Monday, 19 January 2015

Ballet Steps: Sauté

The latest edition of the Dance Musings ballet steps series explores sautés, which are small jumps. In a ballet class, sautés are performed in the centre as part of the allegro (jumping) section, once the body is completely warmed-up and mobilised. 

Yonah Acosta in Coppelia
Photo: David Jensen
Sautés can be performed in all five positions of the feet. Commencing in plié, both legs and feet push off the floor to lift the whole body into the air, with knees extended and toes pointed. The jump lands as it began - in plié in exactly the same place and position on the floor. Sautés are often performed in sequence with each landing plié serving as the beginning plié for the next jump. 

In English technique, it is normal to put the heels down in between sautés. Other styles - particularly that of the choreographer George Balanchine - encourage dancers to keep the heels off the floor in the landing plié, although this means the calf muscles and Achilles' tendons don't have a chance to stretch out and there is therefore a potentially higher injury risk. Another difference between ballet styles is in whether the legs are drawn inwards and together in the air, or the toes and feet stay directly in line with the starting/landing position. 

Three sauté variations are soubresauts, changements and échappés sautés. Soubresauts are simply another name for sautés in 5th position. Changements commence in 5th (or 3rd) position with one foot in front, but the feet swap over in the air to land in 5th (or 3rd) with the other foot in front. In échappés sautés, the feet 'escape', starting in a closed position with the feet together (either 1st, 3rd or 5th) and opening out during the jump to land in either 2nd or 4th position. The feet close to land back in 3rd or 5th in an échappé sauté fermé, which often - but not always - follows immediately after. 

A typical sauté exercise might include 16 sautés in first position, or four sautés in each of 1st and 2nd positions followed by eight changements in 5th. In the latter, the jump to change between 1st and 2nd position would be an échappé sauté, and between 2nd and 5th an échappé sauté fermé. Common corrections for young students include not stretching the legs and feet in the air, not maintaining technique and posture in the plié, and jumping from side to side, rather than on the spot.

Here's a young girl by the name of Aimee performing a simple sauté sequence:

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