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The Barre Basics
Dances at the barre are essential to developing ballet techniques and shaping the dancer's body. They also give the dancer the proper warm-up and focus the mind for the remainder of the workout. The back of a chair at home can serve as a barre. Before taking on barre exercises, the dancer should be familiar with each of the basic foot positions. One can learn these positions -- and the barre exercises -- through in-person classes, video instruction, books or the Internet. Sessions at the barre are the best way to condition the body for your work as a ballet dancer. Hundreds of years of development have made the barre movements the most efficient way to develop the body and refine dance technique.
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Barre exercises are developed so that they are repetitive enough for the dancer to grasp the moves, but not so repetitive that the student goes on auto-pilot. The music starts out at a slow tempo and movements are lower on the body. Slowly, the body accelerates and the movements become more involved. Every movement has a purpose, and these include tendu, degage, battlements and plié. Tendus involve sliding gracefully from each of the basic foot positions. The movement increases during degage, when you lift your foot off of the ground a few inches. In battlements, the dancer elevates the entire leg. Pliés involve bending the knees, while keeping the rest of the body in alignment. It is a great way to warm up the legs.
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In addition to elevating the body temperature and setting the tone for the remainder of the workout session, barre movements are excellent for muscle tone and balance. Practicing in front of a mirror will help teach you how to properly perform the exercises, as will practicing them in front of someone knowledgeable about ballet movements. Working at the barre will also teach you how to relax your body, an essential feat when trying to perfect the art of ballet. Once you have mastered the basics, like building blocks, you will be able to move in to the more complex movements involved in ballet.