Basics of Ballet – What to expect
In a typical ballet class, exercises for different technique aspects are taught in a pre-set sequence, each one practised in the form of a mini-combination to music, and repeated right and left.
- No matter the level of the class, no matter where you study, the order of the exercises (see below) remains the same, which means you can take a ballet class anywhere in the world and still feel ‘at home’ in the combinations.
- For beginner classes the exercises are kept quite simple, yet the full body is still incorporated in all of the movement sequences; from arms, to feet, to fingertips, to even where you look and when you exhale.
A classical ballet class always consists of the following parts:
- Pre-Warmup (warm up by yourself before class officially starts)
- Barre Work (basic ballet technique combinations at the barre, see below)
- Deep Stretches (guided or independent stretching – Check this link for an excellent stretch program for dancers!)
- Centre Work (combinations without the barre, see below – executed in smaller groups in the centre of the dance space)
- Reverence (a mini combination with port-de-bras, poses and a curtsy to end the class)
- Optionally (in some schools this is a separate class, and I will be writing a separate post on this) the class may be followed by Pointe Work
Ballet Terms – What is what?
Check out the following links for extensive ballet term glossaries
Pictures and short descriptions of the basic ballet foot positions (1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th)
Combinations are done with the right leg at first (ie. the left hand at the barre) and then repeated on the other side, sometimes with a small balance exercise in between.
- Pliés and port-de-bras – in 1st, 2nd, 4th and 5th position.
- Tendus (sometimes divided into slow and fast tendus) – starting in 5th
- Battement Jetés or Dégagés – starting in 5th
- Rond de Jambes – starting in 1st
- Fondus – starting in 5th (flat or relevé)
- Grand Battement
Centre work is usually done in groups, starting either in the center/back (for static/traveling combinations) or in the diagonal (for traveling turns and bigger jumping sequences) of the classroom
- Tendus (sometimes combined with other exercises from the barre portion of class)
- Waltz and/or Pirouettes
- Petit Allegro (small jumps)
- Grande Allegro (big jumps)
Inspiration: Vaganova Class Video
Extras – Academy for Dance Ballet Practice Videos
- If you’d like to try out some ballet basics at home: check out this free mini-ballet-basics video at Academy for Dance!
- For those of you who’d like to try ballet (and other movement arts!) in the form of a mini-class/workshop weekend: Check out MoveSpiration – A Crosstraining Weekend for Dancers on August 24-25-26th in Aachen, Germany. All levels welcome!