IMPROVING YOUR GRAND ALLEGRO
Watching a dancer soar through the air in an impressive position is no doubt one of the most exciting things in ballet. As a dancer, that split second when you hover mid-air is the most powerful and incomparable feeling.
While Grand Allegro is usually the final step of class, achieving the sensation of effortlessness in the air begins from the very first exercise you perform at barre. Pay attention to how you perform every single tendu, battement jeté, and grand battements as you progress through class. The strength and coordination you practice in those simple steps builds up as you move from barre to centre to prepare you for grand allegro.
Jumps may come more naturally to certain dancers, the coordination and strength necessary to achieve a spectacular “ballon”, that sensation of hanging in the air for a split second, requiring a little less effort for them, then for others. In order to make the most of every exercise in class leading up to grande allegro, it is important you teach your body the coordination that jumps require, and build the strength in your muscles, before you head into the studio.
The Supporting Leg Jump Key Exercise will allow you to strengthen your supporting leg, as well as work on the alignment and stability of your leg, so you can increase the height of your jump.
Achieving the height of jump you desire, or attaining a flat split leap needs a combination of strength throughout your calves, quads and glutes, so you can use your legs efficiently to drive yourself off the ground and into the air. Then, you need to work on the coordination of all hinges in your lower body - ankles, knees and hips, working together perfectly so you can efficiently push off and propel your body up into the air and into any direction.
As I mentioned before, this begins at the barre. Your plié is the most important part of your jump - it’s where you prepare to take off, gather the momentum to explode into the air, and ensure you land safely and softly after your jump. Your plié needs to be a smooth and continuous movement in order to allow you to use every part of your body simultaneously in your leaps. Be mindful about how you use your feet. Engaging all the small muscles on the bottom of your feet, as well as your toes to push off the floor and absorb the landing, will not only take a lot of load off the rest of your body, it will also help you land silently, maintaining that illusion that you are floating.
You want to make sure every body part is doing its part, so you can explode into a spectacular jump. The Knee Lifts Key Exercise will teach your working knee how to reach maximum height, before you extend it out into your grand jeté. Achieving this is absolutely crucial for a perfect split in the air.
Finally, adding an element of resistance when practicing your grand jetés can be very helpful to emphasise the explosivity this jump needs. Doing your Grand Jetés with Powerband Key Exercise will strengthen your legs as you work against the resistance of the powerband. Once you have completed all your repetitions, try a grand jeté without the powerband - that sensation of freedom will make you look like you are soaring through the air.
The very last detail I want you to think about as you practice your grand allegro is the use of your upper body and arms. The body always follows the gaze, so make sure your focus is up and out, lifting your chin just a fraction as you take off for your jump. Try to maintain the position of the arms for a moment as you land from your leap - this will make the audience believe that you are lingering above the ground for just a little longer. As you practice each of these elements, you will find that your jumps will become lighter and even more exciting every day. Maybe next time you get to grand allegro in class, you can picture yourself performing your dream role - how would you soar across the stage?