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Barre Less Class


Nicola H
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what are people's thoughts on  barreless classes  , assuming they are run  in such a way as to provide a decent warmup and stretch out  before moving on to more conventional centre  work ... 

i'm goingto sit back  with my popcorn before  passing my comments

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3 minutes ago, Anna C said:

For adults, Nicola? Or in general?

 interested  in thoughts  on the topic  in general , if people have different thoughts on  different groups of dancers  that is  fab  as long as there's a rationale  behind the different  approaches  (  as has been discussed  ad nauseum  with adult beginner   vs  how you teach young children )... 

Edited by Nicola H
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Ah, ok. Well from a teenager preparing for Advanced 2, there have been times where she's done the barre part of class in Centre, with no barre to rest her hand on.  But in years of watching her in different classes, including Associates, the only time I've ever seen her go straight into Centre work is when she was already warm after the previous class and was immediately rehearsing a variation. 

 

Can a "general" warmup focus the mind and warm up all the appropriate body parts for Centre, Allegro and pointework anywhere near as well as a proper, well-taught full barre (with or without an actual barre)?  Personally, I don't think so.  And as barre is always part of RAD Vocational exams and class everywhere including the Royal Ballet, I assume I'm not alone. 

 

Why do you ask, out of interest? 

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Interesting question.

As an adult dancer, I've taken barre-less classes and they really don't work for me personally. I'm hypermobile and I have spent many years attempting to stop over-using my quads and glutes and trying to activate the backs/inside leg muscles. I find barre-less classes send me into a state of tension and over gripping! I don't feel warm from the 'centre practice' part, and never on my leg, I always have a 'bad' class.

Some people seem to find barre-less class fine. Different things work for different bodies.

Should you be able to let go of the Barre and be on balance at any time -yes! But I believe the Barre section is part of most class structures for a reason.

In fact I like to do a whole floor exercise  routine myself before I even do the Barre.

 

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Yoko Ichino, wife of David Nixon, has developped a way of teaching, The Ichino Technique which they use at Northern Ballet Academy.  It used to do everything in centre with no conventional barre work. I don't know if this is still their method or whether it has changed. However, I had a pupil at RBS mids where they adopted a similar strategy, doing everything in centre.  The reasoning behind it is that it stops students becoming over-dependent on the barre. 

 

In my own classes, I sometimes do this for a change, or even start with a floor barre.

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One very experienced teacher I took class with for about 10 years as an adult used to give us a whole class in the centre sometimes, to test us on our strength of turn-out & alignment. It's a very good thing to do occasionally. And a lot of teachers will do some barre work in the centre - for example, saying that "We'll do grande battement in the centre" or developpés. It's also normal to do a tendu & pirouette combination in the centre. 

 

This is different to a floor barre, of course!

 

And it's standard that a contemporary class doesn't use the barre - even a Graham-technique class, which has more in common with classical ballet than, say release-based contemporary technique. In my Graham classes, we would do plies, tendus, and fondus (Graham-style) always in the centre.

Edited by Kate_N
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Personally speaking and as an adult I don't mind the occasional barre work in the centre but wouldn't want it like that every time as although it is good to test balance and centering etc I definitely don't work as hard in other ways so feel more warmed up after the usual barre work. 

 

Where children's training is concerned I think the barre is necessary initially while building up turn out strength. But a teacher can see if a student is leaning in to the barre too much and correct this and occasional centre work barre can be good.

I think one of the main differences between a ballet and contemporary training is that contemporary isn't so bothered about turn out so doesn't need to develop these particular muscles so much and the barre is good for this. 

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In my RAD syllabus classes, after about the first term we tend to leave the barre a bit and focus on the centre. We still practice all the barre exercises once a week, but in other classes we may just do one or two exercises or skip straight to centre. I think in these classes it's a matter of 'not enough time in the week' to go through everything and sometimes more time is needed in the centre. I personally like changing it up sometimes, I enjoy the challenge of going straight into the centre and having to find your turnout, get your balance, be on your leg...my teacher wouldn't allow 'but we didn't do barre and I wasn't warm' to be an excuse. We're expected to come into class warmed up and ready for whatever she throws at us. Not that we'd ever go straight into grand allegro! If we skip barre entirely, the lesson normally starts with port de bras, a tendu exercises and some pirouettes to get the body moving and the mind in the right space.

