For many dancers a jeté is one of the first ‘tricks’ that they learn. While we may begin learning the move at a young age it can take a while to master the motion and coordination of the body that is involved with this action. This post will go through the move step by step, giving you clear pointers as to how to improve your jeté and exercise that can aid this improvement.
There are quite a few variations on a jeté leap, once you’ve mastered the technique. So for this post I’m going to focus on the basic jeté, leaping from one leg and landing on one leg, with a split in the air. But even for that movement there are two major distinction. The leg that brushes out into the leap can either start bent and straighten as you reach the peak of the jump or can remain straight the whole way through the movement, until landing. This is my first tip, be sure which type of jeté you are doing. In traditional ballet, this is most likely to be a straight legged jeté. However many dancers claim this version to be harder as it takes more control to keep the upper body vertical, ie, not leaning forwards over the leg. The correct form for a jeté is to have the torso inline with the hips and the back and shoulders stacked upright ontop, to have a good jeté movement the upper body cannot dip down on take-off, which is tip number two. However hard it is to begin with do not get into the habit of helping that leg get up with the upper body. It’s a hard habit to break, it’s much easier to learn how to get that leg higher once you’re able to.
While taking off for the jeté, whether it’s a straight leg leap or a bent leg leap (I usually term these flick jeté) you want to think the same thing, to get that front leg up and away from you, you then want to replicate the height of the front leg with the back leg. Thinking of attaining a similar height in both legs is tip number three. This takes a little getting used to, often beginners will throw that front leg up as high as it can and then neglect the back leg, resulting in an un-even jeté. Start small and gradually get those legs higher, at a rate both legs are able to. Tip number four can help with getting the legs at a similar height and is to imagine you are jumping over something. Think of a horse jumping over hurdles, both their front and back legs need to come up over the hurdle to be able to get over, the same goes for your legs in the jeté. However high they go they need to be the same height if not you won’t have cleared the obstacle. The position you get to in the air is limited, it’s limited to the range of motion you have in your hips. This means if you can’t do the splits yet, you won’t be able to get that split position in the air, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try!
I just hinted to it in the previous paragraph, but my first exercise to help with your jeté is practising your splits and getting comfortable in that position. Once you’re down on the floor try lifting up the arms and holding them in arabesque position being sure not to twist your shoulders. This is the position you are aiming for in the air. It takes time to get down into the splits if you’re new to stretching, so hold the position you’re comfortable with for 30 seconds before switching legs, then repeat 2-3 more times, aiming to get a little further down on each repetition. Do this everyday and soon you’ll begin to see improvements in your splits and this will aid your jeté leaps too. One word of advice before beginning though, is to treat each leg differently, the flexibility will be different in each leg so don’t push you’re inflexible side as much as your more supple side, as this will increase the risk of injury.
Another exercise that can help with the take-off of straight legged jetés are battement tendus and glissés. When doing tendus really focus on pushing through the foot at the end of the movement, as this will translate into more power when you take off on your leap. It’s a similar focus for glissés, but you can translate that power you build up into a short sharp lift of the foot at the end of the movement. This movement is the beginning of your jeté take-off, focus on keeping the body inline and your shoulders upright. When performing the jeté you do exactly the same action brush through the foot and lift the leg off the ground, only then you also have the addition power from the supporting leg straightening to allow the body to leap into the air.
Getting power into that supporting leg can be a struggle, build it up by practising sautes aiming to lift off the ground as much as possible. When doing this, again, you want to keep the upper body upright instead of leaning it over the front of the body. Also practise hops on one leg to focus on pushing off one leg and driving the body up towards the sky. While jumping don’t forget about those feet, pointing the toes as you lift off will not only make it look better but will also assist with the amount of power your generating, helping you to jump higher.
That was a quick look into jeté leaps, once you’ve mastered this you can go on to change the form of the leap. Raising the back leg higher and leaning backwards to create a back catch leap. Brushing with one leg and switching the legs in the air. Starting the leap facing forwards and ending facing backwards. And so on.
If these tips have helped you be sure to share and follow me on social media for more hints and tips. As always if there are any moves you want tips with be sure to let me know!