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3 min read

Maia Makhateli, the principal dancer with The Dutch National Ballet, is one of the most prominent ballerinas of our time. Her infinite musicality and precision of artistic expression are no less mind-blowing than the extreme complexity of technical elements that she effortlessly performs on stage. The founder of Zarely and former soloist at The San Francisco Ballet, Mateo Klemmayer, continues his series of live interviews with the top ballet dancers in which he brings out the secret keys to excellence and ultimate performance. His ambitious goal for the interview with Maia is to deconstruct her art of incredibly high jumps, grand allegro, which by far are one of the greatest thrills in ballet.

Grand Allegro Maia-Makhateli


4-Minute Work-Out For Incredibly High Jumps

Mateo: Maia, at what age did you start doing big jumps? Was there anything special in your training program back then to help you learn these elements?

Maia: I started my ballet training when I was nine (at Vakhtang Chabukiani Choreographic Institute, Tbilisi, Georgia) and let’s put it this way: it was very traditional. I first attempted big jumps at the age of thirteen or maybe fourteen but I wouldn’t say there was any particular training to develop high jumps.

Mateo: And is there anything special now that you do to help you elevate your jumps? I’m asking this question because I kind of know that there is – the special tool that you use, which I don’t think many dancers take advantage of.

Maia: One of the things that I discovered and that I love very much is … a jump rope. I stumbled upon it quite by chance when I was trying various exercises to enhance my stamina. Did you know that jump rope is great for stamina? First you start with 30 seconds and gradually work your way towards 4 minutes non-stop. So my main goal at that time was building my stamina, but then one day in a class I realized that suddenly I could jump a lot easier! Other than that jump rope is great for developing coordination and speed, and for both upper body and lower body muscles. And that too results in a better and stronger takeoff.
Another important tool I use every day is weights. Not too heavy – about half a kilo for each leg. And I only do the first few jumps with them. Weights are incredibly useful for small jumps! The minute you take them off, you feel like you can literally touch the sky. It’s really something. So basically just keep on doing these exercises every day and build your strength. Jumping high requires all your muscles!

Grand Allegro Step by Step

Mateo: There are many young dancers watching us now and for them could you go through the coordination of grand allegro? What is going on in your mind exactly when you’re performing a big jump?

Maia: Well, it all starts with grand jeté. Remember that it’s all about the way you begin your jump. This is where you going to need all the strength that you built, the strength of the take-off leg. What you would need to do next is to kick your top leg and then pull your hips over and try to hang in the air for a second. And it’s also about the feet, the footwork is extremely important. Then there’s landing. So, yeah, you cannot overestimate the importance of strengthening your metatarsals, because that’s how you take off and how you land – with your toes.

Grand Allegro Maia-Makhateli


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