 

I find my open adult classes have to be a bit more rigidly set, barre for the same amount of time each lesson, the same progression through turns to petit allegro to grand allegro, and I appreciate that this is the traditional structure of a ballet class and enjoy it for what it is. I think this is because there are fewer expectations on the attendees of open classes, you don't know what their level experience is, if they've already warmed up, if they ran all the way from the train station, so you need to follow the set progression to ensure safety. You also can't guarantee that people will be back next week, so if you do a whole class on pirouettes then they never get a chance to do barre and miss out on that important strength building tool. In more serious schools, that demand a higher commitment to regular attendance or place more expectations on their students, I think there can be more flexibility in the class structure. Barre is still an important aspect of class (and personally one of my favourite parts!) but I think you can conduct a good class without it, if the surrounding circumstances are right.

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I'm not surprised that in some RAD classes it is felt there isn't enough time for the barre ....because often they are only one hour or at best one hour and a quarter long!! For me the perfect class would be two hours!! This is because I would love to do a sort of official cool down stretch of about 30 mins after the centre work ....as often happens on workshops etc. As it happens though most of the classes I attend are an hour and a half which seems to be a sort of standard time for general adult ballet classes.

one of my local teachers has started introducing a ten minute official aerobic type  warm up ...in the centre ...before the start of the barre because I believe is now considered good practice. ....9/10 though I don't really need it as I'm one of those who usually has been running or very fast walking to and from a bus stop to get to class!!

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On 3/25/2018 at 00:33, LinMM said:

<snip>

 

Where children's training is concerned I think the barre is necessary initially while building up turn out strength. But a teacher can see if a student is leaning in to the barre too much and correct this and occasional centre work barre can be good.

<snip> 


That can of course be addressed   by the  use of portable barres  , especially  lighter ones   much less forgiving  or  over gripping that one firmly bolted to the  wall.  I actually think some of the commercial heavy duty portable barres are over heavy  - having experienced a few different  types when taking class  different places .

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At MIDAS we do not do barre. It is my belief that after a good warm up, a carefully planned class starting in the centre can be much more beneficial. Spending too long at the barre gives a false sense of weight placement, and only trains one side of the body at a time. It is much better to encourage students to be 'on their legs' from the start of class. I should stress that at MIDAS the ballet classes do not simply begin with 'barre in the centre' - we do lots of different exercises to help students with correct posture, weight placement and turnout. There are occasions when students need to hold on to something to help their balance while working on a movement; in these instances students work in pairs with one offering gentle support with their hands. The 'supporting' student also has a role during these exercises, looking for technical things such as stretched knees, properly aligned hips, turnout out legs etc. and coaching their friend. Therefore these situations become learning opportunities for all. 

 

At the risk of courting controversy, I believe that the traditional format of the classical ballet class needs a thorough re-think if it's purpose is to prepare dancers for the demands of performance. The research that I did 10 years ago (!) in my PhD suggested that class did not adequately train dancers for the performances that they were being asked to do which is where my 'golden triangle' training philosophy came from. There was an article published recently in Dance Magazine (http://www.dancemagazine.com/ballet-class-2534954449.html) in which the following was written: "A number of studies show that barre is not as effective in training dancers' balance as is commonly assumed. Curious about the transfer of training from barre to center, Virginia Wilmerding, a research professor at University of New Mexico, carried out an electromyographical comparison of a développé devant at barre and at center and discovered—drum roll—that the standing leg works 50 to 60 percent less while using the barre. "You may be training a myriad of other things, but you are not training your standing leg," she says. "So then you go into the center and look at all the tendus you have to do because you wasted 45 minutes at barre not training the supporting foot." 

