Dance Tips and Techniques – Power of the plié: Improve the height and landing of your jumps!

Technique Tip Tuesday:

Power of the plié Improve the height and landing of your jumps!
by Lynn Bobzin

Have you heard of Sir Isaac Newton’s Laws of Motion? The famous scientist’s Third Law of Motion states that every action will have a reaction that is both equal and opposite to the original action. Think about it this way: We know that if a dancer jumps into the air, they are going to come back down the same way and land on the ground. Thank gravity! This is the basic principle of the popular proverb, “what goes up must come down.”  This physics is active even in a simple action like a jump.

Female Dance Instructor Training PliéWhat does physics have to do with dance or jumps?

The answer is everything. Dance is an art form that requires physical motion in real time. Movement is physics! It is through acceleration and deceleration, force, momentum, gravity…and Newton’s Third Law that we are able to dance. Jumping into the air means coming back down, simple and automatic. The trickier bit can be taking off in a way that maximizes the power of your jump. Many dancers underestimate the power of a simple plié and how much it can increase the height of a jump.  

Taking flight

If you want to gain air time, you must think about Newton’s Third Law a little backwards every time you jump. To take off into the air, you must go down to go up. Therefore, you need your plié! Increasing the depth of your plié and the amount of force you use to push off the floor will help aid in jump height. Practicing proper pliés both in and out of class will help strengthen crucial leg muscles needed for more powerful jumps.

Dance Technique and StancePay attention to your plié

Proper positioning and alignment in your pliés will also help the accuracy and balance of your jumps during takeoffs and landings.  When practicing your plié, keep your heels grounded and your knees straight over your second and third toes. Your legs should resemble a diamond shape when open, with your shoulders stacked evenly over your hips. Think of your belly lifting in and upwards like an ice cream scooper at the same time your tailbone drops down, drawing an imaginary line down through your heels.  

Landing

The most supportive and cushioned way of landing a jump is to articulate through the foot, and, you guessed it, to plié through the landing! Land toes first, then ball, then heel. Picture rolling smoothly through the sole of the foot. Begin your plié once your feet contact the floor.

Additional tips:

  • Continue to work on your turnout and stretch your calves regularly to increase the depths of your plié.
  • A strong core will help keep posture and alignment correct in pliés and jumps.
  • Make sure you breathe! Holding your breath during jumps will create tension in your upper back and shoulders which makes you stiffer and heavier.
  • Strengthen your ankles and feet to improve the articulation and softness of your landing. Practice pointing, flexing, ankle circles, and of course practicing those relevés!
  • Jump through the top of your head! Visualize a string running through the top of your head down the center of your body and between your heels. Every time you jump into the air, imagine someone pulling up on the string.
  • Push the floor away with your feet. Imagine your feet are small rocket ships. When you launch into the air, shoot off the ground through the tips of your toes.