Slow Leg Lifts in Ballet

Slow leg lifts begin with a tendu.
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Slow lifts of the leg yield a variety of benefits in ballet classes. Otherwise known as relevé lent in the Vaganova method, a slow leg lift can be performed to the front, side or back. These movements can be performed at the barre or in the center. Slow leg lifts build strength, allowing you to lift your leg higher over time. They also build awareness of weight transfer and body alignment.

Transfer of Weight

    Every slow leg lift begins with a battement tendu. If you do not transfer your weight properly on the tendu, you will not be able to lift your leg off the floor. Take, for example, a slow leg lift to the side from first position. In first position, your body weight is centered in the middle of your two feet. When you do the tendu, you must shift your weight onto your supporting foot. If you do not transfer your weight and then try to lift your weight, you will fall toward the leg you are lifting. The same balance problem will arise if you start in fifth position, or if you do a slow leg lift to the front or back.


    Keeping the pelvis stable while lifting the leg is one of the major difficulties in ballet. Typically, the pelvis wants to follow the trajectory of the working leg. For example, when you lift your right leg to the front, the right side of the pelvis wants to lift and move forward along with the leg. Slow leg lifts provide you with an opportunity to confront this problem so you can isolate the movement of the leg from the movement of the pelvis. If you have trouble feeling the stability of your pelvis, you can perform slow leg lifts to the front or the side at home with your hands on your hips.

Height of the Leg

    In slow leg lifts, you can vary the height to which you lift your leg. Beginners should start off lifting their legs just a couple of inches off the floor. The primary focus should be on transferring weight onto the supporting leg and on keeping the pelvis and spine aligned. Do not sacrifice proper technique to get your leg higher. More advanced dancers can lift the leg higher. Lifting the leg in a slow and controlled manner over 90 degrees -- so the heel is at the same height or higher than your hips -- builds strength in the hip flexors. This strength transfers to other adage movements, such as developpes.

Combinations with Other Steps

    Teachers often place slow leg lifts in rond de jambe exercises at the barre or as part of an adage. Because they build strength as well as awareness of weight transfer and body alignment, slow lifts of the leg work well in tendu exercises in the center.

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