Improving split leaps is a something dancers work on consistently in ballet, jazz, and contemporary/modern dance classes. Whether you are practicing grand jeté or saut de chat, below are a few tips to get you flying in the air looking fabulous!
Be sure to build momentum into the preparation. Whether you are starting the leap with a glissade, chasse or a step – there should be a large amount of energy expanded into the preparatory step. Pushing through the floor with a strong core and body alignment is sure to start you off on the right path for a strong leap. Articulating the foot before AND after the jump is vital to success.
Rolling through the feet in the preparation and the take off is a key ingredient for a strong leap preparation. When you push to go into the air, you should be pushing off a flat foot. Also, make sure both legs are splitting into the air at almost the same exact time. This will help to lift the pelvis evenly and secure a strong split position. While in the air, be sure not to lean to far forward or back. Keeping the shoulders over the hips and torso in alignment is important to achieve the right coordination and progression of the leap.
Have a visualization of what the split leap is supposed to look like. Does it brush through 1st position like a grand jete or does it go through a passe developpe as it would in saut de chat? Does it look soft and float through the air or dart and shoot out with strength?
Don’t tense up in the upper body. Arms should flow through first position and then carry to the port de bras needed for the leap. They shouldn’t not be stiff or flail around at all. When you reach the height of the jump, take a deep breath to extend in the air just a bit longer. That extra lift from the breath will expand even more as you push for more height. The added lift is called ballon in ballet; meaning to float like a balloon. Soften the landing with a strong plie to create a light look to the leap.
Stretch and Strengthen
Do you have a split on the floor? If not, chances are you won’t be able to articulate a full split in the air either. An equal balance of stretching and strength is key to accomplish a strong and beautiful split leap. Jump training is a great way to gain strength and agility for split leaps.
Start with two footed jumps in second position across the floor, next time add the knees in a tuck, progress to grand jetes, stags, then eventually saut de chat.