Ballet is an underrated exercise for your body. When performing ballet, you develop physical skills that require a tremendous amount of hard work and dedication. As ballet dancers advance in the discipline, they will be expected to fine-tune their classical technique. Plus, they must execute combinations seamlessly at different musical tempos and on different musical counts.
A lot of the work needed to float gracefully across a stage takes place with portable ballet barres. This is where ballet dancers build strength, flexibility, and discipline. Advanced barre exercises are intended to continue developing a dancer's precision, attention to detail, and technique. Here are some of the best exercises that you can perform with the ballet barre:
The foundation of all barre work, plié means to bend. A critical movement to master early on, as dancers become more advanced, they will be expected to execute pliés with an increasing degree of precision. Most steps in ballet, especially jumps, begin and end with the feet turned out and the knees bent in a demi-plié position.
While at the barre, plié exercises usually include a combination of demi-pliés, or small bends, and grande-pliés, or large bends where the heels actually leave the ground. There is a good deal more strain on the muscles in grande-pliés and they are therefore more advanced.
Pliés can also be done with the feet in a variety of positions, including first position with the feet turned out and touching at the heel. The fifth position has the feet turned out with one foot crossed over the other.
Tendu, in French, means to stretch. At the barre, a tendu can be done by stretching the leg with a pointed toe on the ground either to the front, side or back of the body. An important exercise for warming up the feet at the beginning of class, tendus can be done slowly or quickly to target different muscles. Usually finishing in first or fifth position, more advanced tendu exercises will also combine several different movements, including tendus and pliés.
Essentially building on a tendu, a dégagé (which means to disengage) is like a tendu but instead of staying pointed on the floor, the toe comes off the ground. In advanced ballet, a dégagés will be evaluated based on how sharply and quickly it is executed.
A relatively contained movement, in a dégagés the emphasis is on precision. Dégagé exercises at the barre are also important for warming up the feet and calves so that the dancer's body is prepared for more intricate footwork later in the class or in choreography.
Rond de jambe a terre
Advancing on to more complicated barre exercises, a Rond de jambe a terre, or round of the leg on the ground, is basically an extended circular tendu motion. From first or fifth position of the feet, the movement begins by tenduing the foot to the front, then moved to the side and then to the back.
As dancers become more advanced, they will be expected to complete more complicated versions of this move. These include moving the leg from the front, to the side and then to the back is an en dehors. It can also be an outward movement, moving the leg from the back, side, and front.
Frappé, meaning to strike out or hit, is another sharp movement intended to prepare the foot and ankle for jumping and other advanced moves to be completed later on in the class. The move itself refers to the extension of the foot. The frappé movement starts with the foot flexed and resting lightly against the supporting ankle. Frappés are a quick, strong movement and can be done to the front, side or back.
Adages are all about control, balance, and strength. Adages are an advanced ballet barre exercise that sustains several positions over multiple music counts. Slow and graceful, it is crucial to have fully coordinated arms, head, and legs for the adage to be carried off successfully. Movements used in an adage exercise can include pliés, rond de jambe en l'air (round of the leg in the air), développé and various standard body positions.
Typically, the last exercise done at the barre during warm-up, grand battements are important because they prepare a dancer's legs for bigger jumps. The movement is similar to a dégagé, but the leg is elevated even higher, increasing flexibility and strength.
As a dancer becomes more advanced, they will be expected to toss their leg high into the air while maintaining proper alignment elsewhere throughout the body. Although watching a grand battement appears to be a large, swinging movement, it is controlled and difficult to do gracefully.