Monday, 4 August 2014

The Life of a Dancer - What to do when you take a fall.

Lauren Kay published this great article in the Pointe Magazine's July issue.  It is an insight for dancers when the unthinkable happens - you take a spill onstage.

Monday, 9 June 2014

Are you in a dance teaching rut ?

Finding inspiration in your dance classes day in, day out can be hard.  Nichelle Suzanne of, a veteran teacher of more than 17 years, gives us five ways to put that sparkle back, while upholding the foundations of a good class:
Set Creative Limitations
Setting limits for yourself can set you free, and may likely be the secret to some of your most creative ideas both in and out of the classroom. When you choreograph, it may seem the music, the number of dancers, or their abilities are the limiting structures but professional choreographers overcome creativity slumps or beat the blank slate syndrome by giving themselves a strict set of rules to follow. This can work in teaching too.
Try choosing one concept or one objective for each of your lessons and aim at that target as you develop each exercise.
The concept for Lesson One might be a basic element like tempo. Challenge yourself and your students with alternating speeds or trying things at unusual tempos throughout the class. Lesson Two may focus on the use of the head as an objective. Pay special attention to its use in all aspects of your class choreography. Creating limits or rules for your teaching can spark creativity in the classroom.

Involve your Students

Your students have great ideas, too. Find ways to involve them and you’ll find there’s a lot you can learn from your pupils. The range and scope of their involvement is up to you but here are some ideas to test drive:
  • Ask open questions that require critical thinking: “Why do you suppose it’s important to keep your knees over toes in a plié?”
  • Allow them to analyze and correct mistakes: “What’s wrong with the way I’m doing this step?”
  • Request their suggestions: “Which music would you like to use next week?” or “Each of you give me one song you’d like me to use in class and I’ll try to incorporate them all in our next lesson.”
  • Get their input on what, how, or when they’d like to learn or try a new skill: “I’ve been thinking about working with you on two kinds of turns, which would you like to learn first?”

Take Class from Someone Else

This one is pretty straightforward.
Getting away from your home base or working outside your comfort zone is always inspirational.
I know your location may make it difficult to find classes on your own level. But, who says you need to take an advanced or continuing education-style course to feel rejuvenated and brimming with new ideas?
Ask to observe or take class with other teachers at your own studio whether you teach the same subject or not. A hip-hop teacher’s particular approach may just inspire you to try something new in your ballet classes. In fact, you might make “company class” a regular part of your studio’s schedule with instructors taking turns teaching fellow teachers.
Heck, if dance isn’t an option try pottery, or a foreign language, or yoga, and let me know how this non-dance class enriches your own teaching – you may be surprised!

Try on a New Style

I’m not talking about a new dance style, though as mentioned, that can certainly get the juices flowing, too.
I’m talking about a new teaching style. Perhaps you fall neatly into one of the four categories of teachers. If so, why not explore another approach or experiment with mixing these styles within your class?
For instance, occasionally facilitate by splitting your students into groups to explore new concepts or work together on choreography. Or try delegating tasks, sending pupils home with a task to complete before the next class.

Give Class in 4D

A dance class is pretty 3D compared to a typical classroom environment. Your students get hands on, experiential instruction that they simply don’t when seated behind a desk. However…
Even dance can travel to another dimension by adding visual, tactile, and other sensory aids to the educational environment.
Having trouble getting students to understand turnout? Try a bandana affixed with a single eye. That’s right an eye. Strategically place the bandana around their lower thigh and train them to “look” in the right direction.
Want to evoke a particularly delicate and light movement quality? Bring in a feather and show them how it floats. Encourage them to move like a feather on their own before bringing that movement to set choreography.
These are just two examples. The possibilities are absolutely endless and require just a bit of imagination.
Now go on! Get off the hamster wheel of habit.
How will you bring that sparkle back to your classes, today?