 

 

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42 minutes ago, drdance said:

At MIDAS we do not do barre. It is my belief that after a good warm up, a carefully planned class starting in the centre can be much more beneficial. Spending too long at the barre gives a false sense of weight placement, and only trains one side of the body at a time. It is much better to encourage students to be 'on their legs' from the start of class. I should stress that at MIDAS the ballet classes do not simply begin with 'barre in the centre' - we do lots of different exercises to help students with correct posture, weight placement and turnout. There are occasions when students need to hold on to something to help their balance while working on a movement; in these instances students work in pairs with one offering gentle support with their hands. The 'supporting' student also has a role during these exercises, looking for technical things such as stretched knees, properly aligned hips, turnout out legs etc. and coaching their friend. Therefore these situations become learning opportunities for all. 

 

At the risk of courting controversy, I believe that the traditional format of the classical ballet class needs a thorough re-think if it's purpose is to prepare dancers for the demands of performance. The research that I did 10 years ago (!) in my PhD suggested that class did not adequately train dancers for the performances that they were being asked to do which is where my 'golden triangle' training philosophy came from. There was an article published recently in Dance Magazine (http://www.dancemagazine.com/ballet-class-2534954449.html) in which the following was written: "A number of studies show that barre is not as effective in training dancers' balance as is commonly assumed. Curious about the transfer of training from barre to center, Virginia Wilmerding, a research professor at University of New Mexico, carried out an electromyographical comparison of a développé devant at barre and at center and discovered—drum roll—that the standing leg works 50 to 60 percent less while using the barre. "You may be training a myriad of other things, but you are not training your standing leg," she says. "So then you go into the center and look at all the tendus you have to do because you wasted 45 minutes at barre not training the supporting foot." 

 

 

Tradition and ritual are powerful in many settings 

also  the  structure and format of class  doesn't necessarily reflect  what  is needed  as dr Dance  alludes to above. 

 

also consider the 1 hour class vs the 90 minute class ... and  the barre  being the  same in both  all too often ... 

 

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I have experienced "Centre-barre" on a number of occasions over the years with different teachers and, while everyone moans and groans at the start, my experience is that it definitely makes you stronger by doing the barre exercises in the centre - there is "nowhere to hide" and it really works your core and balance.

 

However I really really detest syllabus classes that are so short that only a few exercises are worked on with no proper "class structure" at all - i.e. 30-45 min classes for higher grades (yes really - check out some of the websites!)

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8 hours ago, youngatheart said:

I really really detest syllabus classes that are so short that only a few exercises are worked on with no proper "class structure"

 

 

I agree, Youngatheart - and I must say that I would find what Viv' describes of her syllabus class upthread would not suit me. There is a reason for going carefully through the barre exercises as a preparation for the centre, and a well-constructed class will ensure that the focus of the centre practice will be properly prepared for at the barre. For example, in my regular class - only an hour long unfortunately - and a basic beginners class, we are working on the detail and technique of petit allegro. We're now on glissades, so at the barre we do several tendu and glissé/degagé exercises in preparation for glissade and assemblée in the centre.

 

 

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I mean, in advanced foundation we do three 1.5 hour classes a week, so if we spend an hour at the barre on Tuesday I don't see the problem with only doing 15 minutes on Wednesday and focusing on centre work. It's not that barre is skipped from all classes or it's importance is downgraded, more that 4 hours worth of teaching is scattered across three days and not all sections of class get the same allocation every day. I sometimes find in open classes that we only have time to run exercises in the centre once because time does not permit a second go, we have to move on to the next portion of class. Having a centre focused class allows you to repeat the exercise three or four times, working on corrections every time and giving a very stable platform before moving onto the next element. It may not suit everyone, but it's worked very well for me.

 

I also wonder why ballet is almost the only dance discipline to require such a strict adherence to 'class structure'. While there is progression in a jazz class that generally follows the same patterns, I don't think anyone would be aghast at a class that doesn't follow this. I adore barre and would be frustrated to go through a whole week without it, but just because something is traditionally done one way doesn't mean it should always be done that way.

Edited by Viv
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Our teacher tends to use centre barre some of the time and barre barre some of the time, depending on what she's focusing on, for roughly the reasons outlined by Dr Dance above. Syllabus classes will normally do barre, though if we're concentrating on learning dances we may skip it. Part of the problem is hour class blocks, which is constrained by the blocks rooms can be booked in. 

