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.
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.
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.