Monday, 31 March 2014

Once a Dancer, Always a Dancer

That time always comes - that time to give up dance!   This is Sara Rodriguez' positive attitude to the prospect of no longer dancing professionally:
Once upon a time, I was the ultimate bunhead.
And by bunhead, I mean a serious, hardcore, no-messing-around ballet dancer. I’ve trained in classical ballet for quite some time, as most dancers do, and I’m currently finishing my final year in a preprofessional program. But to say I’ve changed over the years would be an understatement, especially when looking at this past year alone. Not surprisingly, my path has changed with me.
Recently, I made a decision I never imagined I’d make: I decided that once I graduate from this program, I will not continue on to dance for a professional career. Sure, it sounds simple, but in truth, this is probably the hardest decision I will ever make in my life. It carries much more weight than simply dancing or not dancing. Being a dancer is a defining trait, and with it comes a way of life that I’ve known as omnipresent, inherent and vital to everything I am. The decision to let go of the beloved art form that once fueled my every action came from a combination of personal contemplations and physical limitations. Still, I know this drastic change I’m about to make will be difficult, one that involves the stripping of an identity with which I grew up—a major contributor to how I became the person I am now.
From here, I embark on a new path, and although it’s mostly terrifying, it’s also incredibly exciting and full of hope: I’ll have so much free time! I won’t have to worry about looking a certain way! I won’t be in pain all the time and I’ll get to try new things!
I feel as though I’ve come up for air and discovered that my purpose is elsewhere in this world, and coming to terms with that.
If that doesn’t illustrate the insane amount of love and devotion dancers have for their art, I don’t know what does. So, to go from dancing for countless hours every day for five or six (often seven) days a week to not dancing at all will undoubtedly require a dramatic removal of this label and everything that comes with it. However, I firmly believe that the past can and should inform what we do, wherever we find ourselves at present and wherever we plan to go in the future—even if that plan changes a few times.
For that reason, I’ve decided that completely stripping this identity isn’t the answer, nor is it even possible. Rather, instead of trying to run away from it, perhaps I can embrace it as a large part of who I’ve been for so long in order to continue growing as I am now and into the future.  Perhaps there’s a dancer in me that will never completely fade away.
And now that I’ve come to accept this piece of me, I’ve decided that although there are certainly parts of the identity I wouldn’t mind losing (like the hypercritical self-judgement and the painful tendencies toward low self-esteem), I don’t want the dancer in me to die entirely.
Because dancers are actually pretty incredible.
For starters, we’re remarkably disciplined and obedient. Tell us once what needs to be done and we’ll do it as perfectly as we can, working relentlessly until the result has exceeded expectations. We always find a way to make it happen, because what choice do we have when things don’t go exactly as planned on stage (a common occurrence in live performance) and we’re expected to deliver excellence nonetheless?
Second, we know how to use our imaginations. Training in classical ballet can easily become boring and tedious; every day, classes follow almost the same format and involve the same movement vocabulary, starting with pliés (the first exercise given at barre) and ending with grand allegro (big jumps across the floor). In order to keep things interesting, we must take it upon ourselves to infuse the potentially monotonous routine of daily classes and rehearsals with vibrant artistry, and that artistry can only come from deep within our souls—from a place of innate creativity and the desire to portray something far greater than the body itself.
Third, we understand what it means to respect authorities. We are taught from a young age to respond to everything from praise to criticism with gratitude and a humble heart. And to the teachers with whom we’ve experienced tremendous growth—the ones who cared about our triumphs and failures as though they were their own—we remain forever loyal.
And lastly, perhaps most importantly, we know how to work without the promise of success or reward. We are self-sustaining. We know how to push ourselves without so much as a word of encouragement or anything acknowledging a job well done.
We are everything we’re asked to be for others and everything we need to be for ourselves, an indescribable group of beings with unique intelligence and superhuman capabilities.
And even after taking our final bows, that stays with us. Forever.

