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Build Strength By Doing Ballet Barre Exercises Without The Barre

Posted Aug 25 2008 3:21pm
Choose some daily routines from class, and do them without the barre. I used to implement this early on in a class' development. After a few months, when every student understands and executes correct technique in plies, battment tendus, battement degages, and battement frappe, I would have them do those exercises periodically, all away from the barre. Weaknesses and misunderstandings show up this way. This is one way of working smarter, as in pre-pointe exercises, to assess exactly the right level of progress for your self, or your class.



It's always a good habit to be aware of how you are using the barre. Your hand should rest on it, and your wrist should be relaxed. Pay attention to when you press down or squeeze the barre. It's exactly that moment that your weight is shifting, or your posture is changing incorrectly, or that the wrong muscle is bearing the work of a movement.



Perfection may not be possible, but understanding the mechanics of technique perfectly, and understanding your own strengths and weaknesses leads to you doing your best.



Ideally, in plies, you want to have a smooth transition when the heels lift, and when they return to the floor, without the weight shifting or a clutch of the barre.



Whenever you have a press-up in the warm up, always lift the fingers off the barre. Note if you have any strain in the neck and shoulders, and where your posture and weight is.



As in pre-pointe routines, repetition of press-ups, on two feet or one at a time, reveals your true strength.



In boys' classes, (not at a beginner level) I often gave a grand plie, back up to demi plie, and back into the full plie again before straightening fully, to build strength.



A class needs to have the basic strengths in place before a more demanding exercise like battement fondu is added to daily routines. Fondu asks for a perfect postural plumb line, whether done with low or full extensions, coordination of legs to complete the movements at exactly the same time, and much more core strength.



In your own daily routines at home, periodically add a barre exercise, done without the barre. Make a note of where your weak spots are. You can do core exercises, repetitions of press ups on two feet, and in coupe de pied, to build your basic strength.



Think of all these very basic issues when you watch your favorite dance stars perform the variations you love best.



Aside from the fact of plain true talent, you can get an edge on your competition with good self-assessment, and work smarter with simple but consistent daily routines. If your focus is pre-pointe, or you are a male student needing to strengthen and work your feet better, look at this incredible manual of technical and anatomical information. You'll never be the same!
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