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Jump Around: How to get off the ground higher, faster and easier.

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 jete--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.

Start early. Think of barre as preparation for jumps in center, says Endalyn Taylor, I 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."

Check the landing. Standing in front of a full-length mirror in parallel, with toes and hips square to the front, do a plie 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 plie. Jumping higher can get tricky with petit allegro, as you might feel like you don't have the time to take the plie you need at a fast tempo. "It becomes about the timing and phrasing of your plie," says Taylor. By designating half a beat, or the "and" count before a beat, for your plie, you're making time for the necessary prep for your jump--without losing the rhythm. "It's not about lessening the plie," 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 saute 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."

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.

Illusion Is Half the Battle

"A simple thing people forget is the gaze and focus," says Endalyn Taylor, ballet teacher at the University of Illinois. "If the goal is to get up, shouldn't you look up? A shift of the focus can give the impression of ballon and elevation." Tracie Stanfield, a contemporary teacher at Broadway Dance Center, recommends lifting the chin one or two inches higher, as well as lifting the chest.

Myth Busters

MYTH: "Lift up during plie." "We shouldn't resist the floor. The floor is our friend!" says physical therapist Emily Sandow, who works at the Harkness Center for Dance Injuries at NYU Langone Health. "Don't pull up to go down. You want to be able to give in to the floor. If you allow for a juicy plie, you can get a quick recoil and a powerful push-off."

MYTH: Strength alone = higher jumps. Though strength is important for jumps, it's definitely not the only factor. Coordination and speed are necessary too. If you're not doing preparatory exercises at a speed of at least 80 beats per minute, you're not going to improve your jump. "Doing barre and center at a slow, controlled pace isn't sufficient," Sandow says. "You need to do tendus, degages and releves at fast paces in order to give you the speed you need."

MYTH: "Tuck your pelvis under." "Old ideas were to tuck under and flatten the low back, getting rid of all the curves of the spine," says Sandow. "But you want those curves to be there, because they allow for shock absorption. It's just like how architectural structures allow for sway--if they were rigid, they would break."

Caption: New York City Ballet's Ashley Bouder is known for her buoyant jump.

Caption: Endalyn Taylor

Caption: Emily Sandow

Caption: Tracie Stanfield
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Title Annotation:in training
Author:Rizzuto, Rachel
Publication:Dance Magazine
Date:Aug 1, 2019
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