Friday, 10 January 2014

Dance studio tranformed

How we helped transform this private dance studio in Nottinghamshire
Customer: Redhead Scott School of Dance, Nottinghamshire
Project : Supply and installation of ActiWood Sprung Floor, Integra System and Studio Curtains
Having equipped the School’s brand new studio in 2010 with our ActiSprung Dance Floor and Integra Mirror/Double Barre System (complete with Curtains), this highly over-subscribed dance school called upon The Ballet Barre Company once again in 2013 when they needed to equip their second studio.
To cope with the schools expansion in offering a wider variety of dance, our Actiwood Sprung Floor was installed to provide a sprung floor suitable for working with a range of dance from ballroom to ballet. Providing a level, solid hardwood surface in light Beech finish, our Actiwood Sprung Floor is ideal for coping with the rigorous demands of this active studio.
Our specialist Integra Mirror/Barre System was once again specified for the second studio to provide a seamless wall of mirror (no gaps or horizontal divisions) with the appearance of a floating ballet barre.  The wall of Integra was finished with a beautiful set of specially-sourced silk fabric curtains to provide the exact colour and specification requested by the client.
With over 800 students and over 50 years of teaching, The Redhead Scott School of Dance take great pride that they are now teaching the grandchildren of their very first students!
If you need any help with your dance, fitness or drama studio email:

The New Trend - Ballet Work-out

Read this great article on the new barre work-out trend, which just seems to be getting more and more popular.
The Ballet Body Beautiful             
Maybe it was Natalie Portman’s fairy-like form in Black Swan that was the trigger, but when word got out that the Oscar winner had trained with Mary Helen Bowers - a former dancer with the New York City Ballet and founder of the Ballet Beautiful fitness method – classes were crammed. Alexa Chung, Anne Hathaway and Kelly Osborne are all satin-slippered regulars, as is Miranda Kerr, who regularly posts selfies stretching at the barre or perfecting a demi plié. Having travelled across the pond, ballet-based classes have proved themselves more than a fad over the past 18 months, with studios springing up all over London to meet the demand of dedicated followers.

Despite its exercise-of-the-moment moniker, the workout concept has its roots in the Lotte Berke Method, developed 50 years ago by an injured dancer intent on retaining her balletic physique. “It’s an ever-changing method that systematically works out every muscle group in the body,” explains Barreworks founder Vicki Anstey, whose Barreworks Ballet Workout incorporates aspects from standing and floor barre, deep-core exercises and choreographed movement. “At its base, the Method is about mirroring a dancer’s training regime, but there’s no leaping about or high impact work, just a high intensity, strength-building programme that delivers amazing results,” says Vicki. “Body shape can change beyond recognition – discovering muscle definition on arms, upper back and legs becomes a daily occurrence for regular attendees.”

The small isometric movements taught may appear easy, but they make for a calve-burning, abdominal-quivering session. “More than calorie burn, they drive insulin into the cells, making the body more effectively able to process carbohydrates,” says Barrecore founder Niki Rein, widely credited with bringing barre fitness to Britain. “Not only do you get solid resistance training, but a cardiovascular workout from the interval training format we use, excellent for fat blasting and increasing metabolism.” How many classes before you can expect to see noticeable results? “Five to six sessions, and we recommend two to four classes a week to really notice legs tone up and become leaner, hips narrow and bums lift – the ‘barre bum’ is common terminology around the studio. There isn’t the opportunity to plateau as with most exercises.”

The term ‘barre high’ has been coined for the addictive post-class endorphin-fuelled buzz experienced, but that’s not the only feel-good benefit, says Niki: “We encourage everyone to visualise the muscles working together to perform each movement, and to push beyond the point where your mind is telling you to stop. Your mind can’t be anywhere else but on your body for one whole hour which makes it a type of moving meditation.” Core strength, strong resolve and calm – sign yourself up to one of London's most popular classes quick sharp...

Barreworks' classes include WorkOut, StretchOut and RunOut (a warm up at the barre followed by a run along the river in Richmond and then back to the studio for a stretch and cool down). Can’t squeeze in a class? Try one of the newly launched online sessions so that you can practice from the comfort of your home.

Beginners should try their signature class BarrecoreMIXED, while the short of time may want to attend BarrecoreEXPRESS, a 30-minute class amped up with high-intensity bursts; there’s even BarreBUMP for mums-to-be. Watch out for the new BarreBANDS class (launching this month) where stretch bands are used in nearly every exercise for a deeper and faster muscular burnout.

