Facts About Dance Leaps

Updated April 17, 2017

Most forms of artistic dance---jazz, modern and hip-hop---either originate or share some vocabulary with ballet. One of the most exciting dance moves began as the ballet step grand jete---meaning big jump in French. The earliest grand jetes were delicate little jumps---leaping forward from one foot to the other---very different from the big athletic moves we watch dancers perform today.

Dance Leaps Versus Jumps

Moving a significant distance forward, backward or side-to-side through the air defines a step as a leap in dance. Jumps also moves forward, backwards and sideways but they travel a much shorter distance. Often a series of small jumps---like glissades; a side-to side jump, sissonnes; a forward jump with one foot following the other, pas de bourrees; many small steps resembling a step ball change or just plain running forward a great speed---precede a big leap. This allows the dancer to gather the power and speed necessary for gaining the height and hang time a leap requires.

The Grand Jete

This is also called the split leap because a dancer executing the grand jete correctly performs a perfect split in the air. It requires great strength and flexibility. Dancers with extraordinary leaping ability appear to hang high in the air for a few moments---as if in a still picture. The grand jete is the template for all other dance leaps. Performing a grand jete takes years of dance training. Grand jetes or split leaps are part of all dance vocabularies from ballet to hip-hop.

Grand Jete en Tournant

Also know as tours jetes these leaps start with the dancer stepping forward with a chasse---a step where one foot chases the other. Throwing one leg into up the air in front of herself she leap into the air and lands on that same foot facing the opposite direction. These leaps are performed in all dance disciplines including jazz and hip-hop.

Stag Leap

A stage leap is a grand jete with the front foot in attitude position. Attitude is a ballet term for a leg that is bent at the knee. Stag leaps are very popular in jazz and modern choreography

Barrel Turns

Barrel turns are not really turns at all but actually big turning leaps. The dancer leaps while almost laying completely backwards and turning at the same time. The leg initiating the turn is straight and the leg that follows is usually in attitude. Story ballets like Swan Lake often have a section that shows off the male danseur's ability and this dynamic leap often ends that segment to much applause. It is also a popular jazz dance move

Sideways Leap

The sideways leap resembles a cheerleading split jump except it moves sideways through the air. You will most often see this leap in jazz and hip-hop. The dancer throws one leg up to the side followed by the second leg. She usually reaches forward---almost touching her toes---while moving through the air to the side.

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About the Author

Lori Vechazone began her journalism career in 1990 as a news producer for KGW-AM/TV in Portland, Ore., covering everything from business, politics and the arts to travel, health and fitness. Her writing appears at Urlesque, Travels and Gadling. Vechazone holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from Ohio State University.