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The Art Is In The Balance
For dancers, ballet is not simply an exquisite art form. It is an exercise in form, athletics, skill, technique and stamina. It requires outstanding ability in order to successfully execute to movements choreographed. What did the masters like Balanchine, Nureyev, and Baryshnikov have that made it look so effortless? They achieved the skill of outstanding balance, utilizing exercises to improve balance in ballet. Years of practice and dedication honed this skill. Where did they begin?
At the barre.
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What is the barre?
The barre is the point of beginning, middle, and end for the ballet dancer. It is where fundamentals are taught, skills are honed, and warm ups occur. It is an integral component for the successful ballet dancer.
A long, smooth wooden beam that is securely attached to a wall, usually in front of a mirror, the barre provides stability for the new dancer, agility for the learning dancer and control for the seasoned performer. The benefit of positioning the barre near a mirror is that it allows the dancer to learn visually as they see the improved alignment and feel the distinction of the adjusted movement. Enough emphasis on the barre and the mirror simply cannot be stated.
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The demi plie and grand plie are fundamental exercises for the ballet dancer and will be mastered and practiced throughout the dancer's lifetime. These exercises strengthen thigh muscles and improve balance through perfecting body alignment and positioning with respect to gravity. With both the demi and grand plies, practice occurs in each of the five positions and repetition is key. Great care must be taken to the proper foot positioning as it is only with proper positioning that perfect balance can occur.
How to: With feet properly in first position, and a comfortable distance from the barre yet still holding on to it, slowly bend the knees; half way for the demi plie, completely for the grand plie.
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The eleve is a fabulous way to build foot and ankle muscles, both essential for perfect alignment and balance in ballet. One of the first fundamentals of ballet, it too is learned, honed and practiced, throughout the life of the dancer.
How to: Standing at the barre in first position, with feet aligned properly, roll to the balls of the feet and hold, grasping the barre gently. This should be repeated in all five positions.
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Releve is an outstanding exercise as it not only strengthens upper leg, foot, ankle, calf and buttock muscles, it also is a powerful tool in achieving perfect alignment and thus perfect balance.
How to: Releve is practiced the same manner as eleve only one begins from the position of a plie. It too, should be practiced from all five positions.
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The key to Perfect Balance
The key to perfect balance in ballet is practice and patience. With practice comes proper alignment, muscle strength and better positioning with respect to gravity. With patience comes the ability to repeat the same exercise until it is as seemingly flawless as that of the masters. And where did they begin? With exercises to improve balance in ballet.
At the barre.