This is an excerpt from Beginning Ballet by Gayle Kassing.
The barre exercises presented in this chapter follow the order in which they are performed in the traditional ballet barre. In the beginning ballet class, the barre exercises may not be taught in this order, but by the end of the term, the barre will contain most of the exercises in this chapter. Different methods of ballet execute the barre exercises in a similar but sometimes different order.
Each barre exercise includes its written pronunciation, definition, purpose, and description. In the web resource that accompanies this book, the ballet term is pronounced in the French language and a video clip presents the exercise. Also included is a self-check list for performing the exercise. Some basic barre exercises are followed by variations. Often these variations are practiced either as separate exercises or with the basic exercise for extended combinations.
Barre exercises begin in classical foot positions. In the beginning ballet class, you learn exercises starting in first position and then move to starting in either third position or fifth position (see chapter 5).
Before each exercise you stand in the beginning position and execute a preparation to music. In some cases the preparation is a port de bras, but for some exercises, foot movements accompany the port de bras as part of the preparation. In a beginning ballet class, the preparation may use four or two bars of music before the exercise begins.
Demi-Plié [duh-MEE plee-AY]
Half bend of the knees
- Warms up the hip, knee, and ankle joints
- Increases strength and flexibility of the lower leg
- Applies the principles of alignment, stance, turnout, and weight distribution
To execute a demi-plié, stand in a classical position of the feet. Descend as far as the knees can bend with the entire foot remaining on the floor, then return to the starting position. Perform the demi-plié in first, second, third, fourth, then fifth position.
Maintaining turnout from the hips, bend the knees directly above the second and third toes of each foot. In second position, bend the legs half as much as for a grand plié.
Grand Plié [grahn plee-AY]
Large bend of the knees
- Stretches the muscles of the inner thigh in addition to those of the lower
- Applies the principles of alignment, turnout, weight distribution, squareness, and counterpull
First, execute a demi-plié and then descend deeper to where the thighs are parallel to the floor. The heels release from the floor only as necessary on the descent and return as soon as possible on the ascent. Both knees bend and straighten simultaneously.
Performed in all foot positions, the grand plié is a continuous vertical movement, using the same number of measures for the descent and the ascent. The body weight is equally distributed over both legs. As you descend, the body counterpulls upward. On the ascent, the body remains lifted, appearing to float over
In second position, the space between the feet varies from one and 1/2 lengths of your foot to shoulder width. In this position you descend until the thighs are parallel to the floor, but the full foot remains on the floor throughout the grand
Battement Tendu [bat-MAHN than-DEW]
- Increases flexibility of the ankle
- Develops full extension and proper alignment of the foot with the leg
- Applies principles of alignment, stance, turnout, weight distribution, weight transfer, and squareness
Start in first position at the beginning and later start in third or fifth position. From a full-foot position, brush the working foot along the floor extending through the arch, then the metatarsals, to a fully pointed position. In the pointed position, the tips of the first three toes rest on the floor and the heel is lifted high and forward. On the return path the foot flexes first through the toes, then the metatarsals, the arch, and finally to the full-foot position as it slides back to the closing. Practice battement tendu devant, à la seconde, and then derrière. For the battement tendu à la seconde, slide the working foot to a point that is in line with the great toe
of the supporting foot (Cecchetti method) or in line with the supporting heel
Battement Tendu With Demi-Plié
[bat-MAHN than-DEW with duh-MEE plee-AY]
Stretched beating with half bend
- Connects two exercises seamlessly
- Coordinates movements of the supporting leg with the working leg (the working leg does the out and in movement, while the supporting leg does the down and up movement)
The battement tendu with demi-plié is two exercises combined. On the return path of the battement tendu, the working and supporting legs execute a demi-plié. Both legs reach the depth of the demi-plié when the working foot reaches the closed position. From the demi-plié, the next battement tendu begins with each leg simultaneously straightening on the extension section ending when the working foot is fully pointed.
Battement Tendu Relevé
[bat-MAHN than-DEW ruhl-VAY]
Stretched and raised beating
- Develops skills in transferring weight from two feet to one foot and back to two feet
- Challenges balance
The battement tendu relevé begins with the extension of the working leg to a point. Shift the weight from the supporting leg to equally on both legs. The working foot accepts the weight through the toes to the full-foot position. To bring the weight back to the supporting leg, it pulls up to accept the weight as the working foot points and brushes back to the beginning position. You can perform battement tendu relevé without or with a demi-plié when the weight shifts to both legs in the full-foot position. After the working foot returns to the pointed position, it brushes back to the beginning position in demi-plié.
Learn more about Beginning Ballet.