Pineapple Studios Come here for a selection of classes including Barre & Stretch, Basic Ballet and Body Conditioning (with a focus on barre work), many of which are taught by principals of ballet companies like the Royal Ballet and National Ballet Company.

Mixed BARREtoned is the core class at this Notting Hill studio, created in consultation with a physical therapist, with a level 2 session available for the advanced.

Royal Academy of Dance
If you’re more interested in achieving the perfect line than the perfect abs, try a beginner’s class at the Royal Academy of Dance. Teaching the basics of ballet technique – with a view to moving up a level after a year – the classes are run as a course rather than on a ‘pay as you go’ basis. For the more experienced, there’s a General Level Ballet class each Saturday.
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Monday, 1 July 2013

How high should a ballet barre be?

The ballet barre has been used in ballet classes and practise since the 19th Century.  It not only has to be of a substantial, stable design but also must be a placed at a comfortable height.

The professional advice (confirmed by the National Dance Teachers Association, NDTA) is that the barre should be wall mounted at a height between 900mm – 1200mm (35” – 47”).   We have found that many of our clients choose a height of around 1150mm (45”), as this is the suggested height of a barre for exams by the Royal Academy of Dance.

The most versatile arrangement in catering for dancers of different heights is to have a double barre system.  Only two barre heights are needed for all barre work.  Again the advice is that the second barre should be set 200mm (8”) lower than the top barre.  This allows for children up to the age of 13, shorter dancers or those with limited extension.  At the Ballet Barre Company we devised a double bracket system to satisfy these two barre height requirements.

Don’t forget if you need any assistance or have a question, please ask us ?

The Team at The Ballet Barre Company

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

If you didn’t manage to see the Royal Ballet’s Mayerling, read our review.
Adam Blyde, Dancer at Rambert

Our friend and dancer at the Rambert, Adam Blyde, has kindly reviewed The Royal Ballet's latest production of Mayerling. We are always thrilled to have Adam's unique view.
With most physical jobs, it is widely acknowledged that one can't go on forever, be it window cleaning, landscape gardening or bricklaying, there comes a moment when the body starts to reject the early mornings and the days just get too hard. However, most people can still spend a large part of their lives in those jobs. When it comes to dance, especially ballet, people tend to think that just as a dancer's career is taking off, the final curtain is on it's way down. Bleak, but true?.....

Apparently not. Leanne Benjamin, a principal dancer with the Royal Ballet, has just danced her last performance at the Royal Opera House after more than twenty years with the company. She is 49 years old. NOT that you'd ever know. Watching her onstage in Mayerling as Mary Vetsera, the young mistress of Crown Prince Rudolf, it's impossible to match that number to that body and ability. It's an impressive ballerina that convincingly loses 30 years onstage!

Mayerling is one of Sir Kenneth McMillan's most iconic works, the story of Crown Prince Rudolf of Austria-Hungary, brimming with political intrigue, scandal and scheming women. It's an epic journey over three acts for the lead role of Crown Prince Rudolf. Numerous difficult duets with countless
women, beautiful but technical solos, not much time offstage and a speedy descent into insanity and murder/suicide - all in all, a pretty tough night by most standards! Carlos Acosta was superb, handling everything with ease and assurance. But, it was when dancing with Benjamin that the stage really came to life.  I was close to the stage but still on the edge of my seat, fully absorbed in their tragic story.

It's inspiring to watch two dancers with such a strong connection be so fearless in their dancing. They were tense, violent, passionate, all-consuming lovers and being so sure in their technique and trust meant that we could go with them, and boy did we, to the edge of their despair.

Leanne Benjamin will be sorely missed on the London stage, a wonderful ballerina that I enjoyed watching all through my training. The irony of the evening was that I was sat in total agony after hurting my back during rehearsals. Sat in pain, watching a 49 year old dance as a 17 year old. With
ease and brilliance. I'm quite a few years younger than Ms. Benjamin so needless to say I was slightly ashamed of myself. Youth is obviously wasted on the young.... Anyone know a chiropractor?
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The Team at The Ballet Barre Company