The 5 Basic Dance Jumps

Mathematically, the human body (with two feet) is capable of only 5 basic jumps.

Trivia Crack - procrastination at its finest

Trivia Crack – procrastination at its finest

Stack that in your trivia …crack.


It’s true! You can do all the fancy-pants jumps you want but they each boil down to one of only five possible combinations:

  • Two feet to two feet
  • One foot to the same foot
  • One foot to the other foot
  • Two feet to one foot
  • One foot to two feet

Knowing this is helpful for more than just scoring well in trivia games. It helps you to quickly break down or analyze any new jump skill that gets thrown your way. Let’s take a closer look at each type of jump.

Two to Two — Jump

This one, what some might call a bunny hop, is usually the first jumping skill children develop. It can be done in place or traveling and is usually a vertical jump. Some dance class examples:

  • Temps levé sauté (Russian method) or soubresaut
  • Échappé sauté
  • Entrechat quatre
  • Tours en l’air
  • Tuck jumps
  • Straddle and firebird jumps (not the traveling variety)
  • Pas de poisson (fish jump)


One to Same — Hop

Yes, to dance educators, there is a difference between a jump and a hop. Hopping happens on one foot. Some hops can be deceiving — the step may begin with a brush of one leg but when the take-off happens, that leg is already in the air, meaning the take-off is from a single foot.

  • Temps levé (sur le cou-de-pied or arabesque) or Step-hop
  • Cabriole
  • Fouetté sauté
  • Over the tops/over the log/leg jumps
  • Heel clicks


One to the Other — Leaps and Bounds

Though we might think primarily of grand jeté or saut de chat when we talk about leaps in dance class, there are many, many types of jumps that transition from one foot to the other. Smaller leaps could be described as a bound or an exaggerated run.

  • Tour jeté
  • Petit jeté
  • First part of Pas de basque (or the jazzier “Wizard of Oz” chassé)
  • Glissade
  • Straddle/Russian leaps
  • Barrel turns and Calypso leaps


These final two jumps are a little less common in everyday movement. They are often the hardest for beginning dance students to execute in combinations because of their unique transfer of weight.

5 types of dance jumpsTwo to One — Sissonne

A simple sissonne in ballet is a small jump, usually from fifth position (two feet), that lands on one leg with the other in sur le cou-de-pied. Typically we think of the larger, scissor-like sissonne which either land open (ouvert) or closed (fermé). Faille is another two-to-one ballet step. In more contemporary dance forms this basic jump can be executed in all kinds of ways.

An unusual example of sissonne-like jumping is half of what I call a hopscotch — jumping from second position plié to a single leg beneath you. In fact, when students are struggling with sissonne, I’ll have them try the more familiar hopscotch to remind them what two-to-one feels like.

One to Two — Assemblé

The other half of a hopscotch is a jump from one foot to two. In choreography, dancers might land a one-to-twojump in an open position. In dance class you’ll typically do this jump as an assemblé — the legs come together in the air. Like sissonne, assemblé can be small or huge. Assemblé might also also turn in the air and could be done in parallel rather than with the legs turned out.


Bonus trivia question!

Jump, hop, and leap are each one of the 8 basic human locomotor movements (some say there are 7 or even more than 8). Can you name the others?

Your turn!

Now that you know all five jumps, what are your favorite jumps and leaps?

List them in the comments below and see if you can classify whether they are…

  • Two to two
  • One to one
  • One to the other
  • Two to one
  • One to two


hopscotch” by Dean McCoy is licensed CC BY 2.0 (modified with text)

The Long and Short of Achilles Tendon Health

It feels great to have Lauren back at Dance Advantage after a hiatus. She is excited to talk about one of her favorite topics: Tendons!

Achilles stretchingThis isn’t the first time we’ve had a tendon talk. A few years back I discussed Achilles tendonitis and comments have continued to roll in with questions about how best to treat and avoid tendonopathies in the lower leg.

The balance between strength and flexibility:

Part of overall muscular fitness is recognizing that every athlete (and I’m including dancers here as athletes) must have a balance between muscular strength, muscular endurance, and flexibility. The ratio of each of these components changes based on the demands of the sport, and obviously most dance forms require a higher degree of flexibility than other athletic pursuits.

Dancers are ultra-aware of the importance of maintaining good flexibility, but the demands of today’s choreography also require a considerable amount of strength, endurance, and power. Too much emphasis on strength, and the dancer risks injury from tendons being too tight. Too much emphasis on stretching, and loosey-goosey tendons can easily become overstretched and at risk for injury.

Hands down, the best way to avoid lower leg tendon injuries is to be diligent about proper technique, particularly when performing jumping movements.

