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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Not holding on to the barre?

Sanna Koulu

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I was wondering, has anyone here tried taking class without holding on to the barre?


My PT, an ex-dancer himself, has suggested that I try using the barre as little as possible, at least in lower-level classes. He said that the problems I have with weight placement might be helped by that (apparently I've been letting the weight settle too far back, which has contributed to my right hip being sore). He said that while it would be a lot of work to work mostly without the barre, it would probably benefit my alignment et al. before long.


However, my teacher is not thrilled with the idea but has okayed it for the beginning class I've been taking lately. She said that working mostly without the barre is surprisingly difficult, and thought that it was more important to work on the head/arm coordination, which feels especially difficult when I'm not holding the barre. I think I've been using the barre properly anyway, with a light touch and the hand moving easily with weight changes and moving steps.


In the (1 hour long) beginning class I can do the barre work pretty cleanly without using the barre in most of the combinations, but I feel rather tired by the time we get to the center. In the more advanced beg. class, I try to release the barre when I can, but the combinations are challenging enough that I couldn't do them cleanly without the barre, with upper body coordination. In the low int class, not a chance... :grinning:


In the few weeks that I've been working on this, it feels as if my alignment, balances and turns are finally clicking into place. This spring I've taken a few pilates and method putkisto classes, worked on the abs and the use of the pelvic floor muscles, and stretched a lot. Now it's as if it all is coming together. I also feel stronger in the center, and it feels easier to move without tensing up.


So, anyone have any experiences with this? how long would you say it was beneficial to work without the barre, or might it be better to stop now that the immediate problem has been solved? I'm all excited about how balance-y and solid I could get with a few months of this, but I'm afraid of getting a bit carried away... :rolleyes:

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Since it sounds like it is having a positive effect, I don't think it would be a problem to continue it, in the lower level class anyway :grinning:

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Hi, one of my teachers do not beliefe (sp) in sing a barre at all. We do all the barre exercices in the centre aswell. SHe beliefes it helps u to learn to balance better and always says that when you dance or walk you do not have a barre you hold on to so whay use it when practising (sp).


Personaly a prefer using a barre for barre exercises (sp)


Freddie :rolleyes:

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Maybe I am incorrect in saying the following, but I have always been taught that the barre is there not to hold onto for dear life or to lean on or to use as something to hold onto but as a substitute for what may later on be your partners hand. Your hand should be lying delicatley on top of the barre and you should at any point during any exercise at the barre be able to lift your hand off without making the slightest difference to the exercise you are doing. I do this regularly to remind myself and hence have learnt not to rely on the barre for support at all, other than using the lightest touch to perhaps steady yourself after doing fouettes..believe me when you come to do pas de deux , your partner will be forever grateful of the fact that you have done this.

As for long term use without a barre..in my opinion, I would be against this. I think you need the barre there so you can really get warmed up and hence your centre work will benefit even more. Yes , occaisionally not using the barre is great as it is a reminder that the barre is not there to be taken for granted, but I love my barre :rolleyes:

The barre is the dancers best friend, its the first thing you go to in class and its always there when you need some help.

Jeanette :)

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Many of my teachers will not allow gripping of the barre. He insists the wrist be bent and flexible.


I often do parts of the barre without touching it, it helps your balance.



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hi . my teacher also say you mustn't grab the barre and hold on to it ; in fact , she always shows the exercices without one ; we also have mobile barres (for the center of the studio if there's a lot of people) and with those you cannot hold on to them , because otherwise, the barre goes with you ; I think it's a good exercice

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Thanks for the replies, folks. -- I've sometimes wondered whether I'm the only one who actively prefers working with the portable barres. (We have very light and wobbly ones at our studio.)


What my PT said was that I should try working without even the lightest touch of the barre. The reason was that this would develop the proprioception at the ankle and foot most efficiently. If I've understood correctly, proprioception means the instinctive use of the muscles of the foot to control its position and weight, and this muscle sense is easily lost whenever there is injury to the foot? So especially after an injury, but also to develop balance as efficiently as possible, it would be beneficial to work completely without the barre.


If anything, it seems that I get more thoroughly warmed-up by barre work when I try not to touch it. It's hard to tell, though, since I like to warm up thoroughly before class.


Jeanette -- I think I know what you mean, though -- I love the calmness when the class begins, first waiting and stretching by the barre and then facing it for the first warm-up combinations... :cat:


I'm wondering if I can find such an easy friendship with the floor, too :unsure:

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There's a very famous teacher in NYC who has students actively press down onto the barre during combinations. I guess this is meant to engage to back muscles. Always thought it was kind of strange, but I guess it must work for some.

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I always thought I had a light touch on the barre until I was moved to a portable barre for grand battements because of space issues. Wow that was difficult!

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I currently have a class of Ballet 1's and I rarely let them use the barre! I find that they have developed fantastic balance and strength, and are 2-sided as opposed to 1-sided dancers.


When I take class myself, I tend to do the first half of barre without holding on as a personal challenge-I figure if I'm making my kids do it, I better be able to do it too! :)


If it works for you, I say keep doing it, as long as you have your teacher's permission.


Have fun!!

Clara :yes:

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My teacher sometimes has us do what he calls "Barre-no barre" classes, in which we do all of the barre exercises once with barre and once without (just a step away). Although it's not my absolute favorite thing to do (it takes up a lot of the time we would normally spend in centre), I find it really makes me find my center and placement a lot faster. Sometimes I try to do parts of exercises without the barre when we are having a normal class, too, to sort of hold myself accountable for not relying on the barre too much. :blushing: I definitely feel more on my legs in centre when I do this.

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One of my teachers periodically has us do an exercise or 2 with barre then without, or in some cases the teacher says we can do the second round on releve or without the barre for "extra credit" (hahaha--that's when I think to myself, "I am sooooo glad my "extra credit" days are in the distant past.)


This teacher's cure for people who pull too hard on the portable barre during grandes battements is to have the person use the teacher's hand as the barre for the second side. Very effective.

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Personally, I think the ballet barre is more a tradition than anything else. You rarely, if ever, use the barre in modern or jazz classes, for example.


I had a teacher who often did “center barre” in her classes—i.e., all the barre exercised done without the barre. What I learned from her center barre is how much I rely on the barre in a normal class, even when I don’t think I am relying on it much at all.


The barre does give you support so you can work better with it than without it, which should make you improve. But then it is also something you tend to depend on, which I think weakens you also.


By the way, in the old days, as in 200 years ago, I’ve read that ballet class was structured so that first you did a barre, and then you repeated the same barre in the center.

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Want to try something fun to test yourselves during grandes battements??


Hold a stool or a relatively small chair over your head while you do them!


It gets you centered real fast!!!! :devil::lol::lol:


It forces you to find muscles you never knew you had.


Then, try doing them without the stool and working those 'new' muscles so you don't start to depend on the stool! :thumbsup:


I find it very helpful :thumbsup:


Let me know what you think!


Clara :)

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