Petit allegro and the beats within the jumps look gorgeous, sharp, and impressive when seen in ballets like Giselle and Napoli. If you’re having trouble getting your brisés to look more elegant or your entrechat-sixes to explode in the air, check out these eight tips on how to make the most of your batterie.
Master the Positions
If you have a good idea of the positions that comprise each jump, the batterie will seem not only possible, but doable.
Break down every batterie as much as you can, noting each change in position. It may all happen fairly fast in the air, but even the most complicated batterie jumps are simply movements through the most basic positions.
Performing a tough batterie combination? Don’t panic about the speed or the fancy footwork. If you mess up and lose a beat, just keep going and take out some of the beats if you need to—you can always add them back in next time!
Work Without Gravity
Once you’ve figured out the path of the legs and feet, try rehearsing your batterie at the barre.
Use your upper body to resist the pull of gravity by pushing against the barre. This will slow down the movements so you can become more comfortable with the different positions and transitions, and learn how it feels to perform the batterie correctly.
Working at the barre will also teach you to use strong, straight legs and pointed feet, both of which are absolute musts in developing a clean batterie.
Get Good Air Time
Once you’ve figured out what goes where and how, you can start practicing your batterie in the center. A frequent problem in batterie is the dancer not getting high enough into the air to complete all of the beats.
If this happens to you, take the beats out and practice the simplest form of the jump, going up as high as you can. Do this several times, until you can get your legs perfectly straight with feet pointed in the air for at least a split second before landing. Then slowly add in your beats while maintaining the same airtime.
Just because the jumps are smaller and faster doesn’t mean they shouldn’t still lift you off the ground!
Turn Out, Way Out
Imagine the legs as scissors in your batterie: They should be swiping across each other like two blades, crisscrossing tightly with every movement. Now, turn in to parallel/sixth position and try doing some batterie.
Find it more difficult? This is because the outward rotation of the legs makes the batterie possible, allowing them to pass quickly and efficiently over each other, even through tight positions. No turnout means no beats!
Always, always turn out fully during your batterie—from start to finish. When you lose turnout, your legs stop beating together and merely scratch each other instead, which is a both unattractive and potentially uncomfortable movement.
Hold Your Upper Body
When you watch a dancer performing a brilliant petit allegro, notice that his/her upper body seems to move almost entirely independent of the lower half. No matter how fast their feet and legs jump, the upper body either remains entirely still or lilts gracefully between port de bras positions.
In order to achieve a clean batterie, start slow with shoulders down and keep your upper body still or in the intended position(s). This will not only improve the aesthetics, but also make your jumps more elastic and effortless, since you won’t have to fight the dead weight of a floppy upper body.
Eventually, add in port de bras as needed, moving arms from the back with strength and resistance.
Hot Tip: Focus on the Calves
Think of batterie not as beating your feet, but beating your calves together in the air. This will shift the entire movement up, giving you the appearance of graceful jumps instead of messy feet.
Spring from Your Toes
It may be one of the tiniest muscles in your entire body, but that little area at the base of the underside of your big toe is absolutely vital when it comes to your jumps.
Push off of your big toe at the last moment of the jump, when you’re coming out of your plié, just as you feel your feet rising through ¾ pointe. This will make your feet point with force, adding power to your jumps and creating a beautiful image and clear position in the air. It will also ensure your feet are fully stretched in the ascension of your jump—ensuring a Kodak moment from start to finish.
Push Down Your Plié
Even though batterie is usually performed at a quick tempo with little time (if any) to rest between jumps, you must always push deep into your plié before taking off again between jumps.
If you have to make your jump smaller to accommodate the tempo, do it; it’s better to sacrifice a little air time than to sacrifice your plié, without which you’ll have no room for any beats.
Never Look Down
Lastly, remember during batterie (and all parts of ballet class) to never, ever look down. Keep your gaze straight and slightly up over the horizon, tilting your chin upward just the slightest bit.
No matter how amazing it is to watch your feet flickering between positions in the mirror, looking down will cause you to drop your chest, which will in turn cause you to tip forward out of alignment and lose height in your jumps. If you need to see your feet, practice slowly on your own time while watching them in the mirror, or record yourself with a video or camera phone.
Batterie is one of the most remarkable, enduring traditions of ballet technique. It may seem impossible, but with a little practice and a lot of determination, anyone can achieve beautiful, precise beats in their jumps!