When I teach ballet class, I always try to incorporate some sort of barre in ballet work into my classes, no matter how many protests I get from my students.
It is common knowledge that barre in ballet and the work done on the barre is the foundation for good ballet technique.
Inevitably, where a dancer shows weakness at the barre, it will be magnified tenfold when they move to the center. The essentials put in place through barre work hold so much importance that we sometimes keep our students at the barre in ballet class for over half the class period.
Because of the importance of barre in ballet, it is vital that we take the necessary time to teach our students how they should be using the barre and insist that they always stick to the guidelines for barre work. This must happen all the time, every time, no matter how many times you need to remind them.
This is not easy for teachers, as it requires nagging and constant reminding until the concepts sink in and become second nature.
Through my years of teaching, I have found some ways to help this process along and figured I would pass them onto my teaching comrades.
These are just some of my ideas and ideas that I have picked up over time that have helped me in my teaching. If you have any other suggestions, please feel free to comment below, as sharing is caring.
Learn To Respect The Barre
Make your young students understand that the barre is not a plaything that they can hang on and swing on. In fact, all your younger students should be trained to stay away from the barre completely and not touch the barre at all until they are old enough.
We normally start our children with barre in ballet from either Grade 2 ballet and about the age of six in modern. Even then, I first teach them the barre work in the center for a long time before taking it to the barre.
If your children know that they are not allowed to go near the barre, they will already start to look forward to this exciting milestone in their dancing careers.
Do more center with them when they are younger so that their balance is already established without the aid of a barre, and in this way, they will be able to use the bar as a support and not as the only way to balance themselves.
Also, if the children are older, there is a lot less unwanted behavior going on at the bar like swinging or hanging.
Teach Your Pupils The Rules Of The Barre In Ballet
If you have free-standing barres that need to be moved out onto the floor and then back to the edge of the room after barre, let your pupils learn to carry the barres in twos or threes to the correct spot and then back again afterwards.
Never let any of your pupils move the barre on their own as they could strain their backs.
Do not let them drag the barres along the floor. They should always be lifted just off of the floor and carried to their places.
Remember your dancers will have no idea how to use the barre unless you explain it to them. Don’t presume they even know how to hold the bar correctly, for instance.
All the fingers should be placed gently on top of the barre on the barre that is as close to waist height as possible.
The thumb is never underneath the barre. It always remains on the top of the bar.
Tell them that the barre is like their partner in a Pas de Deux. You have to rest your hand gently over theirs and try not pull them over.
Make sure they are not standing to close to or too far away from the bar. The elbow should be in front of the body and the body just behind and to the side of the elbow.
If they are facing the bar, the elbow must be in front of the body.
Make sure your students leave enough space in front of them and behind them to do a grand battement without kicking anybody.
No part of the body should ever touch the barre, except for the hands. (obviously, this excludes stretching at the end of class)
One Hand Or Two Hands
This is another exciting milestone for them which should be built up with time.
Your students need to learn to work with both hands on the barre and then with the left and the right hand only on the barre.
You will need to keep reminding them of their placement and all the rules for quite a while as they get used to all the transitions.
The hand on the barre needs to learn to move freely along the barre, adjusting as they shift their weight as necessary. If moving forwards or backward, the hand must always be in front of the body. This may seem simple, but in reality, we have all seen how their hands like to remain in one place while the body is going elsewhere.
Make sure your students know to turn towards the barre when they turn to the other side. They never turn around away from the bar unless it is choreographed into the exercise.
If you have a free-standing bar and your students need to go to the other side, they shouldn’t be allowed to climb underneath or climb over the barre. Let them run around in an orderly fashion to the other side.
When it comes to barre in ballet, there is no denying its massive role in ballet training.
Although it is tempting to rush through the basics as they seem unimportant, and we always have a million other things to teach them, don’t. Insist on putting the basic things in place when it comes to barre in ballet and it will make your classes run more smoothly in the long run. Your students will also have the room and time to let their technique flourish.