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Ballet Talk for Dancers

High jumps


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Hi everyone,


I have never attended men's classes. Are there any specific exercices or training methods oriented towards increasing jumps height? Is it mostly a question of developping power in quads and calves?



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Fondus and slow to slower to slowest echappe sautes are the best. We also sometimes would strap five to ten pounds around our waist and jump. But the best is sixteen grand echappe sautes as slow and high as you can twice a day...

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Quads and calves are in there, Dick, but also remember that every millimeter of the foot has to come into play when a dancer jumps. Mbjerk's basics and supplements are fine, and very true and helpful, but recall that as you're taking off, the push is coming right down the entire foot, right until the instant it leaves the floor, and the reverse is true on landing. A high jump that ends with a BOOM is almost useless.

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Jumping—an absolute favorite topic of mine to talk about.


One thing that I find absolutely fascinating about ballet technique is that when someone uses good technique, it gives the impression of height in a jump much more so than creating any actual height. To see what I mean, sometime when you watch someone who appears to be a great jumper, hold your hands together so only the jumper’s head is visible to you. See how high the head rises. This is the real height of the jump. For all but a very few, this height will be much much less than you would expect. The height that the jumper seems to achieve is a result of good technique.


The ability to jump high is determined by essentially two factors. One is fast twitch muscle fibers. The more you have, the higher you can jump. You can train some muscle fibers to be kind of like fast twitch muscle fibers, but the effect of that training is small. The other is the ability to translate horizontal speed into the ground to make you go up. The more speed you can transfer, the higher you can jump.


Good ballet jumping technique makes the transfer of horizontal speed difficult. Track and field high jumpers don’t jump like ballet dancers for a very good reason.


So what does a ballet dancer do to improve jumping? I would suggest working hard on the technical aspects of jumping because it is the impression of height that is important. I would also suggest eliminating characteristics that hurt jumping (like body fat) as much as possible. And if one wants to train jumping in any way, you get better at jumping by jumping. About the only thing you can do wrong is to jump too much, which will actually change some of those changeable muscle fibers into slow twitch (endurance) type fibers. Any other jumping will probably work fine.

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oh yes, Jumping --


the other thing that really makes a difference is musicality..... Men's jumps are taught very square -- except in Bournonville, where there's a great deal of attention given not only to fondu, the accurate landing over one foot -- with like two or three ballonnes in second, to make you practice going straight up and down -- but also noticing the difference between a quick jete and a slow one, -- ie. the difference between quarter-and demi-plie, or rather, between shallow and deep fondu....


In grand allegro, the musical secret is SO important -- you have to be generally more behind the beat than in petite allegro...... but the thing that makes the difference for me, in whether I enjoy the jumpsor not, is in finding a way of phrasing the whole sequence, so I can use the momentum to give hte whole thing a sweep....

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I am shocked and chagrined that nobody has directly mentioned pliés! :helpsmilie: a deep plié, properly done, will do the most for you in terms of jumps.


It is very true, as mbjerk wrote, that fondus are important; I would go so far as to say they are the most important barre exercise in terms of perfecting jumps along with battement tendu. However, to gain anything from them, you must use your supporting leg (jambe de terre) in a specific way; especially avoid the (unfortunately common) mistake of raising your heel during the plié. Your supporting leg must plié, then just as it straightens, you rise onto demi-pointe. It is difficult to do these movements so that it appears seamless without overlapping them, but your achilles tendons will thank you :wink:. This helps to coordinate the movement of your legs and feet so as to maximize your jump while improving control to help with the landing because a big jump is useless without a great deal of control both in the takeoff and landing.


Also, if there is a preparatory step preceding the jump such as a glissade or chassé, you must take care to do it very cleanly and correctly--not only will it look nicer, it will set you up to do a better jump by already engaging the proper muscles.


Maintain your posture (back straight, stomach drawn in and up) during the plié and jump (don't bend forward in the plié and back as you jump) and remember to breathe :shrug:


Another concept that has helped me but that is difficult to describe in words is the concept of raising the hips into the air. As you go up, tense and lift your gluteus muscles--feel that you are jumping from there, that they are lifting you into the air--and it will feel like you are going much higher than usual. I hope that made sense; it is much easier to show than to write about!


Arms also make a difference. For grand assemblé preceded by a glissade, if your teacher allows it, put your arms in 2nd, then as you brush and jump, take them through 1st and up so that everything--your jump and arms--goes up together.

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There is, of course, the center exercise given by teachers who were brought up under the Legat method: Doing a grand plié in fifth, then going into a grand changement, and sinking back into another grand plié! There is also this same thing done from a grand plié to a pirouette. The student is exhorted to get the heels onto the ground at the earliest opportunity, and to keep them there as long as possible during the finish of the exercise. I give this one occasionally, just to horrify people! :wink:

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Mel, as I teach more I like the grand plie in the center into releves, pirouttes and jumps. We used to do grand plie into double tours to grand plie back in the day - great strengthening exercise when done properly! The old version of James first act variation had the seis to grand plie - remember? I think this comes from character steps made pretty. For some reason men like to squat to show off :)


One thing is the plie must be used to push the floor away as Hans is detailing. This is hard to find for younger students and one game is to lay on the floor and push away from the wall as a saute in first. He who goes the farthest wins!


Bentley Stone told us that we did not jump until we were flying in our dreams - soaring in a jete - I thought okay, here goes the old man again, but it was true! The first time I felt that I hung in the air in class that night I had the flyng dream. Could this be where Fokine got the window jump in Spectre?

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