All the skill and strength required for ballet has its roots in the exercises at the ballet barre. This work is designed to build strength in legs and feet and with a bit of work you’ll soon find your ballet moves will get bigger, better and more elegant. It’s also great exercise to improve your general fitness level – few people are as fit as professional ballet dancers.
Here are a few simple steps to get you started on ballet barre exercises; soon you’ll be making great steps in your personal fitness and your ballet ability.
Step 1: The turnout secret. In ballet, the feet and legs are turned out, which means they point away from the body. You should try and get your thighs, knees and feet facing the side walls while you face forward. If you can, work towards getting the whole leg – from hip down to the toes – turned away from the body.
Step 2: Start with demi plies. Get into first position (which is standing with feet facing out and your heels together) and face towards the side wall and use the left hand to grab the barre. Get your arms into first position too which is with a slight bend in the elbow, cupping your hands inward while they rest lightly on your thigh. Now, bend the knees so you’re half way to a sitting position. Keep the feet turned out and, if you can, keep your heels on the ground. Stand back into first position before carrying out five repeats.
Step 3: The tendu. Start again in the first position with your left hand grasping the barre. This time you need to put your arm into the second position: horizontal from the shoulder with a slight bend to the elbow and the same cup to the hand as above. Stand at 90 degrees to the barre. Start the movement with the heel sliding away from the front of the body, lifting onto the ball of the foot until only your toe-tip is on the floor. Slide back into the original position and carry out five repeats. Then, reverse your position so the barre is in contact with your right hand and repeat the process.
Step 4: The battement frappe. Assume the starting position from the tendu move your foot, starting with the heel, from the floor and point your toe. Again, reverse your position for a second set of five repeats on the other leg.
Step 5: The grand battement. Again, start in first position. Now move your right leg smartly across the front of your body using your thigh muscles and keeping the leg straight. Return to the starting position and repeat five times before turning to the other side for five more.
Step 6: Repeat and practice! You’ll soon find your legs strengthening so you’re able to move onto more difficult exercises and when you come onto leaps and jumps you’ll have the power to get some real height.