Why Warmups?

Proper Ballet WarmupsThere is a pattern of traditional ballet exercises done at the barre. As a result of recent studies in the area of sports and dance, most teachers these days are also giving some “pre-barre warmup exercises” to their students. In Ruth Brinkerhoff’s Classical Ballet 4 curriculum book, she takes a brief look at the why, how and when of warming up for ballet class.

Understanding The Need For Warmups

Most students do not enter the ballet classroom sufficiently warmed up to do the traditional ballet barre. They need some gentle, appropriate warmup movements first.

Grand pliés are the only exercise that physical therapists and orthopedics have specifically said needs to not be done until the dancer is well warmed up. Some ballet schools have attempted to solve the problem by putting a different barre exercise first, and saving the grand pliés until later.

However, it is not just the pliés, but the entire technique of ballet for which the student needs to be warmed up in order to safely perform at their best.

Rearranging the barre exercises will not solve the problem.

The content of the pre-barre warmup varies. Most include flexing and extending the ankle joint, demi pliés with the feet parallel, and some relaxing, non-stressful bending of the torso. Some are having their students do some ballet movements while lying on the floor, while others are using other forms of movement such as Yoga or Pilates for the warmups. Ruth says,

I wonder if the pre-barre warmups have simply been ‘lost’ in the last half century? When I was a student in the 50’s, we always spent a few minutes doing a series of warmup exercises before starting the traditional ballet barre. After the warmup, the next exercise was composed of demi pliés, battements tendus, rises, and port de bras. Then and only then, several minutes into the class, did we do the grand plié exercise.”

With the knowledge of muscles and joints that is now available, it becomes obvious that appropriate warming up is needed for all physical activities.

The Purpose of Warmups

  1. Warming up increases circulation gradually, putting less stress on the heart and blood vessels.
  2. A gentle use of the muscles — both extending and contracting — prepares the nerves and muscles for the ballet barre.
  3. Warmups can wake up the special muscle groups used in classical ballet.
  4. Warmups can help the body and mind to work as a single unit, a team.
  5. Things to avoid during warmups:
    • force
    • stress
    • limitation

Teachers will need to adjust the length, number, and content of warmup exercises to fit the needs and abilities of their students. Explain the purpose of warming up to your students!

Related Articles:

Classical Ballet 4

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Why Warmups?

2 Responses

  1. Can you give a short pre barre warmup forr
    7-9 year olds please.
    thank you will be wstching for it
    hannah kerrigan

    hannah kerrigan September 3, 2015 at 10:19 PM #
    • Hannah,
      Check out the Level 4 Curriculum Book for more details, but here is what I do in my 7-9 year old classes:
      They don’t need a lot of warming up, so what’s more important is that we safely get the body moving and the blood flowing. In the book, there are several choices of gross motor activities listed to accomplish this. They could do ballet runs, skips, marches, and eventually the polka around the dancer’s circle for about 64 counts. After that, I have them review all the positions of the feet. They begin in parallel, then move from 1st through 5th position, then repeat the combination on the left side. Pliés are the third activity of the class, and I have them do them in parallel first, then we move into 1st and 2nd positions. Later in the year, introduce the demi plié in 3rd position as well. No grande plié at this age. Hope this helps you get started with your students! Good luck, and thanks for posting! 🙂

      Kim Hungerford September 5, 2015 at 12:26 PM #