How to Improve Your Ballet Jumps

Another week, another blog post! A few have asked about some pointers on jumps so let’s *jump* right into it…

First – Plié!! To start a jump you need a really nice, deep plié. Of course we all know the importance of plié, but I think a lot of times we forget… Someone once said that in music there are notes and space between the notes and that space between the notes may be more important than the notes themselves. So plié is that space between the notes. And for dancers, it what helps us to be with the notes because you can control your plié (much more than you can control your balance on one foot en pointe!!!) and you can make it slow or fast. Especially when you are dancing with the live orchestra and the conductor may have had too much coffee or is eager to see the football game on TV, or he just gets tired all of a sudden when you are doing your fouetté turns! And you have to follow! So plié is the answer!

Second is the actual way you are doing your plié. This is a very important technique to acquire. My teacher used to call it “down/ up” technique. When you are plieing you need to stretch your spine up, like you are pulling up and when you are straitening up and jumping you need to feel like you are pushing down towards the ground, sort of pulling your legs to the floor, even though you are jumping up in the air. So when you do plié pull UP and when you jump feel like someone pulling you DOWN. Try doing it throughout your whole ballet class!

Thirdly – always land through your toes. It’s really hard at first and you need to build up your toes and feet for this. As a supplement, my teacher in Bolshoi gave us a special exercise we did at the end of the barre. You need to go on pointe but without your point shoes. So you first go into releve and then slowly climb up all the way to your toes. At first I was really suffering with that, but older and more experienced dancers could go all the way up and let go of the barre, and some could do it on one foot! Refer to the next, 4th, point of this newsletter which will help you to do this even better by avoiding the stress of landing on your toes with the straight knee. Some of my students keep their knees straight until they touch the ground and only after they bend knees for plié (which is really Vaganova style).

Fourth – get your “bend and straighten knee” technique in tact. I borrowed this from the legendary Balanchine by watching his ballets and closely working with one of his ballerinas. What it means is to be able to straighten your knee as fast as you can when you jump up and then bend your knee soon enough so you can land through your toes to make a soft landing. So slightly bend your knees right before you touch the floor with your toes.

For example:
Try doing glissade. After you are in the air with your both knees straight you need to land on one foot first through your toes, try to bend your knee sooner than you usually do…then the most important is to bend your second leg really fast! Especially the second leg! Students usually drag their second leg for so long that the foot is starting to roll over and the knee and the foot start to turn in! Instead, try paying attention to your second foot and bend your knee really fast so you can finish in the nice 5th position or 4th if you are continuing on to another jump. This technique will add speed to your jumps which all the Balanchine dancers are famous for! For their fast feet!

Take a look at this short video. Watch it carefully, how soft her movements are because of this technique!

So a quick summary:
Pay attention to your plié. “UP and DOWN technique”.
When landing from a jump, always land through your toes bending your knee just before you touch the ground.
Perfect your timing with bending and straightening your knee. Straighten your knee as soon as you jump and bend soon enough when you land.

Until next week and live with passion,

Anastasia

P.S. By writing some of the tips, I find that at times it may be difficult to explain the exercises and certain techniques in writing. Most importantly of course I want to make sure you follow through the steps and understand what I am explaining, otherwise the fundamental basis of these blog posts are lost :(. Have you found it easy to follow the steps and the advice? Please let me know! In the near future, I will film videos for you which I believe will be a better medium to get all my points across in a more efficient and clear manner.

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