How to Do Grande Jetes for Ballet

They’re the darlings of the ballet world. These beautiful, soft leaps through the air accent the dancer’s grace and athleticism as they extend their legs and land softly like a whisper of tulle on the stage. They are grande jetés: One of the most often used and well beloved movements in all of ballet.

Grande jetés are beloved for good reason. They are fun to perform, but also a highly effective choreographic tool, with the ability to portray everything from soft sensibility to fired up spunk.

If you have yet to master the art of the grande jetés, don’t worry! Here are some tips to help you pick up your jumps and make them as elegant and dynamic as any virtuosa.

Brush Through

The fundamental difference between a grande jeté and a saut de chat (or grande pas de chat, as it is sometimes called) is the preparation: The grande jetés use a brushed take-off; the saut de chat’s require a developé. Once the dancer has taken off and extended both legs, the jumps are virtually the same.

To begin your grande jeté, brush the leading leg through first position, lifting it straight up to a ninety degree angle. Then push off with the second leg to get height in your jump.

Push Your Hips Forward

(Click the image on the left to see a full breakdown of a grande jeté!) Once you’ve lifted your leading leg and initiated the jump, thrust your hips forward toward your leading leg to travel and get height. Keep your hips as square as possible and drive them forward using your turnout muscles to push in the direction you want to move.

Don’t let the leading leg detach and fly forward without taking the rest of you with it! If you fall behind, your jump will lose power and your weight to be too far back on your second leg to have a solid landing.

Remember the Arc

One of the reasons a grande jeté looks so graceful is because of the path of the jump itself: The dancer’s ascent and descent take the shape of an arc, similar to that of a cat when it jumps.

To create this arc, imagine that you’re doing your grande jeté over a bench or giant beach ball (instead of trying to go from down to up then down again). Don’t just jump high enough to avoid it. You also have to jump over it, making that arc shaped trajectory in the process. The legs should extend at the peak of the arc. First, the leading leg goes up. Then both legs reach full extension before the back leg is raised.

This concept is easy to practice. Try performing small grande jetés at home, placing a tiny object underneath you and jumping over—not just above—it. Focus on the arc you make, going up and over, not up and down.

Hot Tip: Cat Powers

If you’re not sure how to visualize the path of a jump, try watching a cat. Though their spines are much more flexible than those of humans, their jumps always take the shape of an ar. And, they always manage to land gracefully! Try and mimic their sleek silky movement every time you’re doing a grande jeté.

Look Up

Your gaze is an integral part of your jump, whether you realize it or not. Looking down or having a passive gaze can cause your jump to lose height and your landing to spill over (not to mention wreaking havoc on the expressions you’re trying to maintain on stage).

Direct your gaze slightly higher than the horizon at all times throughout the jump. This will ensure that you don’t drop your head and ruin your spinal alignment.

Turnout the Start

As soon as your leading foot through first to begin the jump, you must keep both legs turned out as much as you can. This will create great aesthetics at the peak of your jump, but more importantly, it will also ensure that you have a safe landing.

Jumping and trying to land on a turned- in leg isn’t just unattractive; it also presents a huge injury risk as a turned-in foot is much more prone to roll or give out. Also, rolling through your foot when you land means rolling through a proper, turned out demi pointe—if you’re already turned in, rotating the leading leg in midair will present an enormous challenge and make the beautiful look of the grande jeté appear awkward.

Hard Work, Easy Visual

Grande jetés are gorgeous, cat-like jumps that take every ounce of a ballerina’s strength in order to appear as gracefully effortless as they do. But work through these five tips and you’ll be well on your way to floating and landing like a sylph (or a feisty Spanish girl, or an enchanting swan….)!

Share the knowledge