The Ballet Barre

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There is one piece of equipment that you need in order to learn Ballet. The Ballet barre needs just a little explanation, whether you're learning at home or in a class.

When you go to a Ballet class, barres will be provided for you – either permanently attached to the walls or freestanding ones that can be moved into position and then cleared away again to free up central floor space.

If you are doing a Ballet class at home with an instructional video, you can use the back of a chair for support.

It should be something that you just rest your hands on. 

You should not be leaning all your weight onto this support or clinging onto it for dear life.

Each set of exercises you do at the barre will be done on each leg in turn.

For example, when you are standing with the barre on your right side, resting your right hand on it, your right leg will support you and your left leg will be doing the exercise - this is your 'working leg'. You will then turn to face the other end of the studio, resting your left hand on the barre and doing the exercises with your right leg.

Adult Ballet Class Standing at the Ballet Barre

The easiest way to remember how to use the barre is to think of it as holding onto your dancing partner's hand. So don't grab hold too tight!
And, when you need to turn around during your Ballet barre exercises, politely turn TOWARDS the barre, as though you are turning towards your partner.

Whether you are learning at home or in a class, you'll first need to know the right posture to adopt in order to dance the Ballet steps properly. So take a moment now and practise your correct posture using the guide below...

Our Guide to Using the Ballet Barre

Ballet Barre Good Posture

Ballet Barre Good Posture

This is what you are aiming for.

Ballet Barre Too Close

Ballet Barre Too Close

Don't squeeze yourself up too close to the Ballet barre.

Make sure that your elbow isn't near to or resting on the barre.

Ballet Barre Too Far Away

Ballet Barre Too Far Away

The opposite of above, this is too far away from the barre. You don't want to have to reach for it.

And at this distance, it won't provide you with balance and support.

Ballet Barre Grip Too Tight

Ballet Barre Grip Too Tight

A classic. The death grip.

Don't forget that the Ballet barre represents your partner's hand. They are unlikely to stick around long if you keep squeezing so hard that you cut off the blood supply to their fingers.

Rest your hand gently on the barre, please!

Ballet Barre Too High

Ballet Barre Too High

Sometimes, this can't be avoided.

If you are learning in a studio that doesn't have a choice of barres, you might find that the one provided is too high (pictured here) or too low (see below). It's not the end of the world.

But if you do have a choice, always try to use the barre that is somewhere in between your hip and waist height.

Ballet Barre Too Low

Ballet Barre Too Low

A barre that's too high or too low isn't that comfortable, but shouldn't affect your dancing too much. Or if you are particularly tall or short, you may find fixed barres aren't the ideal height for you.

But again, they only represent holding your partner's hand, so try not to rely on them too much!

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Ballet Equipment ~ a note of caution

An ordinary chair with a back that is somewhere around your waist height will do nicely.

That's it, that's all you need!

However, there are answers to 'what Ballet equipment do I need to practise at home with?' questions that worry us greatly.

For example, one book on learning Ballet, when addressing things that you can hold onto while doing your barre exercises, says that the piece of furniture you use should be extraordinarily heavy – so that if you start to fall you won't be able to pull it with you.

You are NOT supposed to cling on to this thing for total body weight support.

It is supposed to simulate your partner's hand – you aren't clinging onto that hand so hard that if you felt yourself falling you'd take your partner with you, are you?

You also shouldn't be executing movements that could provoke a sudden heavy fall. You should be taking everything calmly and within your own limitations. Keep returning to the best posture photo guide above and you won't fall over, let alone take out your living room furniture...

Best Tip
A good check to see if you are exerting too much reliance on the barre is… can you take your hand off it while doing your exercises?
Now, you need this support, however gentle it is and you certainly need it while you are an absolute beginner in order to encourage your balance. So it's not recommended that you try your barre exercises without one at all.
But, every so often, just to check how much weight you are putting on the barre, try to lift your hand off it.
It shouldn't be too difficult, after all, your hand is only resting on it, isn't it?!

There's just one more thing that you'll commonly find in a dance studio to help you with your Ballet.

A large mirror is always a great thing to have.

So much of Ballet is in the posture, the turn out, the look of it, that unless you are constantly checking your reflection, you may be missing things that need adjustment.

But don't worry if you can't provide one at home.

Doing the practise is the important thing and your Ballet class will probably have a mirror in it somewhere, so you can work on your look then.

There's more information on the Ballet barre in our Ballet class section - which deals which how to use the barres in a Ballet studio.

But for now, you're going to try some real Ballet steps, starting with the all important feet positions...

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