That’s not dance!

Spring semester in college is over, and it’s time to enjoy summer classes in my native Nordic country. Today was the first class of the summer season with G, my old ballet teacher. After class, two women discussed the combinations in the women’s changing rooms, and one of them remarked, “Well, that wasn’t dance!”

I had to smile. There was a time, when I would have left class with exactly the same thoughts. It’s only a 60 minute class, and the teacher is wonderfully pedantic. She will repeat exercises, even the warm up plies as many times as is necessary for her group of adult beginners to learn. Getting the basics right, that is the key to advancing. And I agree. Going to advanced class with floppy plies, shoddy port de bras and a wrong sense of using your turn out etc can be dangerous (I’m speaking from experience here!). The point is, we don’t get to do much in the center because of the time constraint and the bulk of class time is spent at the barre.

I only came to understand this recently, but the barre is not a crutch, it’s your partner. Just a few weeks ago, at the Ailey Extension Classes Mr. S told us not to grip the bar for dear life. “You’ll cause your partner to lose a couple of fingers”, he laughed. The barre is our imagined partner. Isn’t that the reason that it is ballet classroom etiquette never to turn to the other side away from the barre?

Here is a video of the barre portion of a  final classical ballet exam in a Russian ballet school. Those ballet dancers are really dancing!




  1. I wholeheartedly agree with you! I believe that, even though we are adult amateurs, there is no reason to not be taught properly! After all, once the foundations are there, we can move forward without struggling quite so much!

    • Hi and thank you so much for your comment!

      When I was a beginner (hah, funny to say this in past tense, because I still am a beginner), the whole class used to be just barre: plies, tendus, a few grand battements here and there. Nothing at all in the center. At that point I shared the sentiments of the women in the dressing room. But gradually, as you move up the “ballet-school ladder” teachers start adding fun things like half-turns and full turns to the barre sequences and then it starts to actually feel like dance!

      I’m just not sure you have to ever struggle less, but certainly the things you struggle to learn become more and more challenging and more and more aesthetically pleasing.

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