Home practice

Hoping everyone is keeping well and staying safe!

As March 2020 has seen us all have to limit our social interactions in person, and all studio-based classes are now on hold, I've been reviewing and testing for you a number of the flurry of online ballet classes that have been and still are cropping up en masse...

So if you're keen on keeping your practice going, here are a few pointers.

First, some pragmatic points:

  1. Barre substitute: ideally pick something that is about waist level and definitely no lower than hip level. Basically, anything you can reach with the palm of your hand whilst maintaining the loooong spine of that beautiful posture we've been working so hard on...  Kitchen counters, balcony railings, window sills usually qualify; ironing boards are also an option to consider (adjustable height!), but make sure it's nice and stable! Personally, I'm not too keen on the backs of chairs - unless they're rather high backed. I used to use the back of a rocking chair (rocking impeded!), but as I still had some bamboo poles stashed away, I've set myself up with one of those (my Tuesday ladies and gents will be familiar with my DIY approach to bamboo poles as ballet barres!)
  2. Flooring. Of course very few of us will have a  nicely sprung floor with just the right amount of slide and stick. One thing to pay specific attention to on difficult floors, especially slippery ones, is... can you tell?...  how you anchor yourself to the floor through the back of your legs (you know, all the way down, from the sitting bones to the middle of the arches?) - whilst keeping that head floating up of course, and that collarbone smiling!
    • If you're working on a wooden floor - lucky you - make sure the suede sole of your ballet flats are nice and clean (gently scrape the caked dirt off with a serrated knife, if needed), that'll help with slipperiness. 
    • If, like me, you've got carpeted floor, fear not, there is a way to mitigate this especially if you are in possession of some Lino, or even a craft cutting mat. This is something I've been doing for years actually: I'm using a craft mat (or two). This gives enough slide and enough stick to do all those tendus going through the demi-pointe, and even to do pirouettes
    • If your only option is a tiled floor, make sure you use your toes conscientiously - practise feeeeeling the floor (rather than looking at it) to manage its potential irregularities (like grouting) - and on tiles, you might want to experiment with socks and ballet shoes to decide what feels best/safest. 
  3. Attire: do try to dress up and do your hair for a dance class, as usual, before embarking on your practice - it's all part of the ritual, and it'll help put you in the right frame of mind.

Finally - do please exercise caution when it comes to jumps - be gentle to your joints, consider substituting jumps for piqués or relevés, adopting the dynamics of the jumps, but without jumping in full, and keeping your back held nice and wide (and with a smiling clavicule!).

Now that you're all set up and ready to go, here is a selection of the ballet videos I recommend - of course the online landscape is constantly changing at the moment, but I'll regularly check that all these links remain valid.
You'll see that some of the links below are not in English, but give them a go, it's always fun to do a ballet class in a different language! 
When a level is not specified, you can assume it's mixed level. 
And remember, you always have the option to adapt the exercises for yourself! 

  • Bite size complete sessions, 19 min and under:

  • Playlists of short videos that can be played individually as bite size sessions or,  back to back, to make up a full barre or even a full class: 

If you're after complementing all these ballet options with something a little different, here are also some playlists of videos that I pepper into my personal practice:

I have tested many more ballet offerings than those featuring here, sadly a surprising amount did not make the cut.
In general, there were two reasons for exclusion:
(1) although they are demonstrated by professionals, these professionals can have habits that, if emulated, might be injury inducing for those of us who are not professionals with a daily practice, and haven't built up enough strength;
(2) (and this is one of those habits) many of them really do not go through the demi-pointe properly on the way in to 1st/5th position. 
I have made some allowances for this occasionally happening in my selections, but unfortunately I did cut out some quite big names for the reasons above (including some internet darlings, who have been online since long before Covid-19).
I'll admit there might be a French vs American vs Russian ballet school debate here, but I'd feel dishonest promoting examples of ways of doing things that I wouldn't be comfortable teaching myself.

Don't hesitate to drop me a line or comment  below if you've found a class you loved and think it should figure in the list above!


Second'n Rose said…
Thanks for these very useful tips Segolene. i had one practical question and one suggestion on classes:

1. question: what can be used to hold up a homemade barre?
2. I found very useful the barre by Felipe Diaz (SF ballet) both because he gives super clear instructions and repeats many exercises, but also because he gives options to simplify some bits. The connnection is not always great and teh zoom tile interface makes you struggle to see how to execute the exercise some times, but on the upside the time difference works real well for those of use that have 'office hours' and can't follow other classes during day time. Take care, and looking forward to some class worf from yourself!
Ségolène said…
Thank you, Sonia(?).
Thanks for suggesting Felipe Diaz's classes. I'll have to check them out! :)
I've concentrated here on classes that are easily accessible, and that can be slotted into anyone's schedule at any time, mostly on YouTube. Although it is really nice to have the communal feel of live classes, I've personally tended to stay away from them because those I've done have had the tendency to have sound synchronisation issues. If you're more after live classes however, then a few of the links above can lead you to the Facebook or Instagram accounts of those teaching and then you'll have the option to be notified when they go live and follow them live.
As for holding up a DIY barre (in my case a bamboo pole, but it could be a curtain rail, pipes, scaffolding steels, a branch, etc), it's a little difficult to give a blanket/general answer. Personally, I've looked around at what I had at home and used two bamboo garden torches upside down inserted into the (unintentional) split the run all along one of my bamboo poles and secured the whole to my bookshelf - it's not the sturdiest but it works for me. So it depends on what you have at your disposal, really! (In Marston I use hoover extension tubes, plumber's elbow junctions, and parasol stands).
Drop me an email if you want to brainstorm together about setting up you own barre?
Keep well, dance to your heart's content, and stay safe!