One Move at a Time: Beats (or more formally entrechat)

Jumping has long been one of my favourite parts of dance class. Not because I’m good at it, I have a habit of not using my plié as much as I should that I’m trying not to pass on to my student. But just because I enjoy it. Jumping forms the basis of many moves, both travelling and stationary. One of these movements is an entrechat, a vertical jump in which the feet repeatedly cross over each other, beating them infront of each other in the air.

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The terminology regarding an entrechat changes depending on which association or method you are learning ballet under. But for most associations the basic entrechat is called and entrechat quatre, as in a crossing 4 times. Don’t be put off this, doesn’t mean there are four beats in the air! Instead the number refers to the number of movements the feet make within the jump. In the basic entrechat, the feet will move four times, they move out from fifth, switch to the opposite fifth, move out of fifth and back into the original fifth. This creates two beating motions in the air, one on the way up and one as you land. When starting with the right foot in front, you’ll jump beat the right foot behind and then land with the right foot in front.

Key to the success of this movement is the height of your jump. The higher you jump the more time you have to beat the feet infront and behind while in the air. The addition of height means you’re less likely to get your feet muddled up in the air. Elevation also help to give a certain calmness to the movement that already has rapid foot movement. The more height you can get the slower the feet have to move to get in your desired amount of beats. To help with this, think about pushing off both feet as you begin the movement by pushing through both feet. To get a higher jump you can also work on using the plié to help give you the extra power as you begin the jump, tightening the knees and backs of the legs can also help with this.

Additional exercises to help with the beat motion are to start with the standard preparation exercises, where you perform the beats only without the jump. To do this you only use one foot at a time, moving the weight onto the supporting leg and rapidly beating the other pointed foot infront and behind the ankle. Another way to help with putting the jump in is to extend this exercise to include a plié, so it almost looks like you are marking the entrechat. Plié on both feet and straighten the legs as you lift the front foot and position it behind the supporting ankle. As you bring that foot back to the front, slowly bend the knees again. Doing this with help make the connection between the plié and the beating of the foot, helping with the timing of the movement.

As you get better at this movement you can begin to add in extra beats. Watch out for the tricky entrechat’s that have an odd number. They don’t land in the way that you might expect. Instead, the dancer will land on one foot at the end of the movement, with the weight all on the other foot.

Have fun practising this move and adding repetitions to your entrechats! As always I can be reached through many different mediums, check them out below!

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