Both men and women perform jumps in ballet. However, men do some steps that are rarely performed by women. These virtuosic steps demand great strength, high jumping, and flexibility and are practiced in a special men’s technique class sometimes referred to as batterie class.
One of the steps that must be mastered in men’s class is tours en l’air, or turns in the air. This feat, which is performed in virtually every classical ballet, is very difficult. Tours en l’air begins from 5th position, with the feet crossed and knees bent (demi plié). The dancer then jumps high enough in the air to make two (or more!) complete revolutions before landing again in 5th position.
Another common step practiced in batterie class involves beating the legs back and forth while in the air. Most professional dancers easily perform entrechat six (starting with the right foot in front 5th position, the dancers jumps up, beats the right leg behind, beats the right leg in front, and beats the right leg behind again before landing). Men with high jumps can perform entrechat huit (same as entrechat six but with one more crossing so that the right leg is in front on the landing).
In addition to the various jumps, many types of turns are also perfected in men’s class such as tours à la seconde, or turns in second position, which are often performed by men in classical ballets such as Swan Lake. In this turn, the man balances on one leg with the other stretched 90 degrees to the side as he performs consecutive turns, sometimes 16 or more. Often the man will perform double or triple turns during the sequence. It’s very exciting to see!