I love jumping and taking men’s class to practice my élévation. But after suffering from tibial stress fractures last year, I was put in the dreaded boot (one for each leg) for at least eight weeks. Every physical therapist I saw mentioned how the bowing of my shins caused by repeatedly jumping and landing incorrectly is what made my injury so severe. I had to face facts and sit out. I would watch class and rehearsal with envy of every sauté. I would dream about doing endless grande jetés. However, sitting on the floor during a particular class gave me a whole new perspective on jumping in ballet—and I now have two new strategies to give me greater height.
My first revelation came by observing my fellow dancers feet. "Put your heels down!" is one of the most common corrections heard in many studios. But, getting your heels down is only part of the foot articulation that needs to happen for great élévation and fast petit allégro. It all comes down to the basics: Point your toes. I saw first-hand how the dancers who pointed their feet—ankles and toes—were much more agile, allowing for clean and precise petit allégro work.
The second revelation came with the witnessing of how grand battements really are what produces élévation. So that is why my teachers have been emphasizing fast up and slow down! One particular peer of mine has a superior jump. Why? Her initial grand battement, plus the power she uses when pushing off the ground, gives her height. Her ability to sustain the jump comes from the strength of her grand battement. She has the control to stop her leg and the strength to hold it, so that her body can catch up while she floats in the air. The purpose of a grand battement is so much more than trying to kick higher than the girl next to you.