Barre & Beyond

by Danielle Hernandez on January 24, 2019

“(Barre techniques) are to the dancer what scales and arpeggios are to the musician.”

Enrico Cecchetti

A barre is a stationary handrail that provides support for dancers and athletes during training. Barres are used extensively in ballet as well as warm-up exercises. Commonly referred to as barre work, the use of barre for warm-up is also done in other types of dance and also in general fitness programs.

The design of a barrel is mainly dependent on whether the barre is to be portable or permanently affixed. All Barres typically consists of a handrail. For fixed barre, the handrail is mounted to and supported by a wall, while handrail in a portable barre is attached to a steady or adjustable, free-standing supporting structure. Instead of just one handrail, some barre has two parallel handrails at different heights to accommodate dancers with different heights.

Barres and its components are typically made of metal, wood, plastic or a combination of these materials.

How is Barre used in Ballet

how is bare used in ballet

Barre is to ballet is tap shoes to tap dance. It is used for both slow and fast exercises, which serve to strengthen muscles.

As in any workout routine, dancers start with slow exercises which include

  • Stretching and warm-up
  • Focussing on body form, alignment, and posture

Whereas fast exercises require dancers to maintain the precise ballet technique they have been working on. These exercises include:

  • Feet and leg strengthening exercises
  • Extension exercises
  • Flexibility workouts
  • Developing Ballon.

Dancers strive to attain correct form which includes posture, feet positions, and arms, in all exercises, they perform on the barre.

Apart from the warm-up and stretching exercises, barre is an excellent way for dancers to start working on their stability and balance. In ballet especially, barre work is one of the most important parts of a beginner’s class.

  • Beginners often learn foot placement technique for the first time using barre. Dancers who want to take their pointe up a notch higher practice their pointe on the barre. Barre helps in developing strength and technique needed for Pointe work.
  • Barre is a constant companion for ballet dancers at all levels. When dancers prepare for partnering, barre helps in simulating the support of a real partner.
  • Apart from ballet, barre is also extensively used in general fitness routines. Barre exercises include multiple activities to build stamina, flexibility, and strength. Barre fitness classes are the latest rage in the country, and not only the barre but some of the ballet movements require the person to balance and help in the stimulation of core like plies and pirouettes are also performed.
  • A typical barre class includes the use of barre as a tool. Repetitive, small, pulsing movements that emphasize form, alignment and core engagement are performed. Barre fitness classes also use a mix of other equipment like yoga straps, exercise balls, and even hand weights are used in barre classes.

Other ways Barre can be used in Ballet and other Dance Forms

other ways

Making a Comeback after Injuries:

Many instructors recommend using barre under supervision during and after injuries. From a rehabilitative standpoint, barre is an excellent way for dancers to get back in peak form when working their way toward health after an injury.

Because a dancer has support, barre is a great way to remain in touch with the dance form. Teachers and instructors often ask students to take it down a notch and keep practicing their moves with barre as support.

Barre Fitness Classes:

Ballet-inspired barre fitness classes are the latest rage. Barre classes mix elements of Pilates, dance, yoga and functional training with moves choreographed to motivating music. High energy targeted workouts help in stretching and sculpt your entire body.

Benefits of Barre Classes - Make the most of using Barre!

benefits of barre

Using barre for exercises is an ideal cross-training complement for the dancers. It allows dancers to work on their strength and flexibility. Whether you're finding your center in a series of pirouette turns or isolating tiny pop and lock movements in a hip-hop combo, barre helps work on strength and stability with low impact movements and an excellent way for dancers to remain lean, reliable and flexible.

  • No experience is needed: Barre classes do not require you to have formal dance training or any exercise experience.
  • Barre provides head to toe workout- From stretching, warm up, strength training and cool-down, barre provides complete body workout.
  • Barre is gentle on your joints- Barre movements are small and extremely controlled. As a result, there is minimal pressure on your joints, tendons, ligaments, and spine. Barre has a lot of core strength training an essential element of any workout.
  • Barre exercises can be modified for any age level- Young ballerinas as young as 4 years have been known to use barre. The workouts can be customized based on your age and life stage.
  • Barre provides enhanced flexibility-Since a lot of focus is given to stretching, barre students see an improved range-of-motion. Barre helps in making body strong and flexible.

Appropriate Attire while Practicing on the Barre

appropriate attire

For ballet, and most other dance forms, body alignment is very important, and therefore form-fitting clothes are ideal so both you and your instructor could check your posture and position in the mirror.

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  • Comfortable leggings and tops are the best dancewear for barre workouts.
  • Make sure you use warmers and knits and layer up in the winters.
  • As the workout progresses, you may want to take a few layers away, therefore, keep a bag handy.
  • A well-fitting and supporting sports bra is another thing that you should invest in.
  • For shoes, please check with your instructors, as some instructors don’t allow shoes, and others suggest socks with grippers or ballerina slippers or even bare feet.

As a dancer, it is very tempting to skip barre and go straight to the fun, across-the-floor movement.

But doing so is risky because the time spent on barre can have huge impacts on your body and dance form. Barre helps the muscles get trained for turnout and proper alignment while building stability on the standing leg. Barre also works on your core, and help you learn how to support yourself, watch each other, and listen to one another during partnering.

Any dance form, including ballet, is all about a dancer's relationship to time and space. Barre helps keep your body lifted and symmetrical. Barre at the beginning of the class supports the entire bunch of dancers come together as a class. "At the barre" is necessarily a time to concentrate on breathing and preparing yourself for dancing in tandem with the music that is going to follow.

You will see your instructor always talking about standing as tall as you can and to find proper alignment. Barre is indeed intended to prepare you for center work, but from the first preparation and plie, barre helps in maintaining your form and elegance. For many dancers, barre is a kind of physical therapy that provides a moment before the dance begins to tune up, tune-in to themselves and their dancing fraternity.

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This article is meant for informative purposes only, and all the exercises, workouts and suggestions mentioned herein are to be performed under strict supervision. Consult your medical practitioner before starting any form of dance or exercise for optimum results.


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