Improving Grand Jeté

Hi everybody!  Today is a highly reqeusted blog post all about improving your grand jetés or saut de chats and getting that high split jump much desired by dancers everywhere.  Enjoy!

The basics

A grand jeté and a saut de chat can be considered two different things or the same things depending on which school you go to.  (GRB friends – Our teachers use grand jeté/saut de chat and grand jeté only).  Here are the different interpretations:

GRAND JETÉ ONLY: These teachers say that a grand jeté is a jump completed with straight legs, wtih no développé.  A grand jeté développé would be the movement that would be otherwise known as a saut de chat – you bend both knees to the pas de chat position before extending them out.

SAUT DE CHAT ONLY: These teachers say that there is no grand jeté – everything is a saut de chat.  There is no difference between the movements with straight and bent legs in the terminology – it is solely a choreographer’s preference to create a new step.

GRAND JETÉ/SAUT DE CHAT: This interpretation says that a grand jeté is completed with straight legs, and there is no such thing as a grand jeté développé.  A saut de chat would then be the equivalent of the grand jeté développé.

And then there’s pas de chat.  This movement has absolutely nothing to do with a grand jeté or saut de chat.  I just mention it here because of the similarity in terminology to a saut de chat – not to be confused.  A pas de chat means “step of the cat” whereas a saut de chat means “jump of the cat.”

I’m not to be telling you which meaning and interpretation is correct and/or incorrect.  These are just the different takes on the classical terminology!

Muscles for movement

Here are some vital muscles in getting that perfect split and soaring jump in that grand jeté.

Your iliopsoas consists of your iliacus psoas major.  It is the only muscle that connects your trunk to your legs, which makes it vital in supporting movements such as jumps and flexion of the hip, which is big in a saut de chat or grand jeté.

Your abdominal muscles are needed to help pull up through your upper body that will aid in the lifting of the jump.  The same is for your back muscles, which are also needed to aid and support the arabesque movement happening with your back leg in the jump.  It’s quite complex, isn’t it?

On a deeper level…Q & A

Many teachers give corrections that aren’t so specific to tell the dancer which muscles or actions are neeed to complete the movement they are assigning to their student.  There is nothing bad about these corrections – they are correct in every way.  But, a ballet student can benefit from going a layer deeper and examining the intrinsic side to these basic commands both through anatomy and physiology as well as imagery.  Let’s do that.

How can I get my full split?

There are a few different approaches to this.  Situation A would involve a dancer who physically cannot achieve this position.  To fix this, you will need to do some stretching.  See my Flexibility Guide for how to achieve everything flexibility-related.  You can also check out and do my Stretching Workout.

Situation B would involve a dancer who fails to use the correct muscles within the jump to get their legs up.  This movement will involve a fast-motion engagement of your iliopsoas, for the front leg, and for your back, for the arabesque of the back leg.

Another tip for achieving this full split in the air is to imagine lengthening the under side of your body in the position.  Lengthening the backs of the legs instead of shortening the tops will get you the right analogy in order to use the correct muscles and achieve the correct feeling in the movement, which will ultimately give you the best stage presence and quality of movement.  Choreographers love that.

I can’t jump high enough.

A saut de chat or grand jeté is a very layered and complex step.  It involves a feat of flexibility while maintaining this extraordinary elevation.  We’ve talked about one side to it, and now we must discuss the other.

You must think of throwing your front leg to 90 degrees in the jump.  If you try to throw it any higher than that, it’s automatic declining because of your inability to control it will ultimately bring you straight down.  That’s definitely not what you’re going for.  So, think of throwing the leg to 90 degrees and building up to the height of the leg that exists will get you the right quality of movement.

These jumps also involve a quality of muscle control and strength.  Your hamstrings and calves are two big muscles that will help you control your landings and take-offs and help prevent injuries.

A few extra tips and notes…

MAINTAIN THAT TURNOUT.  It’s very easy to loose your turnout completely after the glissade and before the grand jeté.  It’s a matter of self-discipline…there aren’t really any tricks to help prevent that ugly moment.  So, maintain the turnout and really clean up the transition steps before you focus on the big jump.

DON’T THROW AWAY THE ARMS.  Here are a few qualities of your arms during saut de chats that really should be focused on:

  • The coordination.  They shouldn’t come up to early, which automatically won’t help you at all, nor too late, which will bring you downwards in your jumps.
  • The initiation.  From your first position with the arms after the glissade, make sure that you initate whichever position you’re going to with the elbows, not with the hands.  It’s those icky in-between steps that make it super disgusting.
  • The maintaining.  If you bring the arms down to early, it creates the vision that the jump ended long before it did.  So, keep the position, maybe even a bit after you’ve landed.  It’s okay to cheat a little bit, as long as it’s for the good.

Thanks for reading today’s blog post about grand jetés or saut de chats.  Please leave blog post requests so I can keep giving you what you’re looking for!

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