Believe it or not, there is actually a technique to properly hold the barre in ballet class. It may not seem important to a beginner, but the more you think about it, the more it makes sense. After all, every step and position in ballet has a specific technique, why would holding the barre be any different?
Place Your Hand on Top
Let’s go back a little. Rather than thinking of “holding” the barre, think of naturally placing your hand on top of it as tension free as possible. Also, you want to actively think of not “using” or relying on the barre to accomplish any steps or positions. Just think of it as an aside or accessory to the natural progression of a ballet class, not a necessity to do a step.
Here you can see an up-close picture of a correctly placed hand on a ballet barre. There is no tension, just simply placed on top. Also, you will notice the thumb should be placed close to the fingers. The idea is that if you lifted your hand off the barre, it would already practically be in a correct balletic shape, not looking like you are holding a soda can. Your thumb doesn’t need to be touching your fingers, but it also shouldn’t be on the bottom of the barre.
Don’t Grip the Barre
Now we’ll take a look at how an improper hand on a ballet barre looks. You’re placing your hand wrong if
- If your thumb is on the bottom of the barre rather than close by your fingers
- You feel a lot of tension in your hand
- Your wrist is too far under or over the barre, looking bent at the wrist
Where to Place Your Hand on the Barre
Now that you’re practicing a natural and tension free placed hand on the barre… where do you actually place it in relation to your body? Ideally, you should place your hand slightly in front of you. Just as if you did a port de bras to second position with your arms and you place the hand down… Where it winds up is likely the right spot. It definitely should not be directly to your side, as you would likely have to bend your arm way too much and stand too close to the barre to accommodate the position.
What’s the big deal about how you place you hand on the barre?
Just like every position in classical ballet, there is a technique and behind that technique, there is a reason. If you grip the barre tightly, you may be relying on it more than you think. By placing it on top with very little tension, you’re allowing yourself a better opportunity to correct your alignment and really be sure you’re on a good balance on your legs. Balance doesn’t mean you have to be on releve or turning… Balance is required just to stand properly, but we take that for granted because it’s become second nature. By forcing yourself to not rely on the barre, your balance in balletic positions will greatly improve.
Try It and Keep It Up
If you’re a ballet barre gripper, try relaxing your hand on top of the barre. Some things may be more difficult at first, but you’ll eventually realize the benefits and become more used to it making your old habit of gripping hard feel really awkward!