The Basic Structure of a Ballet Class

Ballet barre

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In a beginning ballet class, dancers learn basic exercises and steps, and they perform simple combinations at slow tempos. Over time, dancers gain technique competency, learn movement principles, develop a professional attitude and learn dance studio etiquette.

A basic ballet class consists of several segments, usually: barre, center, adagio, allegro, and reverence.

The components of a basic ballet class are usually consistent throughout most of the world.


Every ballet class begins at the barre. Dancers use the support of the barre to work through exercises one side of their body at a time. Dancers first hold on with one hand and work the opposite leg, then turn around and hold on with the other hand and work the opposite leg.

Whether you are a novice, experienced or professional ballet dancer, performing barre work is an essential part of ballet class. It prepares you for dancing during the second part of the class. It establishes correct placement, and it develops core and leg strength, directionality, balance, foot articulation, and weight transfer skills. Barre exercises help you deepen and refine your technique.

A basic barre consist of a series of exercises including the following:


After warming up at the barre, dancers move to the center of the room for center work. Center exercises are similar to barre work except dancers do not have the support of the barre.

In the center, you learn steps, positions and poses to gain a basic movement vocabulary of ballet. You repeat exercises from the barre and learn steps that develop into dynamic movement combinations. In other words, in the center, you apply what you learned at the barre, and you learn to dance.

Center work usually consists of the following exercises:

  • Port de bras
  • Grand battement

Center work can also consist of adagio and allegro segments, which are fast and slow combinations that include classical ballet poses, arm and foot positions, steps, turns, small or large jumps, hops, and leaps.


Adagio consists of slow, graceful steps that help develop balance, extension, and control. Adagio helps a dancer concentrate on the lines being formed by their body. Adagio usually consists of the following exercises:


The allegro portion of a ballet class introduces faster, livelier steps, including turns and jumps. Allegro can be divided into two categories: petit and grand.

Petit allegro consists mainly of turns and small jumps.

Grand allegro consists of big jumps and fast movements.

  • Grand jete
  • Saut de chat


Every ballet class concludes with reverence, a series of bows and curtsies performed to slow music. Reverence gives the ballet dancers a chance to pay respect to and acknowledge the teacher and pianist. Reverence is a way of celebrating ballet's traditions of elegance and respect. Also, the ballet class may end with students applauding the teacher and musician for dance.