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Bag of Steps: Big Jumps (Part 2)

by Linda on July 16, 2009

In this post we continue to look at some of the big jumps that have historically filled the vision of many choreographers and which continue to fill the eyes of an audience. Our focus is on a set of common jumps, which tend to occur in almost every classical variation rather than on the flashy jumps which we already covered in Part 1.

Tours en l’air

Propelled from a deep plié in fifth position, the dancer jumps, making a complete turn in the air, switching feet and landing back in tight (closed) fifth position.

ABT’s Daniil Simkin in a variation from The Sleeping Beauty, where he executes some tours en l’air around the 1.07 mark.

Tour de force

A bravura type combination of tours en l’air, pirouettes and spins. A true feat of technical prowess.

ABT’s Angel Corella does a tour de force in Ali’s variation of Le Corsaire (move to the 1:08 mark)

Poisson

Literally meaning fish, it is a jump where the legs are crossed in fifth and held tightly while the back arches throughout its execution, as in the following image:

NYCBs Benjamin Millepied in Poisson. Photo: Paul Kolnik, NYCB ©. Source: Danser en France

NYCBs Benjamin Millepied in Poisson. Photo: Paul Kolnik, NYCB ©. Source: Danser en France

And here we see the jump in action:

Legendary Mikhail Baryshnikov does poisson jumps in his diagonal of cabriolés during Albrecht‘s variation in act 2 of Giselle.

Saut de chat

Also called a développé grand jeté. The working leg passes through retiré and is thrown forward into a développé, so both legs end up extended forming a 180 degree angle.

Former Paris Opera Ballet’s Elisabeth Platel does some sauts de chat (0.11 s) at the beginning of Gamzatti‘s variation in La Bayadère.

Grand pas de chat (This step is also called Russian pas de chat or Pas de chat jeté)

As in a grand jeté the dancer starts by throwing the first leg into a grand battement but then pulls the second leg into passé and lands on the first leg, with the second joining in fifth or in an arabesque. Alternatively the dancer may throw the first leg as in a saut de chat (see above). As this step was frequently used by Balanchine, it is also informally known as “Balanchine’s jump” (see the entrance of Stars and Stripes or Theme and Variations).

NYCBs Miranda Weese doing a grand pas de chat, supported by Damian Woetzel. Photo: Paul Kolnik / NYCB ©. Source: Voice Of Dance

NYCB's Miranda Weese doing a grand pas de chat, supported by Damian Woetzel. Photo: Paul Kolnik / NYCB ©. Source: Voice Of Dance

And here we see the jump in action:

Legendary Kirov ballerina Alla Sizova doing grand pas de chats in Medora‘s variation of Le Corsaire

Sissonne

This jump, from both feet onto one foot, looks like the action of crossing blades in a pair of scissors. The jump starts from fifth position and lands on the leg which the dancer jumped from, leaving the other leg extended in dégagé (pointed toe extended off the floor at 45 degrees, a la seconde or en arrière).

Grande Sissonne Ouverte

This literally means “big open sissonne. One jumps high from a deep plié in fifth position, landing on one foot in a pose such as attitude, arabesque a la seconde, etc. It can be performed en avant, de côté or en arrière . A video of this step is available here [link].

Sissonne Développé Assemblé or Sissonne Doublée

This is a compound step which starts with a sissonne ouverte de côté (see above), followed by a coupé and an assemblé. It can be done as part of a series, in which one travels in one or more directions.

A very young Roberto Bolle executes a series of sissonnes doublées starting at 4:00 in Giselle‘s peasant Pas de Deux.

Sources and Further Information

Technical Manual and Dictionary of Classical Ballet by Gail Grant. BN Publishing. ISBN 1607960311.

Note: Whilst we have used widely known names for these jumps, note that terminology might vary slightly from school to school.

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A Dancer’s Journey: Lessons Learned
July 4, 2012 at 8:08 am

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Mauricio& Nelida July 23, 2009 at 4:26 am

Lovely!

One can learn a lot while having great joy.
There is so many people doing these difficult jumps.
We wonder whom of those is the best. It´s always a difficult choice.

Linda July 23, 2009 at 5:04 am

I think it is always a personal choice. One might like one dancer depending on the context in which he executes the step. Maybe he does something with his arms or head to indicate an intention of the character. Maybe one looks for a particular silhouette or line…I prefer to look at the performance as a whole. :)

BalletSnob September 1, 2009 at 6:35 pm

Sissonne does NOT mean scissor! Ciseaux is the French word for scissors—Sissonne was a person’s name, most likely the person who perfected the step.

Linda September 1, 2009 at 6:54 pm

Indeed, Sissonne comes from an individual’s name, though the scissor idea helps to ID it. We’ll edit to clarify this. Thanks!

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