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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Full Barre


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One of my instructors has this annoying habit of stretching us out at the very start of class, before any kind of warm up. :clapping: I know what she's doing is wrong, but since it's really not my place to tell her how to run her class, I figured I would just fix the situation for myself.


From reading old posts on the forum, I learned that I should be doing a full barre before any kind of stretching. I have the time to arrive early and do this before class, but I'm not sure exactly what to do!


I assume that a full barre has to include, at the very least: demi and grande plies, tendus, degages, rond de jambes, and grandes battements. Should I also be including frappes, developpes, etc? I want to be sure to include all the correct steps. Any tips would be great. Thanks!



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Is your teacher giving big stretches before barre, like splits and the like, or are the stretches lower-impact? A little bit of checking into the body with some light stretches are probably OK before barre. I actually think it's a good idea, and always do some little stretches myself.


Moving the joints in circular patterns seems to ready them for work. I always start by lying on my back and gently rotating the legs in the hip socket, using my hands. Also circles with your feet are good and little shoulder things as well. I gently stretch my hamstrings a bit , piriformis, and my abs. Do some crunches to warm up a bit. Whatever your body seems to need.


If you are asked to do big stretches before barre, the class is not run correctly at all and you need to find a new one. You shouldn't have to give yourself a full out barre before class, though some plies, tendues, and ronde de jambes can't ever hurt.


Think about it, we do cambre forward and back after, what? two demi and one grande plie is first. Cambre is a stretch and we do that before a whole barre.

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The stretches we do are more on the low-impact end...no splits or anything absurd like that. You make a good point about cambre; I never thought of that before. I was under the impression that I shouldn't be doing any kind of stretching at all without a proper warm up.


I think that perhaps I'm pushing myself a little bit too much while stretching at the beginning of class, so I will ease off somewhat. I will also try working my joints in circular patterns before class, as you suggested. Thanks for the advice!



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Jamie, I could be wrong, but as you stated in the initial part of your post, as an adult (since turning 20 or so), I was under the impression it was our responsibility to warm up as we needed before class. Meaning we needed to get to the class as early as necessary to warm ourselves up, then the teacher starts the barre exercise. My experience has shown me every teacher starts the class in a different way, some do a little neck, shoulder and hip stretching before actually starting the demi plies - and I've always appreciated this. I have the problem now where the teacher "lets" us do one demi, then we're immediately into the grand plie. This is difficult for me at my age (49) unless I've worked the old body around a bit before class, especially after sitting in front of a computer for most of the day. Thus, I'm always in a hurry to get to class!

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Although I think warm-up at the beginning and stretching during class is nice, I have to say I don’t like that as part of a 90 minute class. It just takes up time that I think should be devoted to other things. If it were a 2 hour class that might be different. That’s just my preference.


I totally agree about warming up before class. We are adults after all. Even if you have absolutely no space to warm-up before class, you can warm-up on the way to class (walk really fast, for example or walk up and down the stairs a few times).

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I think there are 2 things to consider here:


-the age of the student: the more mature the student is, the less you'll rely on the teacher to take things easy IN YOUR PLACE (so mature means someone responsible and who has enough common sense to realise their own limits, and so, with this group, you already expect a bit of pre-warming in order for them to feel at ease with the movements given in class).

That means that as a teacher I'm not particularly talking about a difference in the warming up barre during class, but I mean that I will give a class as I would a class of 16 years old. Now, as you age, it's harder to do things... That's up to YOU however, to warm up intelligently before (according to the limitations you'll have in class) and to respond to the exercises in class according again to how much you can push yourself without hurting yourself.


- the second thing is your level. I expect as a teacher that when I give an advanced class, I'll spend less time on the basics at the barre (shorter pliés and tendus exercises and direct onto longer, more demanding combination of steps).


I would however be very careful what barre I give to beginners or even intermediate students. If I 'invite' them to warm up before class, then I'll make it very clear that I expect everyone to be warmed up (and in this case, I'll show them exercises they could do on their own... But that's a tricky thing to do, because injuries or bad habit/technique can happen then). You cannot however 'assume' that this will be the case (unless it's a different type of class, like 'pas de deux' or 'rehearsal' and it's really the norm in the school you're in -or if it's written somewhere in the handbook that you would be expected to be warmed up). After all, class starts with a FULL barre, no matter where you are... So, you should expect it!! (it's otherwise that's not the norm).

I would for eg, not go at the very least, without a plié, a tendu, a rond de jambe a terre, a frappé, a rond de jambe en l'air, an adage, a grand battements exercises. That would be either short or long exercises, but at the end of the barre, one would feel warm enough to do the split without hurting... :thumbsup:


Barre work is something that the average dancer doesn't like (not as much as feeling free to dance in the centre) but if one forgets what it's there for (not only warm up, but checking that your technique is sound and ready for centre work without aid) then your work in the centre will be in any case less good!! :)

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