Ballet Floor Barre Exercises
Barre exercises are the building blocks of ballet. But doing barre at home isn't recommended by some teachers, because without them watching, it's too easy for a student to get out of alignment. A floor barre workout is the perfect solution, because the floor keeps the body in line while you exercise. Floor barre is also ideal if you're on holiday with no access to a safe support; or you're injured and not able to bear your weight on one or both legs.
There are several "floor-barre" exercise workouts available on DVD, but they're not all equal. Many of them are just a collection of stretches, or a mixture of Pilates and yoga mat work for dancers - which is fine in its place, but it's no substitute for ballet barre work.
My first introduction to ballet floor barre was a book on the "barre par terre" created by Boris Kniaseff. He took the opening exercises of a standard ballet class and adapted them so they could be done on the floor. I loved it, and was very upset when I lost it moving house. I've never been able to find another copy. So I was delighted to discover there are teachers out there, still teaching floor barre based on Kniaseff's principles. Zena Rommett and Stephane Dalle are two teachers who faithfully reproduce his techniques.
Why Floor Barre?
There are several benefits of the floor barre.
One is obvious - you don't need a barre. True, when at home you can hold on to a chair, but it's not always very safe if your core isn't rock-solid - for instance, when doing grand battements.
- You're doing the exercises without putting weight on the legs, so injury is less likely.
- The floor is there as a constant safeguard and reminder. You can't stick your bottom out because the floor is in the way, and you'll know immediately if you lift or twist your hip because it loses contact with the floor.
- You're not fighting gravity. Standing, you may struggle to get any height in a developpe or a grand battement. Lying down, you'll be able to get the leg much higher without rocking your upper body or twisting your hip.
- You can't "cheat" and use pressure against the floor to force an unnatural turnout.
- You don't have to worry about keeping your balance. Balance is important but it's another skill you have to learn - the floor barre lets you concentrate on one thing at a time.
The floor barre is especially useful for late beginners, who may have more physical limitations than a younger dancer. It's much easier to progress at your own pace if you start with the floor workout.