How to Soar–the Key to Flying
A leap, or grand jete is essentially a big brush of the leg or grand battement front and then a grand battement back. The front battement gives you height and the back battement sustains the length of the jump.
Say you are jumping over a wide puddle–like the one at the bottom of the stairs in my subway station. You don’t need very much height–it’s a puddle, but it is quite wide. My front foot needs to just be high enough to aim to the other side. I make sure I push off the stairs behind me with enough force to carry me all the way over the puddle. In this case, the push of my back foot (or my back battement) helps me clear the width of the puddle.
Now if the puddle were instead a mound of icy snow on the sidewalk–not wide, but maybe about a foot high, the back leg wouldn’t be as important as swinging my front leg high enough to clear the snow so I could land on the other side.
In ballet, an ideal leap or grand jete is equally high as it is long–the front and back battements are equally important. So the key to leaps is figuring out how to do an effective grand battement. And to do that, we have to go back to high school physics.
Remember Newton’s third law? It states that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. I remember that physics class so well because I suddenly understood how physics applied to my life–she was talking about something I understood–and I couldn’t wait to try it with grand battements! If I push down into the stair to jump over the puddle, the stair is pushing back into my leg as much as I am pushing into the stair. It’s like getting a boost from a friend! Likewise, if I push my foot into the floor as I’m brushing my foot into a grande battement, my leg is going to fly up with the help of the floor, which is going to push back into my leg. Try it yourself–first try lifting your leg slowly. Now put your feet back into fifth position and really push into the floor, and use your foot against the floor to point it as it is leaving the floor–use all the contact you can get from the floor. That was practice. Now try it again and this time PUSH with all your might. You might even feel that sensation of soaring.
photo: Flying High: Dutch National Ballet Soloist Megan Zimny Kaftira (photo by Altin Kaftira)
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