4 Basic Ballet Barre Exercises

4 Basic Barre Exercises

Every ballet class begins at the barre, a wooden support attached to the walls of ballet studios. Ballet dancers use the barre for balance while performing several ballet steps. Exercises done at the barre are the foundation for all the other ballet exercises. When performing at the barre, rest your hands lightly on the barre for balance. Try to keep your elbows relaxed.

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ballerina in grand plie on pointe looking at camera with her arms in front of her in studio
Grand plie on pointe. Nisian Hughes / Getty Images

Barre almost always starts with pliés. Pliés are performed at the barre because they stretch all the muscles of the legs and prepare the body for the exercises to follow. Pliés train the body in shape and placement. Pliés should be performed in in all of the 5 basic positions of ballet. There are two kinds of pliés, demi and grand. In demi-pliés, the knees are bent halfway. In grand pliés, the knees are completely bent.

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Elevé is another step often performed at the barre. Elevé is simply a rise onto the balls of the feet. Similarly, a relevé is a rise onto the balls of the feet from a plié position. Practicing elevés and relevés at the barre will help strengthen your legs, ankles, and feet. They are considered one of the building blocks of dance, and one of the first movements taught in a beginning ballet class. Practice elevés in all five positions of ballet.

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Battement Tendu

A battement, easiest when performed at the barre, is a type of exercise in which the working leg opens and closes. There are several different types of battement. A battement tendu is an exercise in which the foot is stretched along the floor, ending in a point. Battements tendus help warm up the legs, build leg muscles and improve turnout. A battement tendu can be performed to the front (devant), to the side (à la seconde), or to the back (derriére).

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Rond de Jambe

Rond de jambe is another popular exercise often performed at the barre. A rond de jambe is performed by making a semi-circular motion with the working foot on the floor. A rond de jambe is performed in order to maximize turnout and increase flexibility of the hips. This movement can either be performed with the working foot on the floor or in the air. When the circle begins in the front and moves to the back it is called a rond de jambe en dohrs. On the other hand, when the circle begins in the back and moves to the front, it is referred to as a rond de jambe en dedans.