I decided to pick up floor barre in 2019. I was recovering from a minor ankle sprain that kept me away from ballet classes for a while. I thought it was a good idea to get back in ballet shape and try something I had never done before. Saying that I loved it is an understatement. After the first class, I left the studio eager to note down every single exercise to remember everything I learned and practice on my own until the next time.
What is floor barre?
Floor barre was created by Boris Kniaseff in 1953 as a way to cope with the absence of barres in his studio. He took the common ballet barre exercises and adapted them to be executed on the floor. In a floor barre class, you perform ballet movements sitting and laying on the floor.
Is there just one floor barre method?
After Kniaseff, many others developed their own floor barre methods in order to suit their and their students’ needs. I have seen many professional dancers creating their own routines of floor exercises. I remember reading about Maya Plisetskaya who always performed a floor barre sequence on her own before a class or show.
The methods that I personally tried are Zena Rommett and Dancer’s Body.
I was introduced to the Zena Rommett method by pure curiosity, after having heard multiple professional dancers talking about it. I decided to do a quick research and found a teacher very close to my dance studio, so I went in for a trial. I walked out at least two centimeters taller than when I came in! The focus is mainly on alignment and finding length.
Dancer’s Body was created by Cathy Laymet, a French ballet teacher passionate about ballet technique, placement and anatomy. She decided to expand the work of Boris Kniaseff, Zena Rommett and Laurence Fanon and create her own floor barre class structure including original exercises based on her research and experience.
What I love about floor barre
I started taking Dancer’s Body floor barre classes regularly with Cathy Laymet in September 2019. At first I had two classes a week at her studio and I increased it to four weekly classes.
What I love the most about floor barre is the simplicity and repetitions of the movements which allows me to understand how my body moves, find and strengthen the right muscles. Sometimes in ballet class there’s too much to think about and I struggle to isolate what I need to work on. With the Dancer’s Body method, we often do the same exercise in various positions. This enables me to imprint the sensation in my body, my movement patterns are solid, I can focus on what needs improvement: deepening my turnout, lengthening my spine, finding the lines of push and pull in my legs and arms, breathing, you name it.
What are the benefits of floor barre?
Needless to say that my placement got better, which allowed for major improvements in my work. Multiple turns were suddenly not a struggle anymore, as well as pointe classes. In floor barre we seriously focus on alignment, which is essential to dance well and acquire what we call a “strong technique”. Placement must always come first. Without proper placement there is no proper technique.
In summary, floor barre is wonderful to:
improve turnout (for a strong and stable supporting leg)
increase mobility and flexibility (for more range of motion)
build strength (for extensions, better partnering, more stamina)
enhance coordination (for fluid and graceful movements)
fine-tune proprioception (to quickly adjust your technique)
Who is floor barre for?
I would recommend floor barre to any dancer who is looking for a supplement to their daily ballet classes. The best would actually be to include floor barre in your pre-ballet class routine as it sets your body up for what is coming next and allows you to achieve a better range of motion.
Floor barre is also one of the top choices for injured dancers who should avoid weight bearing exercises, but can still move. In my case, thanks to floor barre, I started finding the muscles I need to turn my legs out properly. My ankle injury was mostly the result of improper turnout: it was not turning out from the top of my thighs, I was forcing the rotation from my knees and feet. You might also find the reason for, and a solution to, your injuries with your floor barre practice.
In conclusion, it is the perfect addition to any dancer’s schedule: practical, functional and extremely beneficial.
Have you tried a floor barre class yet?