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 Post subject: The Barre - Crutch and/or Aid
PostPosted: Sun Nov 19, 2000 6:02 pm 

Joined: Mon Oct 02, 2000 11:01 pm
Posts: 11327
Location: San Diego, California, USA
A thought on another thread brought to mind the use of the barre - that ubiquitious item of furniture in every ballet class.<P>The function of this item is to aid the dancer in the early stages of the warm-up and to prepare the dancer for the center. To help the dancer locate the center of balance. Too often, however, it becomes a crutch. <P>The first problem is establishing the height of the barre - especially crucial for very young children, so they are not reaching up. And, for those very tall students, so they do not lean down. Therefore, varying heights of the barre in a studio are often necessary.<P>But, as crucial, is the distance of the student from the barre laterally. The hand must rest on the barre without impacting and displacing the shoulder. If the student stands too closely then the shoulder is hunched, and conversely if standing too far away, the center of balance is displaced.<P>Once these two problems are solved and the student learns to know the distance to stand from the barre, I think the teacher's next task is to teach the student how to use the barre. The ultimate object, however, is divorce from the barre. This is accomplished, in my opinion, with gradual and steady incrementalism - from the very first plies.<P>The hand should never grasp the barre tightly. No white knuckles. I had one teacher who even thought the thumb should not hook under but stay with the rest of the hand on top of the barre. <P>Whenever facing the barre the hands should be gently placed upon the barre closely together so that the hands do not brace the back - but cause the back to assume its own balance. For instance if you stand in first position at the barre and do an exercise, whether it is a developpe a la seconde, or a simple tendu, the hands upon the barre should be close together. Try it both ways - hands held far apart - and hands held closely and feel the difference it makes in the steadiness demanded of the back and placement. The barre should not be used as a brace for the back.<P>And, I believe (I taught and religiously practiced myself) that during each exercise a constant lifting of the barre hand should take place to test the placement of the body and rectify any overuse or dependence upon the barre. <P>In every balance throughout the barre exercises the hand should be lifted as soon as possible from the barre to test the balance. The message should not come from the body that it is ready to balance - but from the mind to the body. <P>A simple good test is have the student releve' (in any position - arabesque, attitude, retierre' etc.) and immediately let go the barre - and see which way the student has to correct the placement in order to maintain her balance independent of the barre. That is where the student should have gone up on releve' initially. The student will never learn that if the barre is used as a crutch. Releve' and let go.<P>In pointe - it is the foot that should elevate the dancer to pointe - not the barre. I always used to ask my students "is the barre doing the work or are you?" If the barre is doing the work - strength does not grow. <P>When I am observing a teacher I almost never hear those magic words - "let go of the barre". But how well I remember them being shouted at me!!! <P><p>[This message has been edited by Basheva (edited November 19, 2000).]

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