There is a pattern of traditional ballet exercises done at the barre. As a result of recent studies in the area of sports and dance, most teachers these days are also giving some “pre-barre warmup exercises” to their students. In Ruth Brinkerhoff’s Classical Ballet 4 curriculum book, she takes a brief look at the why, how and when of warming up for ballet class.
Understanding The Need For WarmupsMost students do not enter the ballet classroom sufficiently warmed up to do the traditional ballet barre. They need some gentle, appropriate warmup movements first. Grand pliés are the only exercise that physical therapists and orthopedics have specifically said needs to not be done until the dancer is well warmed up. Some ballet schools have attempted to solve the problem by putting a different barre exercise first, and saving the grand pliés until later. However, it is not just the pliés, but the entire technique of ballet for which the student needs to be warmed up in order to safely perform at their best. Rearranging the barre exercises will not solve the problem. The content of the pre-barre warmup varies. Most include flexing and extending the ankle joint, demi pliés with the feet parallel, and some relaxing, non-stressful bending of the torso. Some are having their students do some ballet movements while lying on the floor, while others are using other forms of movement such as Yoga or Pilates for the warmups. Ruth says,
I wonder if the pre-barre warmups have simply been ‘lost’ in the last half century? When I was a student in the 50’s, we always spent a few minutes doing a series of warmup exercises before starting the traditional ballet barre. After the warmup, the next exercise was composed of demi pliés, battements tendus, rises, and port de bras. Then and only then, several minutes into the class, did we do the grand plié exercise.”With the knowledge of muscles and joints that is now available, it becomes obvious that appropriate warming up is needed for all physical activities.
The Purpose of Warmups
- Warming up increases circulation gradually, putting less stress on the heart and blood vessels.
- A gentle use of the muscles — both extending and contracting — prepares the nerves and muscles for the ballet barre.
- Warmups can wake up the special muscle groups used in classical ballet.
- Warmups can help the body and mind to work as a single unit, a team.
- Things to avoid during warmups:
- The Power of Teaching Progressions
- Posture Checklist for Ballet Students
- Challenge? Or Frustration?
- Avoiding Injury with Correct Muscle Use