The traditional ballet class contains two parts, the barre and the center. However, I break my classes in to three parts, barre which is the most essential to learn body placement, balance and the basics themselves. Center floor, learning to bring the barre work to the center of the stage, and across the floor, learning to travel across the dance room or stage. Now, the traditional ballet class, which I follow most definitely, just considers center floor and across the floor as one, I don’t. I believe that the dancers need to learn the difference between staying in place but yet dancing, and actually traveling, gliding, leaping, and turning across the stage.
Today I want to discuss with you the importance of these class components, and the need for each of these parts in each and every ballet class taken.
The Role of the Barre
The barre is a series of exercises performed at a rail that typically surrounds 3 sides of the dance room if they are wall mounted. Portable barres are a handy tool for when wall mounting is not permissible or if the wall mounted barres are over crowded. At the barre, dancers learn and practice exercises that will be the basis for their work in the center and across the floor. The barre provides the support the beginner dancer needs to obtain. Such as proper body alignment, balance and proper technique of the working foot. All of these components will be needed for center and across the floor combinations. The intermediate and advanced dancer requires a full barre for class and performance warm-up and to improve their over all technique. The intermediate and advanced dancer truly should be at the barre daily for true improvement, whether it is in a class of their own level or below their level. Barre work is never wasted time.
While practicing at the barre, the dancer embeds into their mind, and combines that knowledge, with the body movement into a working whole. Dancers discover their attributes, develop the sense of the motion, weight, and position of the body during movement. They access their natural ability and sculpt their body to make it ready for the work in the center and across the floor.
During a dancer’s barre work time;
- Dancers are bending and rising for stretch and balance.
- They are using brushing or gliding movements on and of the floor for quick pointing and stretching of the feet.
- They are rotating the legs in the hip sockets to learn or improve turn out.
- The dancers are using quickly isolating leg and foot movements to learn to prevent the entire body from moving.
- They are repetitiously using beating actions to obtain quickness for center floor jumps.
- The dancer is also stretching the legs and torso, transferring weight, balancing using slow and controlled movements
Barre work is indeed all for a dancer’s preparation of their appearance in the center and across the floor travel.
The Role of the Center and Across the Floor
In the center and across the floor section of the class, barre exercises connect into steps. the steps combine into ever changing combinations that expand the dancer’s skill and memory. not only of executing steps, but also of applying principles rules and the feeling that makes the movement actual ballet. The center is especially challenging for the teacher as well as the dancers. Dancers perform here without he physical aid of the barre and have to combine the principles, rules and exercises that were taught them at the barre into steps and dance combinations. The teacher will see here if the dancer can apply what they have been taught at the barre to their actual performance.
Center floor and Across the Floor Work includes;
- Exercises to practice classical arm positions and movements
- Repetition of barre exercises in the center of the floor without the use of a support
- Learning room and stage direction; upstage downstage, stage right and left, the walls and corners of a dance room or stage.
- Classical poses such as arabesques, and body positions
- Moving to a slow tempo, as in beautiful adagio work, keeping to maintaining your balance and improving your leg extensions
- Executing hops, small and large jumps, alone or in combinations
- Practicing introductory transitional and basic turning movements, learning to acquire your center
- Learning slow and quick steps and later executing them in short combinations.
Including here, across the floor work would involve, turning, hopping and leaping, in a traveling fashion which may or not be repetitious and can be combined with small stationary steps.
All levels of center and across the floor work include center barre, adagio, petit allegro, and grande allegro. These are the components of a traditional ballet class.
What we have been discussing, describes the traditional ballet class. As performances come up, some portions of a typical class may change with rehearsal for the stage taking its place.
My next post will be discussing the relationship between the barre and center or across the floor. Dancers….be sure you practice today…..even if you are not in class…do your own barre exercises that you may have learned in class. Any classical music will do…..