Years After Getting My Dance Degree, I Found Myself Craving

I, like many young girls, was thrown into ballet class as a toddler. Growing up with dance, I found it to be one of many consistent after-school activities, as I made friends, got to move in ways I didn’t know I could, and relieved stress.

When I was 8 years old, my teacher, the owner of the studio, asked me to be her assistant teacher for classes in ballet, tap, and even gymnastics for 3-year-olds. Then at 15, when I got my working papers from school, I started teaching my own classes.

Taking and teaching dance (ballet, tap, and contemporary dance) was a routine set in my schedule since childhood, so, naturally, I kept that routine going until the end of my undergraduate career as a dance major. After getting my undergraduate degree in dance, I went on to graduate school to study arts administration, letting dance become a hobby and taking classes in my spare time. I stopped teaching and regularly taking dance classes so I could focus my attention on my graduate studies while training to become a yoga teacher.

Fast-forward several years, I found myself almost craving the routine feeling of standing beside the barre. I had always known barre classes were a thing, but didn’t think that it could possibly compare to a ballet class.

After joining Equinox, I decided to try a barre class, because I’d always been curious to see if the class would resemble a ballet class and, in my mind, I needed to make my membership worth the money by packing a variety of classes into my schedule. Keep reading to learn more about why I love barre and for tips for anyone looking to try it out.

Beginner Tips For Barre Class

My love for barre is more of an appreciation for it than an unconscious devotion to a type of workout. I enjoy being able to work on increasing my flexibility, core stability, and overall strength in one class. The use of the actual barre is really great too. We put our legs on it and use it as something sturdy to hold onto for a portion of our glute work. The experience of a barre class truly blends elements from ballet with a butt-kicking workout.

If you’ve never done ballet in your life, you can still do barre. Here are some tips from me to you:

  • Make sure you don’t put all of your weight on the barre when holding onto it. It should be a support but not carry you.
  • Remind yourself to engage your core to help you maintain a tall spine, unless instructed to round the spine.
  • Warm up before class starts. Even though most instructors will guide you through a warmup sequence, taking some extra stretches like a low lunge twist, a forward fold, and an arm-across-the-chest stretch will be super helpful to make sure you don’t get any unexpected muscle cramps.

What’s the Difference Between Barre and Ballet?

The biggest difference is that a barre class is a workout crafted from elements of ballet, yoga, and Pilates. It focuses on working each muscle group to exhaustion with small, controlled movements.

Ballet is a dance form that was created during the Italian Renaissance as entertainment for the royal courts. It later solidified its technique over the course of the 15th and 16th centuries in France.

So while you may recognize a second position and a relevé in barre class, know that it’s not going to be like a full ballet class. Best of all, you won’t have to individually go from one end of the room to the other practicing the combination you just learned in front of each other — in other words, no across the floor!

What Should I Wear to Do Barre?

Comfort is key! Make sure everything you wear is stretchy and has you feeling held in. Personally, I don’t like to wear anything baggy when I take barre so that I don’t accidentally get my feet or weights caught in any fabric. As for footwear, you don’t need shoes for barre so feel free to go barefoot or wear socks. Tip: if you want to wear socks, grab a pair of barre socks or sticky socks, as they have some texture on the bottom so you don’t slide on the mat or the ground.

What Equipment Do I Need For Barre?

If you’re going to a studio for barre, all you need is your water bottle. If you’d like to have your own supplies at home, then grab a pair of one- to three-pound weights, a small exercise ball, a mat, and a ballet barre. Don’t have room for a ballet barre? Use the high back of a chair instead.

Usually I take barre classes at a myriad of Equinox locations, but I also look to online platforms like Equinox, Peloton, and Obé Fitness for classes that I can do at home. If you’re not ready to commit to a gym membership or online platform just yet, try some of these at-home barre classes available on YouTube.

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