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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Barre combinations


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I am curious, what do you all prefer?


A. A mostly set barre with little or no variation in the combinations


B. A couple different set barres that you alternate for month or so before moving on to others


C. Barre combinations that are different every class


I think that I like the second option.


I think that a set barre can help you focus on the actual steps without worrying about what comes next, but I also think that it can become mundane and seems to increase the risk of repetitive motion injury.


Barre combinations that change every class can provide certain physical and mental/memorization challenges, but I can sometimes feel like you end up half-marking the steps.


I know others have different opinions on this, however, and I would love to hear them. :)

Edited by jtywp
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I like the way one of my teachers does it: a new barre and new center combinations every three weeks. The first week we get to try it out and get the basics down, second week we polish it and make it better, the third week we get down to the details and refine. The barre combinations are designed to prepare/support/teach the things we'll see in center so it all hangs together quite well and there's enough challenge balanced with enough time to really dig in and learn. :)

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I attend a ballet school which teachs the RAD syllabus, and what works well for me at this stage is to attend syllabus classes at several different levels (advanced foundation/advanced 1/grade 6) and an open class once a week. Going to syllabus classes, i know what the exercises are, so I can work on technique. In advanced foundation I work on strength and technique, in advanced 1 it stretches my abilities a bit, and in grade 6 I work on improving my dance performance quality. When I go to open class, it works out my body and my brain! And depending on who is in the class, the teacher alters the exercises to focus on certain things (a few weeks ago, he really focussed on weight placement, for example).

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I like to have things change regularly -- at least every couple of classes. I like diversity, different musical emphases, and a bit of mental challenge thrown into the mix. But I don't find it too difficult to pick up the sequences, especially at the barre, and just continue on without getting worked up if I make a mistake, so that might play into my opinion.


I've had similar experiences to kylara, where my teachers deliberately build classes so that the barre reinforces the centre (or is it the other way around?). So keeping the same barre for an extended period would also mean keeping the same centre, which wasn't your question but is related and, to me, gets boring pretty quickly!


My teachers also often maintain the same focus (building the same skills) for longer than they keep a single class, which also provides a good balance.

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I'm going to go with C. I tend to like the mental challenge that comes from new combinations every class. My teachers will frequently re-use combinations from one class to another (for example, if they come up with an adagio that we all like, or if they notice a particular technique problem we need to work on at the barre, etc.), and one of my teachers uses the same plie combination every class, but by and large everything changes each time.


Actually, I've never taken from a teacher that repeats whole classes. Definitely didn't happen growing up; there's one teacher in my current area who does it (does the same class for a full week of 3 open classes, then something new the next week), but I usually only take from her when my primary school is closed, so I rarely see her whole progression.

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I like a mix of everything. At this point, I personally like having a different combination so that it gives me the challenge of memorizing and applying the technique to the work. It also gives me time to breathe since there is a small break when the teacher is giving the combination!

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The teachers I take class from tend to change combinations every class. Occasionally they will repeat a particular exercise from one class to another, but rarely, if ever, the entire barre sequence. As a student, I like the mental challenge of learning new combinations, but I do see value when we repeat something we tried a day or two before... it allows us to focus less on remembering the sequence and focus more on the technique. I guess I prefer a mix of repetition and new!


When I taught I generally repeated barre a few times in a row, but I was also teaching absolute beginners who were still learning how to do the steps. They tended to get a bit flustered if I threw new things at them every class, so I found it helped to repeat things a few weeks in a row to give them a sense of mastery before moving on.

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I agree with arciedee, whenever the sequence is repeated, I feel like I can concentrate more on the movement and the technique itself rather than getting the combination right. However, I am also bored if the same combination is repeated over more than a couple of weeks (also depending on how many classes per week I take). Therefore, I think it is best to vary the combination only after a certain period of time, or to make the variation not completely different from what was done before. Slight changes to the arms etc. don't bother me so much when they happen more frequently as is the case when the whole exercise is overhauled every time.

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C - the mental challenge is good...


But I would like a mix...change it up at bit but do the same combination once in a while....

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Is it possible to pick all of the above? I used to have a schedule where we encountered multiple teachers in one day, and some teachers changed it up all the time which I liked, but some teachers kept the same set combinations forever until she felt it was time to move on (which I also liked). There were so many different challenges to address with both fluctuating and non-fluctuating class combos. The mental speed of how quickly one absorbed a combination was great in the classes where the teacher changed it up all the time, but the attention to detail and mastering a movement in the classes with a rigid progression was amazingly helpful and fun too!

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I like option B. I really enjoy having the opportunity to improve over a couple of weeks without worrying as much about making a mistake on the pattern. It helps me think more about technique and proper placement. However, I do agree with Moonlily and arciedee, that I prefer the combination is not repeated more than a few weeks in a row.


I am one of those who sometimes has a hard time remembering the combinations, so I think it's nice to be able to repeat it and try again. Sometimes my teacher will go back to a combination from several weeks earlier or make a small variation to something we have done in weeks prior and I also really like this approach. It makes the combination familiar, but not quite as fresh, so it's still a fun challenge.


In a couple of my classes, the warm up jumps may be the same or similar each week and I also really like this. Especially, on the weeks I may have a tough class, it's nice to know that I can always keep up with the warm up jumps!

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I think my feeling has evolved over the years. In the beginning, what I remember most is just trying to remember the combination. I think I would have preferred pretty much a standard sequence, or a small set of sequences so I could think more about technique rather than trying to remember what comes next. After a few years I became more interested in doing combinations that I found were interesting and "dancy." Now, after many years, I find myself liking almost the most simple combinations where I am concentrating on specific images and the feel of the music. At my stage of life, I want movement to come from an image or feeling.

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I prefer a mix of syllabus and unset classes - the former so I can concentrate on technique without worrying about learning the combination, and unset to enjoy the challenge of picking up something new.


Having said that, one of my pet hates is classes where so much time is spent on teaching and explaining over-complicated barre combinations that there is little time left to do anything much in the centre. IMO barre shoould be 90% about technique and only 10% about choreography! (BTW none of my current teachers are guilty of this, but when I was a new beginner I went to a class which lasted 1 hour and we were lucky if we got off the barre after 45 minutes, yet few if any technical corrections were given, it was just that the choreography was way too advanced for beginners!)

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B, and here's my reasoning:

I think a balance of 'set' class and variety is best for me (personally). I don't want to get too used to any given progression-- it's too easy to use the familiarity as a crutch. I prefer something that will will be familiar enough that I can focus a little more on my technique instead of getting the sequence exactly right, but enough fresh material that it doesn't feel monotonous.


Edited by Novaverse
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B for me! I feel I can measure my improvement more when working through repeated combinations, but I also like teachers to throw in a few surprises. I hate learning something new, and then not doing it again for weeks (but that applies more to steps/moves than combinations).

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