Friday, January 27, 2012

Why do a floor barre?

About two months ago, one of my students whom I work with en pointe became injured.  She couldn't releve or do a traditional ballet class but was reluctant to merely rest until she'd healed.  She (and I) didn't want to lose her strength or flexibility that comes from consistent technique class.  So I suggested we do floor barre for a while. Since I wasn't entirely sure how to construct one, I reviewed notes I'd gotten from Nichelle Strzepek of Dance Advantage (one of my very favorite dance web sites) and started with that. Using some of Nichelle's guidelines and suggested exercises, I built my own floor barre class.

And then....I became addicted to it!  Seriously.  Well, maybe not quite so seriously.  Part of it was the novelty of a new type of class (which always fires up my creative energy) but another part was how engaged certain muscles were.  For instance, I talk a LOT about the importance of inner thigh work, why we must engage the tops of the legs for turnout and lift, for pirouettes and adagio and more.  But it's not always easy to identify those incredibly necessary muscles. With a floor barre, you cannot cheat very easily.  And without the distraction of epaulement and port de bras, there is nothing else to focus on but using your abdominal muscles and inner thighs to rotate and lift the legs.  Genius!

A proper floor barre will mimic much of the same exercises we do in a traditional class.  But it will also include core work: situps and crunches to work the obliques, pushups or yoga-type positions for the upper body (which almost never gets worked in ballet class).  My class also incorporates lots of static stretching for increased flexibility.

Perhaps the best part of the class is the end!  When you leave, you really do feel a sense of euphoria because nearly every part of your body has been engaged at some point. You've also, hopefully, pushed yourself a little beyond what you normally might do.  There's something about the anonymity of laying on your back with no one else to see you and no mirror in which to see yourself that allows you to push farther.  Maybe it's the lack of pretense, the lack of performance involved, that lets you simply work the muscles properly and get in touch with your center.

A floor barre will never take the place of a traditional class but it's of great benefit to just about every type of student and I heartily recommend it.  For anyone interested in trying class with me, I teach a stretch/floor barre on Thursdays from 5:30-6:30PM at Le Studio.  I'll be there, for sure, even if you don't show up!  That's how addicted I am!

Cheers, happy dancing and stretching and super special thanks to Nichelle!

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