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.
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.
In the middle of one of New York City Center's cavernous studios, Misty Copeland takes a measured step backwards. The suggestion of a swan arm ripples before she turns downstage, chest and shoulders unfurling as her legs stretch into an open lunge. She piqués onto pointe, arms echoing the sinuous curve of her back attitude, then walks out of it, pausing to warily look over her shoulder. As the droning of Ryuichi Sakamoto and Alva Noto's mysterious "Attack/Transition" grows more insistent, her feet start to fly with a rapidity that seems to almost startle her.
And then she stops mid-phrase. Copeland's hands fall to her hips as she apologizes. Choreographer Kyle Abraham slides to the sound system to pause the music, giving Copeland a moment to remind herself of a recent change to the sequence.
"It's different when the sound's on!" he reassures her. "And it's a lot of changes."
The day before was the first time Abraham had seen Copeland dance the solo in its entirety, and the first moment they were in the studio together in a month. This is their last rehearsal, save for tech, before the premiere of Ash exactly one week later, as part of the opening night of City Center's Fall for Dance festival.
Back in 2011 when Joe Lanteri first approached Katie Langan, chair of Marymount Manhattan College's dance department, about getting involved with New York City Dance Alliance, she was skeptical about the convention/competition world.
"But I was pleasantly surprised by the enormity of talent that was there," she says. "His goal was to start scholarship opportunities, and I said okay, I'm in."
Today, it's fair to say that Lanteri has far surpassed his goal of creating scholarship opportunities. But NYCDA has done so much more, bridging the gap between the convention world and the professional world by forging a wealth of partnerships with dance institutions from Marymount to The Ailey School to Complexions Contemporary Ballet and many more. There's a reason these companies and schools—some of whom otherwise may not see themselves as aligned with the convention/competition world—keep deepening their relationships with NYCDA.
Now, college scholarships are just one of many ways NYCDA has gone beyond the typical weekend-long convention experience and created life-changing opportunities for students. We rounded up some of the most notable ones:
Dancers are understandably obsessed with food. In both an aesthetic and athletic profession, you know you're judged on your body shape, but you need proper fuel to perform your best. Meanwhile, you're inundated with questionable diet advice.
"My 'favorite' was the ABC diet," says registered dietitian nutritionist Kristin Koskinen, who trained in dance seriously but was convinced her body type wouldn't allow her to pursue it professionally. "On the first day you eat only foods starting with the letter A, on the second day only B, and so on."
"The show must go on" may be a platitude we use to get through everything from costume malfunctions to stormy moods. But when it came to overcoming a literal hurricane, Houston Ballet was buoyed by this mantra to go from devastated to dancing in a matter of weeks—with the help of Harlequin Floors, Houston Ballet's longstanding partner who sprang into action to build new floors in record time.