Ballet Uni readers have spoken. When asked, “Which grand jeté do you think is most beautiful: oversplit or 180 degrees?”, an overwhelming majority of you answered that you prefer the 180º version. You said that the oversplit looks, “broken”, more like gymanstics or a circus than ballet, and relies on “shock value”, whereas the 180º grand jeté maintains the beautiful line, demonstrates more control, and visually gives a sense of flight. Here are some of your answers below, followed by an expert explanation and video demonstration of why we never, EVER “oversplit” in classical ballet…
Judy: “180º wins. Its aesthetic is not going for the shock value, rather, it has beauty and a pleasing line.”
Sheila: “The oversplit grand jeté is not ballet. It’s not beautiful and, since it is becoming all too common, it doesn’t even have shock value. (If, that is, shock had any value.)”
Roxann: “Definitely the 180! Everyone emphasizes the ‘ballet line’ but the oversplit totally breaks the line!”
Becky: “I prefer 180 degrees. I don’t like the look of an overly flexible dancer because I think when you go beyond 180 degrees the movement loses its elegance, and in male dancers this makes the movement look less masculine.”
Janet: “Add my vote for the 180º line. I am so weary of how ‘gymnasticized’ ballet has become.”
Cicely: “The 180º version is MUCH prettier because it maintains its line.”
Leyenda: “I have often thought about the aesthetics of going beyond 180 degrees and I don’t like it at all. The oversplit conveys an unsettling vision for many reasons… For one, the body has been strained and weakened to achieve this. It is not stable nor physically sound when it comes to the anatomy behind good/healthy/safe, maximum range movements. The oversplit is circus like, freakish really, and does not belong in ballet. The geometry of the graceful, expansive line has been compromised, and even though the oversplit goes beyond that line, it actually looks broken. The 180 degree grand jeté looks more beautiful, absolutely.”
Lea: “I think that the 180 degree grande jeté is much more beautiful because it demonstrates control. Each of the ballet dancers performing these big jumps may have that capability to oversplit, but showing control of the movement by containing it to 180º is much more balletic then just letting it all loose.”
Adrienne: “I much prefer the clean line of the 180º jeté. It is also easier for the dancer to maintain proper turn-out when he/she does not go beyond that range.”
Marjie: “I am not a fan of any position where the line has been compromised by displaying the full range of flexibility. This starts to look more like gymnastics or broken Barbie dolls than ballet… Therefore, the 180 degree jeté is far more beautiful, in my opinion.”
Christina: “The oversplit is impressive but to me it looks like the dancer is falling in a still snapshot, and also the line becomes distorted. I like the 180 degree version better since she has a beautiful line, plus there is a sense of flight to the jump.”
Mihaela: “In the oversplit photo, I think the back leg actually looks a little bent! Of course the 180 degree version shows clean work, representing more ballet than circus!”
Why Grand Jeté is Always Performed at 180º
(An Expert Explanation)
“Mary, I found your question and survey to be an interesting one, and it is a prime example of the confusion in the dance world today. The correct answer is 180 degrees, when one studies the “Teaching Method of Classical Dance” (“Teaching Method”), and referring to jetés.
“First, battements tendus jetés are taught and mastered at 45 degrees. Once the holding of the turn-out is accomplished at 45 degrees, then the grand jeté can safely be taught. This takes a student at least five years coming six days a week to master the holding of the turn-out.
“Flexibility is only one issue to be dealt with. The strength of holding the turn-out is of utmost importance when considering when to introduce the grand jeté. When taught and introduced too early or at the wrong time, all kinds of strains and injuries can occur. Grand jeté is introduced in the 6th year of schooling (of course, this assumes that the students study 6 days per week). When the grand jeté is introduced, the body has already been prepared to be able to throw the leg quickly and with explosive energy, and the student can control and hold the leg at 90 degrees after it is thrown. Then, before the leg held at 90 degrees drops, the other leg has been prepared to be able to throw itself quickly and with the same energy. This suspended effect is what makes it exciting to watch. The legs make a horizontal line and the proper training of strength in the body allows the dancer to jump high to give the vertical line. So, when properly prepared, the body can execute a grand jeté that is both vertically high and horizontally perfect. Both ingredients make for a perfectly executed grand jeté.
“While viewing a grand jeté, one can break down the viewing experience between the vertical and horizontal trajectory parts. The vertical part of the trajectory (from Latin, traicere which means “throw across”; traicere is composed of tra-, short for trans, which means “across” and -jacere, which means “throw,” the root of the French verb jeter, conjugated to jeté) provides the exciting and surprising components. The horizontal part gives the soothing, calming, and pleasing components. This is why it takes a long time to perfect a real, correctly executed grand jeté. The faster that one can throw the front leg up and hold it while the other leg catches up and holds in line with the front leg, the more exciting and pleasing it is to look at. This skill has to be carefully taught through musical and physical forms. The holding of the turn-out takes years to master, in order to perfect the grand jeté and all other jumps. In conclusion, when one is solely taught the emphasis of the stretch for increasing range of motion, without the ability to throw with explosive energy and to hold the position under strength, only half of the jump has been mastered.
“We do not throw the leg higher than 90 degrees for a grand jeté any more than we allow the student to take their crotch and put it on the floor in grand plié. First, it is not aesthetically pleasing to look at (it looks like one is going to the bathroom on stage), and second, the reason a grand plié has the thighs parallel to the ground is for kinesiological reasons; it is the best possible angle to develop strength. Going farther than the thighs parallel to the ground actually begins to weaken the body. So there are aesthetic and anatomical reasons for performing the movement in this way. When you study “Teaching Method”, every aspect possible is taken into consideration, without any speculation or guessing. This teaching method is scientifically based and physiologically sound. There is nothing like it in the world, and it produces amazing results when properly used. I have been using it for 40 years now, without one injury in the lesson. It is also very therapeutic for those who have been injured with unbalanced and naive lessons.
“The most beautiful and exciting grand jeté that I have ever witnessed was performed by Gabriella Komleva in the Kirov Ballet’s “Sleeping Beauty.” (Gabriella Komleva was the student of late world’s leading authority on the Teaching Method of Classical Ballet and heir to the Pedagogical Work of Agrippina Vaganova, Vera Kostrovitskaya.)”
–Professor Emeritus Peggy Willis-Aarnio
Video Example of a Correctly Executed Big Jump
I am still looking for the video mentioned above with Gabriella Komleva performing a beautifully executed grand jeté, however, Prof. Willis-Aarnio provided us with a brief clip of a correctly executed grand pas de chat, which follows the same principles as the grand jeté. This is most fascinating and enlightening to watch… Enjoy this gem of a performance!
A great, big THANK YOU to all those who participated in my survey!! I really appreciate all of your e-mails and comments on our Facebook page because I love getting to know you and to hear what YOU think! If you would like to join in the conversation, please remember to subscribe to Ballet Uni to get complete access and receive my newsletter (goes out approx. 2-3 times per month).