11 Tips for Beginning Ballet Barre Etiquette
Perhaps ballet etiquette is something that is never stated out loud in class — but you can depend on this: it matters to your instructor and to the experienced dancers in your class! If you feel that ballet etiquette is old fashioned or uptight, consider that you are studying a classic art form that depends on tradition. It is kind of cool to think that following traditional etiquette connects you to a long line of past generations of dancers, and you are helping to preserve these traditions for the future of ballet. Here are 11 tips to get you started when you walk into the studio:
An Open Door is an Invitation to Enter. If the studio door is closed, it is polite to wait until an instructor or staff member opens the door before you enter. There could be another class that is finishing up, the instructor could be with a student or may be taking the time to prepare for the next class.
Find Your Spot at the Barre. The first thing you do as you enter the studio is to find a spot at the barre that is appropriate to your level. As a beginner, you want to be somewhere in the middle and leave the ends to the more experienced dancers. If you are very inexperienced, find a middle spot that is closer to where the teacher normally stands so that you can see and hear the instruction better.
Mark Your Spot: You can save your place with a slipper, or a sweater over the barre, then begin to stretch on the floor, get rosin if they allow it, or chat with others before class begins. If you did not mark your spot and leave for even a moment, it is fair game. Use common courtesy foremost: if you see someone who needs to stand in your place more than you do, offer to move or make room for them to stand where you are.
Leave the Ends to the Pros. The space at the ends of the barre should be left for the more experienced dancers, especially the spots furthest from the teacher. When all dancers are in a line, they can observe those in front of them for hints on what to do and how to do it properly. It is very helpful to have an experienced dancer in a spot where he or she can be an example of proper technique and form. It can hold the entire class back when they are following the end dancer who suddenly turns around to see what others are doing because they are uncertain. Often the end position is reserved for an instructional assistant, or someone who is familiar with the combinations so that they can assist with leading the class.
Watch Your Spacing at the Barre. Be aware of the space around you so that you are not kicking or being kicked by those around you. Think of it like parallel parking — you wouldn’t want to be too close to the car in front of you or take up a space and a half because you are parked badly. If space is tight, angle in toward the barre during combinations with extensions and battements.
Placing Portable Barres. Usually, before class if all spaces at the barre are taken, dancers will begin to move out the portable barres. The center portable barres are for the more advanced students or unlucky late arrivals. If you arrive to class less than 15 minutes before it begins, consider yourself late. The barres can wobble or even tip and you have to be aware of moving your hands during combinations to accommodate the dancer on the opposite side. This can be tricky when you are sharing the barre. If you are moving the barres, place them at good distances apart to be able to avoid kicking your neighbor and if possible, find ultimate locations where the dancers behind you at the barre can still see themselves in the mirror as well as yourself.
Don’t Clutter the Studio. As adult dancers, we might have more valuable items with us, so we may not want to leave them in the dressing room. However, we don’t want to trip over your purse at the barre! Often adult ballet instructors are more lenient with allowing purses or bags in the studio, but watch where others put their belongings – are they tucked away in a discreet corner? Water bottles are sometimes permitted at the barre, but generally you can make it through class with a sip. Leave your things in a place that is out of the way.
Turn Your Phone All the way off- totally OFF. We are reminded in every professional venue to turn off those annoying ring tones, and dance class is no exception. And please turn off the vibrate as well — it is distracting. If you have a new baby or something important to be on call for, then you need to be responsible for checking your phone in your bag.
We Are All Trying to Learn Here. Try not to block the view of the instructor for those behind you by moving a little closer to the barre. You can watch the combinations, or mark them with your body or only with your hands. While an instructor is demonstrating, one should try to refrain from stretching or practicing a different step.
It’s a Barre Not a Bar. No leaning, yawning or sitting down at the barre. Instructors like to see students standing up straight with good posture, weight evenly balanced and shoulders back. Another important tip – when you finish your first set of exercise at the barre and turn to face the other direction, always turn toward the barre to get to the second side.
Beginnings & Endings. When the instructor enters the class, stand up and take your position at the barre. You begin with the left hand on the barre. Please respect your teacher by paying attention and leave the chatting for before or after class. At the end of the barre, move anything from your spot to the side or back of the studio. This includes the portable barres that are moved back to where they came from by the dancers who stood at them. The transition time between barre and center can be used to stretch, use the restroom and even change into a center dance skirt.
The timeless ballet skirt featured is by Etsy Shop Royall Dancewear.
Children who begin ballet class at an early age learn these little tips and tricks along the way. As adults, we are often unaware of the unspoken rules of classroom etiquette. If you are uncertain about anything, you can always approach your instructor after class to inquire, or even approach a more experienced dancer. It is usually better to ask than to seem rude or inconsiderate. If you are taking adult ballet, you should be aware of class etiquette. Rules are in place so that class benefits all participants, and you are likely (though unintentionally) holding the class back if you are not aware of proper etiquette.
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