The ballet barre, is a fundamental component of ballet training. The word “barre” refers to both the horizontal wooden handrail used as support during ballet practice and to the sequence of exercises known as “barre exercises.” In this article, we will go through the essential exercises that make up this foundational practice, which is every ballet dancer’s daily routine as they start their day. It’s essential to note that these exercises contribute to improved flexibility, strength, and coordination.
Variations in sequence and content exist between different ballet schools, levels and teachers.
Structure of a Ballet Class
A ballet class typically comprises two main segments: the barre work and the center work. While the barre provides stability for foundational exercises, the center work involves more intricate movements, turns, and jumps.
Barre Exercise Sequence:
1. Warm-Up Facing the Barre (Optional)
Dancers begin with slow tendus, demi plies and gentle upper body bends to prepare the body for the upcoming exercises.
The first formal exercise involves full body bending and stretching the knees, with two primary types:
- Demi-Plié: A half bend of the knees without lifting the heels off the floor.
- Grand Plié: A full bend of the knees.
Warm up for the feet and legs involve sliding the foot along the floor while maintaining contact. A ballet class typically contains between 2-4 tendu combinations. Typically the first exercise will be in first position and the rest in 5th, becoming increasingly faster or more complex and including rises and bends at times.
4. Degagés or Jetes
Similar to tendus but with a lifted foot, degagés help improve leg and feet precision and speed . Typically 1-2 exercises at different speeds.
5. Rond de Jambes à Terre
Circular movements of the working leg on the floor enhance flexibility and control, this exercise often includes balance exercises and stretches.
Bending and stretching the supporting leg while pointing the working foot on the ankle of the supporting leg.
Designed to improve speed, precision, and ankle strength. Striking the floor with the working foot in a flexed position, emphasizing precision and speed.
9. Petits Battements
Small, quick movements of the working foot, usually done at the ankle, maintaining stability in the supporting leg. These are often done together with the frappés in one single exercise.
Controlled unfolding of the working leg, transitioning from a bent to a fully extended position. Slow, exercises focusing on extension and fluidity of movement.
11. Ronds de Jambe en l’air (Optional)
Circular movements of the working leg in the air, performed to improve control and coordination.
12. Grand Battements
Forceful, high extensions of the working leg, executed with a swift kick.
13. Releves (Optional)
A series of rises facing the barre (optional)
Various stretches conclude the barre exercises, promoting flexibility and muscle recovery. IN more advanced classes stretching is not guided and dancers do their own stretching exercises.
By Maria Osende