two feet to one. In the latter, both feet commence on the floor, but as the knees straighten, one foot is lifted up. In relevés devant and derrière, the lifted foot comes up to touch the knee of the supporting leg, either in front or behind. In relevé passé, the lifted foot touches the knee and then changes position as it closes, moving from front to back or vice versa. These types of relevés are used in ballet pirouettes.

During the upward part of a relevé, the toes usually move towards where the heels were positioned before (ie. inwards towards the centreline of the body, assuming the legs are turned out), returning back out as the heels land on the floor to complete the action. However, when relevés are performed at a rapid pace (such as in the Act II coda of Swan Lake) or in an open position (such as 2nd position), the dancer's feet may stay in the same place on the floor.
When I teach students to relevé, I start with them facing and holding onto the barre and performing the movement in 1st and 3rd positions. I often describe the step as 'sucking the feet up the vacuum cleaner'.  This helps students to get the sharp upward action as the legs straighten.
Royal Ballet dancer Romany Pajdak demonstrates a variety of relevés in the video below:

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