Saut de chat is a classical ballet term that describes a type of jump. Which jump in particular, depends on the school of technique.
Saut de chat in the French School
In the french school, saut de chat translates to “cat’s jump” which is similar to an Italian pas de chat.
A dancer performing a saut de chat will begin with raising their working foot in raccourci derriere. During the height if the jump, both knees and feet are drawn up which then leads to a landing on the foot that was raised first with the other foot in raccourci devant. Finally, the last raised foot is then closed in demi-plie in fifth position.
Female dancers perform saut de chat jumps more often than male dancers. A well-known example of this jump is during the second act of Swan Lake when the four little swans, or cygnets, perform multiples in a row.
Saut de chat in the American School
American schools this ballet term us used for a grand jete where the front leg developpes instead of brushing straight. At the height of the jump, the dancer is in a split position. A saut de chat is very commonly seen performed by ballerinas in female variations, codas, and in corps de ballet. But, it is also performed by male dancers as well.
This ballet jump, as described above, can be considered an intermediate step and is usually taught during mid-level ballet technique classes as part of grande allegro exercises. A high degree of flexibility is required to have a saut de chat in a full split position and is usually a requirement or expected of a professional female ballet dancer.
It may be considered one of the most photographed steps in ballet during performances, likely because it can show a dancer’s strength (height off the ground), flexibility (amount of split in the air), control (overall look and calmness of upper-body), and performance (emotion in face).