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The In's & Out's of Ballet Classes

Considering getting started in Ballet Classes at a nearby studio? Here are 5 things you'll want to review so you know what to expect!

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The In's & Out's of Ballet Classes

- contributed by Mrs. Bri

Five things to know when getting started in ballet classes in Mandeville, LA 70471

So, you have been thinking of starting ballet classes? Maybe your child is constantly twirling around the house, the spitting image of a dancing fairy. Maybe your child has always dreamed of dancing in toe shoes like she has seen on television. Or, maybe you yourself have heard that ballet is the root of all dance forms and want to see what it is all about. Whatever the case may be, if you are considering starting ballet lessons for yourself or your child, it is important that you understand what distinguishes ballet from other art forms.

Dance makes you healthier

Ballet is quite possibly the most well-known form of dance, and with good reason- it is beautiful to watch and combines grace, strength, and agility in a way that is almost impossible to describe. Of course, there are also the glamorous tutus and pointe shoes (sometimes referred to as “toe shoes”) that make ballet dancers look like beings from a long-forgotten time. Before you buy your own tutu and start perfecting your ballet bun though, there are a few more things you should know about the art of ballet to help you get the most out of your classes. Read on to learn about several key components that separate a ballet class from classes in other styles of dance.

Class Format

The format of a ballet class is perhaps one of its most distinguishing features. Wherever you study dance, and regardless of your level, all ballet classes (except perhaps those for the youngest of dancers) start with exercises at the ballet barre (pronounced “bar”). As the name might suggest, a ballet barre is a horizontal pole that can either be attached to a wall or used as a freestanding unit. Ballet dancers hold onto the barre while completing the first few exercises of class. Starting class at the barre allows dancers to gradually warm up their bodies and practice increasingly complex steps with the aid of the barre for balance. The amount of time spent at the barre may vary depending on the class, but dancers can normally expect to spend roughly half their lesson at the barre- there really is that much to work on before stepping away from the barre into the center of the room! Once dancers finish barre work, they come out to the center of the room to move through a series of exercises, some of which stay in place and some of which travel across the floor.

Not only can ballet dancers expect to start each class at the barre before moving to the center, but they can also expect to complete a series of exercises in the same order each time they attend class. Barre work normally starts with pliés, before moving on to tendus, degagés, rond de jambes, and so on. Even in the center of the room, once dancers have left the barre, dancers can normally predict the progression of class. Slow movements (adages) come before turns (such as pirouettes), which come before small jumps (petit allegro) and large jumps (grand allegro). Though predictable, this tried-and-true format allows dancers to move from easier and smaller steps into larger and more challenging movements. The structure of a typical ballet class has been utilized for centuries and allows dancers to keep moving while preparing their bodies for more difficult steps, increasing coordination, and reducing the risk of injury.

The Language

While reading the previous paragraph, you may have come across some foreign terms. This is because much of the vocabulary used in ballet is derived from the French language. Though ballet is believed to have first emerged in Italy during the Renaissance, the art form as we know it today was largely developed by the French- hence, the French names for steps. However, even if you do not speak French, you should have no trouble learning ballet. You may just need to keep an open mind and ask your instructor for clarity on steps that look or sound particularly confusing!

Dress Code

As you may already be aware, the dress code for a ballet class tends to differ slightly from that of other classes. While a black leotard is standard for any genre of dance, female ballet dancers also wear pink tights and ballet shoes. This allows the legs to “blend in” with the ballet shoes, creating a continuous line of color down the dancer’s leg and helping the instructor to make sure the dancers are using their muscles correctly. Male ballet dancers generally wear a black or white T-shirt and black men’s tights with black ballet shoes. Unlike other styles of dance, where baggier clothes and athletic pants are more common, ballet dancers wear such form-fitted clothes to help enhance their lines (in other words, to show off the shapes they are making with their bodies). In many cases, and at the teacher’s discretion, dancers may wear additional layers of clothes during the first few exercises of class to allow their muscles a chance to warm up, and many studios allow female dancers to wear ballet skirts for the entirety of class.


Ballet classes are unique in the sense that they use instrumental music. While the music typically has a classical sound to it, covers of popular songs, Disney music, or even movie soundtracks may be used in class. Ballet music is usually played on the piano, although from time to time, you may hear another instrument (such as the violin) featured in a song you dance to. Though it may seem odd to dance to a song that has no words, dancing to instrumental music allows ballet dancers to focus on counting the music and using their bodies (rather than the words in a song) to express an emotion or message.

Pointe Shoes

When we think of ballerinas, we tend to think of dancers balancing on the very tips of their toes, in what are known as pointe shoes. Pointe shoes are specialty shoes that have been hardened and reinforced in such a way to allow the dancer to appear to defy gravity by balancing on the tip of the shoe. Still, even with these shoes, it takes a great deal of both ankle strength and flexibility to stay balanced on pointe. Starting pointe before a dancer is ready can lead to injuries. For this reason, most dancers will not start pointe work until their bones have finished developing and their teacher deems them ready to safely start pointe. Even then, dancers who are just starting pointe will spend much of their time at the ballet barre relearning how to move and support themselves in these shoes. Of course, pointe work is not for everyone, and while your teacher will likely encourage you to try pointe when they feel you are ready, the decision on whether or not to do pointe is a personal one. You can still learn a great deal and become an amazing dancer without ever wearing pointe shoes! Next Article

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