by David Arce Ballet is all about plié. Once students leave the barre for the center, nearly every step and position starts with plié—especially jumps. So periodically, during warm-up changements or sautés, give your students extra time to find and hold deep pliés. During a repetitive series of jumps—for example, eight changements—students often sacrifice the…Read More
Advice for Dance Teachers Dear Rhee, I have been teaching for 25 years, and I’ve owned my studio for four and a half years. I’ve become increasingly concerned that parents don’t seem to be aware of the importance of bringing their children to class on time. This year, tardiness is at an all-time high. At…Read More
Annual trade show offers everything from software to shoes by Karen White United Dance Merchants of America, or UDMA, has been around so long that some dance studio people may have forgotten how helpful the organization and its trade show can be. On four weekends each fall, in four different cities, the UDMA Dance Resource…Read More
Beginning a class with students facing the barre in first position is a common practice; I often do this after a long weekend or extended time off. Doing simple, slow tendus, stretches, and even a balance in first or second position with both hands on the barre allows students to internalize their focus and to find their center and “ballet muscles” before starting pliés.
I find one constant among students balancing at the barre: those who lift the supporting side and maintain an aligned position achieve longer and more productive balances. Other students try what I call a “gamble balance”: they begin correctly but then release the core and supporting side, and to compensate, make massive adjustments with the torso.
When a barre combination includes multiple ronds de jambe, students frequently need to be reminded to draw a complete half circle on the floor with the working toe before starting the next rond de jambe.
Another mistake often seen in multiple ronds de jambe is cutting short the final one to close in fifth. To correct this, try giving one fewer rond de jambe than the music suggests.
Books of note (new and not)
1. The Artist’s Compass: The Complete Guide to Building a Life and a Living in the Performing Arts
2. Dance Production: Design & Technology
3. Swan: The Life and Dance of Anna Pavlova
4. Raising the Barre: Big Dreams, False Starts, and My Midlife Quest to Dance The Nutcracker
Videos of note (new and not)
1. Floor-Barre® & Ballet for Young Dancers: Series VIII
2. Sasha Waltz: A Portrait
3. The Red Shoes
4. Dancing in the Light: Six Dances by African-American Choreographers
A good way to make sure your students are properly aligned at the beginning of any barre exercise is to have them demi-plié in first or fifth. Make sure their shoulders are over their hips and their backs are long and not tucking or hunching. Then have them slowly straighten their legs while keeping their turnout.Read More
Dancers often stand too close to the barre when doing tendus from first position after pliés. Once they move their weight from first position (weight over the balls of both feet) to tendu (all weight over the ball of the standing leg), the supporting arm at the barre bends more than it should. Have them stand far enough away that they can only touch the barre with their fingertips. When they perform a tendu correctly, they can now rest the hand on the barre at the correct distance.Read More
Teaching basic skills at the barre helps young dancers learn to use both feet and change weight; you can use this method for preschoolers to advanced dancers.Read More
Learning attitude en l’air is best done facing the barre. Have students stand slightly away from the barre, holding it with two hands. Have them raise the leg, derrière, and bend the knee slightly without altering the height of the knee. (A low position should suffice at the beginning.) As the height of the leg increases, the weight of the body moves forward. The shoulders and hips remain square to the barre.Read More
If classical ballet instruction can be said to have a Golden Rule, it might be “Begin at the barre.” Classes begin at the barre, where students learn to perform a step competently before they attempt it in the center. Most instructors follow this rule in teaching pirouettes; standard instruction books such as Gretchen Ward Warren’s Classical Ballet Technique (pp. 141 and 177) advocate the practice of half-turns with relevé in retiré at the barre (while recommending that beginners execute one full pirouette in the center).Read More
Tip 1 When teaching batterie (such as a royale or changement battu or an entrechat quatre), have the students start from an open rather than a closed position. For example:Read More
Three golden rules for arms (except where choreographed otherwise):
1. The arms should never move to or be held in a position behind the ears.
2. The hands should never cross the centerline of the body.
3. In any arabesque, the shoulder of the front arm is never lower than the shoulder of the side arm.