One of the most important things to lookout for when trying to buy a barre for your ballet practice is for it to be strong and and stable. You’ll want a high quality one that serves the needs of the dancer, whether they’re training in classic tradition or modern.
The barre should be around six feet in length, either wooden or metal. Aluminium is particularly popular because it is light and easy to move. A nice sturdy base is really necessary for maximum safety so it doesn’t move. Many dancers prefer having a double barre to practice stretching at different angles.
Ballet is a form of dance that requires a lot of physical effort from the performer. You will need to put in huge amounts of hard work, not to mention patience and determination if you want to get the most out of it. A positive environment in the dance studio (or spare room!) is vital and the barre you have to work with will make all the difference in how you approach your training.
It takes commitment and time to perfect your moves and it all starts with the barre. Obviously you should go for a good quality portable barre, but that doesn’t mean it has to be expensive! There are plenty of great ones on Amazon that cost between $100 and $200 and the “pro” ones that cost $500+ are not that much different. Don’t think that spending more on a barre will make up for lack of practice or effective coaching… but a good barre is better than a cheap one.
Ballet Barre Exercises
Dance workouts inspired by ballet are quickly becoming becoming recognized as a marvelous way of getting your body in shape. The exercises are designed to develop different skills that are specific for dancers, such as working on your balance, increasing your range-of-motion and improving your flexibility.
Exercise #1: Demi Plié
You need to stand perpendicular to the barre, using one hand to assist with balance. Your feet will be in the classical position (feet meeting at the heels, creating a 90 degree angle between them). Lower down to your maximum comfortable knee bend and keep your feet flat on the ground. Hold for a moment, then return to the first position.
If you are prepared for more of a challenge, you can perform the grand plié. It’s essentially the same as the demi plié except that the legs will lower further until the thighs are parallel with the floor. If needed, the heels can raise slightly to allow the lowering of the body.
Exercise #2: Relevé Plié
While facing the barre, put your feet into first position, straighten your legs and rest both your hands lightly on the barre. Stand tall and slightly tense your abdominal muscles as you lift your heels as high as possible, with all your weight on the balls of the feet. Slowly lower yourself into the plié position, bending the knees about half way. Then straighten the knees again while maintaining a gentle squeeze on your glutes. Once at the top you can lower your heels to the floor and repeat the whole circuit 10-15 reps.
Benefits of Dance Barre Workouts
The popularity of these barre workouts thanks to big celebrities like Madonna and Jessica Alba, is bringing a whole new range of physical benefits to people everywhere.
It’s a great way to strengthen and tone your muscles, not to mention stretching them in new ways your may not have done before… even if you’re a seasoned veteran of pilates or yoga. In a very short time span, you’ll notice benefits like an increase in the flexibility and strength of the lower legs and the inner thigh muscles.
Due to the varied nature of dance barre exercises (with a vast number of possible positions when compared to gym exercises or yoga positions) the stabilizer muscles will strengthen over time, providing side benefits like being less injury-prone and enhancing your co-ordination plus making your reflexes quicker.
Dancing is also really good at keeping us youthful, thanks to the improvements in our cardiovascular and pulmonary systems. The amount of effort exerted by dancers has been compared to Olympic swimmers or cyclists!
There are a whole host of significant internal perks that will provide amazing long term health improvements. The bending and stretching stimulates the central nervous system, resulting in the release of serotonin and dopamine (the mood elevating endorphins). The joints secrete more lubricating fluid to protect you in old age and the body’s ability to regulate sugar levels is more controlled.
Overall, there are so many reasons to do regular dance based practice and exercise that you’d be crazy not to try it if you want to be fit and healthy. Try some of the exercises yourself and maybe attend a ballet barre workout class at a gym near you. I’m sure you’ll be pleasantly surprised.