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Fly High

Leapin' lizards! How'd she get so high? If you think that lovely leaps are only for the naturally (or unnaturally) flexible, think again. anyone can go airborne with a little practice and jeté know-how. Here's how you, too, can have sky-high leaps that knock the socks off the competition.

Limber Up

Before you leap, it's important to warm up and stretch. Start with some cardio exercises to get your heart rate up and your body warm before you give those muscles a run for their money. Take your time and breathe into each stretch. This will help you to protect yourself from injury and increase your flexibility, making you more apt to reach your full range of motion. Pay special attention to your hamstrings - they're easy to pull and hard to heal. Only when you feel warm and limber are you ready to leap.

Getting Off The Ground

To execute a good leap, you have to start from the beginning and define what a leap is. It's more or less springing from one foot to another. You need to start with a strong plié. From your plié, brush through first position with the leg that will be in front and push off the ground with the leg that will be in the back. The deeper your plié, the higher you can leap.

Show a Little Leg

In the ideal leap, both legs are at equal height. some dancers focus so much on getting the first leg up that the back leg is forgotten. Keep your hips and shoulders square and concentrate on extending the back leg even if this lowers the front one. Work on improving height after you've improved technique.

Heads Up

Use your upper body to maximize the look of your leap. Keep your head up, shoulders pressed down and chin lifted. Never bring your chest to your front leg in an attempt to make a leap look higher. If your focus is downward, it will pull the leap down with it. Keep the shoulders over the hips, chest up and raise the front leg to you.

Keep Technique Top Priority

Executing a leap entails more than time spent in the air. Keep arms controlled in the preceding chassé or preparation runs - don't pump them like a marathon runner. Flexibility does play a part in leaps, but it isn't everything. You want a turned-out front leg with pointed toes and lifted upper body and, of course, a smile is a beautiful thing! Once you have moved on to more complex jetés, continue to work your basic split leap.

Light Landing

When your working leg comes back down, roll through the ball of the foot of the front leg and continue to pull up in the torso, using your abdominal muscles. Not only will this eliminate a loud, embarrassing thud as your foot hits the ground, but it's also much easier on your body - your shins will thank you. Again, don't forget about the back leg! Keep it controlled, with the foot pointed, and follow through the landing with a clean step and arms back down at your sides. The most successful leaps are cleanly executed from start to finish.

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