Ahhh the language of dance! It can make even the most proficient photographer feel like a complete know-it-not. Myself, I like to know a few key phrases, and I just have fun with the rest. A ‘soutenu’ becomes soup-du-jour and a ‘passe’ become pass the nuts.

It never hurts to go easy on yourself. Afterall, the language of dance is primarily French, and is a language unto itself.

So to feel more competent, lets learn a few key terms. I’ll be updating the terminology posts regularly. Let’s start with three of the most common terms you will hear:

  1. Plie          – plee-ay            to bend
  2. Releve      – rel-ah-vay       to raise
  3. Tendu       – tawn-dew        to stretch


TENDU simply means to stretch the foot as shown in the above image. We can stretch forward or backwards, or to the side.

PLIE means to bend. The knees and toes should be ‘turned out’ which means that they are facing outwards. Good turn out starts at the hips and carries all the way down the legs in almost every dance move.

This is an example of a plie with poor turnout. The feet are turned out but the knees are not, indicating the turnout is not coming from the hips. The bend is also very shallow.
This plie shows a deeper bend and the knees turned outwards with good form.

RELEVE means to raise, or to come up on the toes. This is arguably THE most common term that you will hear spoken in a dance studio. The higher the rise, the better the technique.

Low Releve
A low Releve. When you see this in a portrait, the dancer may not be rising as high as they can. An advanced dancer will then be disappointed with the picture. Ask them to releve a little higher as shown in the photo below.
High Releve
High Releve. Shoes like this are worn by young ballet dancers and more experienced dancers in the ‘Demi-Pointe’ genre of ballet. A high releve is a sign of good technique.

By Published On: May 26th, 2020Categories: Dance, Uncategorized0 Comments on Dance Terminology 101 Lesson 1