Step of the Day: Grand Jeté

Above photo: Natalia Osipova performing a grand jeté in Mikhailovsky Ballet Giselle, November 2014 Not much to write about in the New York City ballet scene as all performances are scraped this year. The cancellation of the Metropolitan Opera 2020-2021 season does not bode well for live ballet at least well into 2021. Rather than developing different angles on COVID and the arts (see previous articles in April, May, June), I am starting a new feature this week. I will focus on ballet steps with videos from my YouTube channel, complementing the videos with commentary. These videos should be of use to both dancers and ballet fans of all levels. This week, I explore a basic step, a grand jeté, one of ballet’s most popular steps. It is difficult to imagine a ballet class or a classical work without a few grand jetés.

Jeté is French for thrown; in ballet, a jeté is a jump off of one foot landing on the other. There are numerous types of jetés as Gail Grant’s Technical Manual and Dictionary of Classical Ballet lists 48 variants under jeté. A grand jeté is a jump from one foot to the other in which the legs are split in the air, generally en avant (forward). The leg brushes into the air with a straight leg (grand battement). When the front leg is initially bent and unfolds into a straight leg, it is called a jeté pas de chat or grand jeté développé (saute de chat is commonly used but probably incorrect). A grand jeté (and développé) is a very common step for men and women. Unlike many ballet steps, this is simple, and we have all probably executed this step jumping over a puddle in a rainstorm.

Arm positions vary and the photos show the most common. Natalia Osipova in the above photo demonstrates a second arabesque arm position, common in a straight leg grand jeté. In the photo below the video, Da’ Von Doane of Dance Theatre of Harlem in Brahms Variations in 2017 presents a first arabesque arm position, common in a coupé jeté en tournant en manége (jetés in a circle). The bottom photo shows Robbie Downey in the 2016 Ellison Ballet Offenbach Adagio with arms in fifth position arabesque, common in a grand jeté développé. She is now at Colorado Ballet.

Current dancers excelling at this step include Natalia Osipova (photo above), Herman Cornejo, Kimin Kim, Christine Shevchenko; all exhibit great athleticism and height while maintaining a high level of artistry. Sometimes I see dancers in the Instagram era overdoing the split, going well past 180 degrees. I am not a fan, as this is a grotesque circus-style adaptation of the step. My preference is height over split. 

In the first clip in the above video, Mikhail Baryshnikov performs a high grand jeté développé. Note how his front leg starts out bent, then straightens as he splits his legs in mid-air with impeccable technique. In the second clip, Paris Opera Ballet’s Aurélie DuPont performs a series of grand jeté développés with a nice split. In the third clip, she does the step in tandem with Manuel Legris. In the last clip, Angel Corella of ABT performs a series of grand jetés from the Grand Pas de Deux from Swan Lake. Note that, unlike the first three clips, his front leg is straight. His last jeté is performed in attitude (back leg bent) with great gusto and height.

Sources for Video:

American Ballet Theatre Don Quixote (from 1983), Kultur Video, 2003
Paris Opera Ballet Don Quichotte, Alliance, 2003
American Ballet Theatre Swan Lake, Image Entertainment, 2005

Grand Jeté

Da’ Von Doane Grand Jeté, Brahms Variations, Dance Theatre of Harlem, April 21, 2017. Click for more photos.

Grand Jeté

Robbie Downey Grand Jeté, Offenbach Adagio, Ellison Ballet, May 20, 2016. Click for more photos.