 

Quote

I also wonder why ballet is almost the only dance discipline to require such a strict adherence to 'class structure'.

 

Because it's always been done that way. It could be worse: I'm still seeing martial arts classes doing hard stretching at the beginning of class before any warmup and almost certainly increasing the risk of damage. Change is slow, especially when CPD isn't required. 

Edited by Colman
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The booking of studios by the hour is just so not useful!! Why cannot they charge for an hour and a half if required why is it always only an hourly charge. It wouldn't make the slightest difference to overall time tabling as the next class can just follow on whether for an hour an hour and a half or two hours etc.

 

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I do think a good teacher uses the barre for what they intend to teach/focus on in the centre doesn't have to be absolutely set in stone and the same every week.....a slight downfall of the RAD ....as its syllabus led for exams etc. ...so the barre exercises are always the same  for the grade level etc.....the Russian system is more flexible here.

 

It is interesting though as the weight shouldn't really all be on the supporting leg anyway I thought ....you are working for the centre line ...some say line of aplomb....but correct muscles do need training for this initially so the barre is still useful. Centre work ONLY could make you too much on the supporting leg to just get balance sometimes when you are not strong enough. Probably most senior students say Grade 8 or Advanced foundation level and above would be strong enough by then.

 

The barre can prepare for "performance" if emphasis is put on the fact that you are dancing as soon as you come to the barre ....not just when you get into the Centre work. I think students should be dancing the barre ....it's not just purely a warm up.

 

 

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I don’t think the RAD or indeed any particular set syllabus would expect that a teacher would ONLY give the set barre or indeed centre work exercises. Indeed, as far as I understand it, the RAD makes it clear that they expect their teachers to teach new work and to consolidate on acquired knowledge without relying solely on the set exercises. Certainly that is how DD’s teachers teach (RAD syllabus but as they have Cecchetti and Royal Ballet School training, I’m sure this gives an extra dimension to their teaching). 

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Wow interesting observations, I guess mine are not too dissimilar; however I would question ones objectives. Like Fiz, I enjoy the barre, however for me it’s not so much about strengthening the core, turnout and alignment etc, but of course they do matter, it’s about dancing the barre with feeling, to really appropriate and beautiful music.

 

What I really hate, is doing what appears more akin to a military drill for a penguin with arms permanently stuck out to second, with poorly chosen music. For me music makes a tremendous difference and thank goodness our teacher at the Alive Ballet Company does have some really nice and appropriate music, not all teachers do.

 

As for barre in the centre, I done quite a lot of that too, and of course that’s harder and bit more of a challenge, but I’ve no real objection to that. Often the transition from barre to traditional centre practice is somewhat blurred.

I see one of the comments suggested it was more efficient at strengthening the core etc, I would think it is when taken in isolation, but there may well be even more efficient methods of strengthening the core through body conditioning exercises etc. I think at the end of the day it’s a case of creating the right blend for ones own self.

 

For me where I draw the real distinction is with paid one-to-one repertoire coaching, where the cost of an hours session including the associated studio hire can be as much as ten fold against that of standard open ballet class. If I’m paying that sort of premium then I want 100% rep coaching, but never the less adequate warm-up still needs to be addressed, for me its simple with my Monday session as the same teacher runs an open body condition class which I also attend, before my rep session.

 

Thursdays is somewhat different as there is no pre-warm-up, but we tend to be less aggressive with the rep and walk through marking it two or the times to refresh ourselves with the sequence before going all out to dance it, it seams to work for both of us..

 

The only time we go back to the barre is, if a particular movement is difficult to grasp where the additional support of the barre may help.

 

 

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On 28/03/2018 at 19:39, LinMM said:

 

It is interesting though as the weight shouldn't really all be on the supporting leg anyway I thought

 

....you are working for the centre line ...

 

Centre work ONLY could make you too much on the supporting leg to just get balance sometimes when you are not strong enough.

 

 

Couldn't agree more!

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