Height and Control in Grand Jeté
by David Arce
The grand jeté is one of ballet’s most rewarding steps, for both the audience and the dancer. The ability to propel oneself from one foot into the air, reach a perfect split, then land on the other foot, all while showing grace and ease in the upper body, is a hallmark of excellent ballet technique. However, I often see students sacrificing jump height to achieve perfect splits. To address this tendency, tell students to throw the leading leg first, as if hurdling over a barrel. Ask them to battement above 90 degrees upon takeoff—this will help them get air time rather than jumping straight forward, which gives an appearance of “flatlining” in the air.
Don’t overlook the grand jeté’s landing; in terms of student safety, it is the step’s most important aspect. Properly turned out placement of the standing leg is a must, as any turning in puts extra stress on the knee’s tendons.
Try this simple combination to help students develop correct landings. Start in tendu devant, traveling downstage, directly en face to the studio mirror. (This allows students to observe their own landings.) Chassé, grand jeté, and land in attitude derrière with the same arm in fifth and the other in à la seconde (two counts). Hold the attitude landing (four counts), then step back to tendu devant (two counts). Repeat on the other side. Once students can land on one leg, turned out and in control—no hopping or fidgeting—have them increase the height of the takeoff battement, but without sacrificing the amount of control they exhibited in the landing previously. This encourages them both to jump higher and to land with more control.
David Arce is artistic director of Juline Regional Youth Ballet and a teacher at Juline School of Dance in Modesto, California. He trained at Ballet Yuma and San Francisco Ballet School and danced 12 seasons with SF Ballet.