September 2016 | 2 Tips for Ballet Teachers | Jump Readiness and Ending on 7 (not 8)

Photo by Becky Montalvo

Photo by Becky Montalvo

Jump Readiness and Ending on 7 (not 8)

By David Arce

Tip 1
Most students look forward to the transition in the center from adagio and turns to jumps. It’s usually the most exciting part of class, and dancers are at their warmest, with legs and arms feeling their fullest range of motion, and hand-eye coordination in full effect.

To prepare for what comes next, give simple, small jumps to make sure dancers’ knees are tracking correctly. Sautés in first and second, followed by changements, are necessary for dancers to “wake up” their jumping muscles in a controlled way.

After the first simple jumping exercise, give students a moment to enjoy a calf stretch facing the barre, before continuing on to larger and more intricate jumps.

Tip 2
When I create a grand allegro, several factors come into play. I include the theme I’ve been using that class, day, or week, so that students finish class with one more opportunity to think about it. I take into consideration how hard I’ve pushed the students in class and their remaining workload that day or week (rehearsals, performances, etc.), then adjust accordingly the combination’s length and difficulty level. Finally, I set the combination so that the final pose or step comes on a music accent.

That final accent, though, usually doesn’t fall on count 8. I prefer a combination to end on count 7 or on 1 or 2 of the next phrase. This encourages dancers to finish dancing before, or continue dancing after, the music “tells” them to stop. Also, each group must start dancing either before or a little after the group before them finishes. This encourages students to listen more intently, and it makes them more musical, one combination at a time.

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.