New York City Ballet's Ashley Bouder is known for her buoyant jump. Paul Kolnik, Courtesy New York City Ballet

5 Things You Should Be Doing For Higher, Faster Jumps

Jumping might seem like something you're either a natural at or that you'll never master. "She's a jumper," you might hear someone say about another dancer with a beautiful grand jeté—and assume, in turn, that you're not. But how high you leap—and how quickly and easily you do it—is actually a skill that you can build with practice.


Start early. 

Think of barre as preparation for jumps in center, says Endalyn Taylor, ballet teacher at the University of Illinois. It's all about the "articulation and dexterity of the feet," she says, "how they go into and off the ground, from the heel to the ball of the foot to the toes."

Start articulating your feet at barre to prepare for jumps in center.

Quinn Wharton

Check the landing.

Standing in front of a full-length mirror in parallel, with toes and hips square to the front, do a plié while standing on one leg. Repeat 10 times, making sure the working knee isn't veering out or in. "The most important thing in a jump is a safe landing," says physical therapist Emily Sandow, who works at the Harkness Center for Dance Injuries at NYU Langone Health. "You need perfect alignment: a supported turnout or parallel, with the knee and toe tracking in the same position."

Syncopate your plié.

Jumping higher can get tricky with petit allégro, as you might feel like you don't have the time to take the plié you need at a fast tempo. "It becomes about the timing and phrasing of your plié," says Taylor. By designating half a beat, or the "and" count before a beat, for your plié, you're making time for the necessary prep for your jump—without losing the rhythm. "It's not about lessening the plié," says Taylor—you're just doing it with different timing.

Use your resources wisely.

Tracie Stanfield, a contemporary teacher at Broadway Dance Center in New York City, will take her students to the stairwell and have them stand in first position on the step just above the landing. "I have them do a tiny sauté to the landing, trying to land as slowly as they can, really rolling through the foot," she says. "Every­one might stare, but it's a good exercise."

Try jumping in a pool.

Angelo Pantazis via Unsplash

Give gravity a break.

Use a pool, trampoline or Pilates machine with a jump board to unload the body of its full weight but still work on the repetition, technique and volume of jumps.

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Stark Photo Productions, Courtesy Harlequin

Why Your Barre Can Make or Break Your At-Home Dance Training

Throughout the pandemic, Shelby Williams, of Royal Ballet of Flanders (aka "Biscuit Ballerina"), has been sharing videos that capture the pitfalls of dancers working from home: slipping on linoleum, kicking over lamps and even taking windows apart at the "barre." "Dancers aren't known to be graceful all of the time," says Mandy Blackmon, PT, DPT, OSC, CMTPT, head physical therapist/medical director for Atlanta Ballet. "They tend to fall and trip."

Many dancers have tried to make their home spaces as safe as possible for class and rehearsal by setting up a piece of marley, like Harlequin's Dance Mat, to work on. But there's another element needed for taking thorough ballet classes at home: a portable barre.

"Using a barre is kinda Ballet 101," says 16-year-old Haley Dale, a student in her second year at American Ballet Theatre's Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School. She'd bought a portable barre from Harlequin to use at her parents' home in Northern Virginia even before the pandemic hit. "Before I got it, honestly I would stay away from doing barre work at home. Now I'm able to do it all the time."

Blackmon bought her 15-year-old stepdaughter a freestanding Professional Series Ballet Barre from Harlequin early on in quarantine. "I was worried about her injuring herself without one," she admits.

What exactly makes Harlequin's barres an at-home must-have, and hanging on to a chair or countertop so risky? Here are five major differences dancers will notice right away.

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December 2020