The politics of the barre

There are unwritten rules about where you stand at the barre in ballet class. These rules are often  framed in  way which reflects the ideal studio which is pretty much square (or not overly deep /wide in proportion). 

This isn't about how you stand at the barre either, I shall let the delightful Ms Claudia Dean and her assistant explain that.

For the purposes  of this piece i'm going to use  RAD room numbering

There are various other formats of numbering (from where i got the above image) the walls and corners, or, you can of course just use the theatrical naming conventions (upstage/downstage, stage left/stageright).

Wall 1 is the one with the mirrors and would represent downstage to the audience in a theatre.

The presumption is generally that the barres run along the 'sides' of the room  i.e. wall 2 and 4 and may run along the back wall as well.

The barre has a 'head' and a 'foot' , looking at our 'map' of the studio above  and working on the basis of left hand on the barre to start the heads of the barre would be in corners  5 and 7, the foot of the barre would be  corners 8 and 6, if there was a barre across the back it's head would be at 8 and it's foot would be at 7 ...

Why is this important or, perhaps more tellingly, deemed important ?

It's generally taken as read that to go at the head or foot of the barre you are  reasonably confident you can follow the exercises correctly and cleanly...

As you get to more and more advanced classes, you won't necessarily get the  entire exercise marked through and/or demonstrated so you need to have confidence in what you are doing. It is also a bit of a responsibility, as people are likely to follow you.

This is before the petty politics of which barre is which  (as in some classes you will find a barre  which tends to be populated by the best dancers and it can be difficult  to work out the hows and whys of that as ballet class is not the most sociable of things, unless and until you are in a 'company' situation  ( even if that is just rehearsing for a  show or sharing with your local  studio )  and there's the sitting about waiting or having lunch breaks  thing  happening ...

This might make the  ballet studio seem an intimidating space, but it  really isn't and shouldn't be  at all.


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