Jumping puts a lot of stress on the Achilles tendon, and most techniques require the dancer to press through the heels to cushion the landing. Every time a jump is landed, the dancer completes a soft, toe-ball-heel progression before pushing off into the next jump.

Aside from protecting the tendon from injury, this technique will also load the tendon and allow its natural elasticity to recoil and propel you into the next jump.

The Stress Reflex: [Read more…]

Vertically Challenged: Improving Your Jumps

What’s the secret recipe that will improve your jumping skills?

Improve Your Dance JumpsFor the most part the secret to jumping is not so secret, it is the same hard work that goes into most everything in dance: proper alignment, solid technique, and practice, practice, practice!

Not what you wanted to hear?

Sorry, but never fear, I can give you some pointers that will help you as you practice those jumps. I’m going to focus mainly on vertical jumping (sauté) in this post, although many of these principles can also be applied to traveling jumps or leaps, like grand jeté for example.


Proper alignment is key in quality jumping.

In vertical jumping, especially, it helps to imagine stacking your body parts (the head, the torso, the pelvis, the knees, the feet) on top of one another like stacking stones. When one stone is out of place, a horizontal element is added to an otherwise vertical force. This slows the jump and reduces its height.

What keeps the stones in alignment is a strong core. This does not mean you should be stiff like a pogo stick when you jump. The center is strong and active so that the rest of the body can stay connected without added tension.

The quality of your jump is only as good as the plié that proceeds it. And, a quality plié is defined by not only the action of the legs but also by its supporting base (the feet).

The ankles (or, more correctly the tarsus) should not roll in or sickle before or during lift off and there should be a feeling of widening and lengthening through the feet and toes so that the whole foot (including the heel) is used for optimum leverage. For height and power, it may be helpful to imagine your legs in plié as a coiled spring ready to release straight into the air.

Lift Off

As the legs lengthen and the body is leaving the ground, remember that vertical height is greatly increased when the feet roll sharply through to pointed toes beneath the pelvis.

In the book, Dance Imagery for Technique and Performance, Eric Franklin encourages you to imagine your feet extending and piercing the sand beneath your toes as you jump into the air.

To strengthen the muscles of the feet, practice good foot articulation (like articulating syllables in a word, you want to articulate each action of the foot when “rolling through”) in tendu, dégagé (tendu jeté), other battement, and relevé will strengthen the feet for both taking off and landing in a jump.

Further resistance training with exercise bands can also be done as homework outside of class:

My Dance Homework: Toe Sit-Ups

Watch this video on YouTube.

A mistake many dancers make is bringing tension into the shoulders, arms, and neck as they leave the ground.

This tension is not effective in getting good height so, as a teacher, I try to re-direct my students’ focus to other parts of the body. To aid you in your sauté, I’m now going to pretend you are my students…

  1. When a rock wall climber is harnessed and attached to ropes and pulleys in order to get him/her off the ground, what part of the body is the harness supporting?
  2. Why do you suppose that is? (go ahead, think about it!)
  3. So, in order to get yourself off the ground let’s try to imagine a harness supporting and lifting the pelvis from underneath. The harness supports the pelvic floor. That is the web of muscle and tendons at the base of the pelvis between your sitz bones (ischial tuberosity), tailbone (coccyx), and pubic bone. (see here for a glossary and some pics)
  4. Try jumping with this image in mind. Does it make a difference? (If imaginations aren’t enough, I have been known to have students lace their hands between their legs, one arm back and one arm front, and actually give themselves a lift as they jump. Sounds embarrassing? Maybe, but they don’t forget the image!)

I also like the image of attaching rocket boosters to your sitz bones. This gives a nice idea of the downward force needed to shoot your body up into the air and, like the harness image, encourages the feeling of lift from beneath the pelvis. Try these images and see what works for you!


I’m sure your teachers have all cried out “Toe, ball, heel!” at least once during a jumping exercise. Articulating the feet is vitally important in landing a jump. However, the whole leg is involved and should arrive at the floor extended, rather than bent to provide the most cushioning.

Alignment should also stay in tact on the landing. Many student dancers seem to crumple as they land (making it harder to rebound into another jump if necessary). Maintain the alignment by feeling a reach through the top of the head (not the chin) through the entire jump.

Breath and Musicality

Practice breathing during jumps (particularly if you are doing a series of sauté).

You can decide which works best for you: exhaling on the jump or on the landing. Awareness of your breath will improve your height and help release excess tension.

Listen while you’re jumping to the timing and tempo of the music or rhythm accompanying your movement.

Try clapping in time with some music, making circles with the arms as your hands rebound and come back together. A beat is not just a “one” and an “and” but a whole space to be filled. Imagine filling that space with your jump and land and rebound on the downbeat just as your hands did.

What are some other tips or images that have helped you with vertical jumps?