Last Friday, I put on a tutu (just kidding) and tried an authentic Floor-Barre class. I instantly fell in love! I had tried other barre type workout classes before, but despite a lifetime of dance, I’d never taken the real deal kind I imagined all the ballerinas in New York take.
The original Floor-Barre class was created by Zena Rommett in New York City in the 1960s as a way to help professional dancers build flexibility, strength, and recover from injuries. Misty Copeland, a principal dancer at American Ballet Theater (ABT), used it to recover from stress fractures in her tibia. Many other elite dancers and athletes have also benefited from taking Floor-Barre, like:
Patrick Swayze, dancer & actor
Judith Jamison, former Alvin Ailey Principal Dancer & Artistic Director
John Curry, Olympic ice skater
Every ballet dancer wants high extensions (the ability to raise and hold their legs at or above 90 degrees), so we consciously and unconsciously use all kinds of tricks to get our legs up as high as we can. We tuck our pelvis or open our hip and put our leg in some no man’s land we dancers sarcastically refer to as a la sebesque, which is a combination of a la seconde (leg in the air to the side) and arabesque (leg in the air to the back). Another problem is we rely too much on our quads to muscle our legs up in the air rather than using our inner thighs and hamstrings. All this “bad” technique can lead to injuries and over-developed muscles.
This is what Floor-Barre is designed to prevent. The point is to get dancers (or anyone) to use their muscles correctly. Working in the right way improves our technique and prevents injuries, which equals longevity as a dancer, an athlete, or as anyone who likes to work out.
My Floor-Barre class in Los Angeles was taught by Leslie Carothers. She trained at San Francisco Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, and Joffrey Ballet, and is a Zena Rommett Floor-Barre certified instructor. She took Zena’s Floor-Barre class in New York with the likes of Judith Jamison, former Alvin Ailey Principal Dancer & Artistic Director.
“Floor-Barre is an invaluable tool to help my students go deeper into their bodies, and to correct misalignment and bad habits, and prevent and heal injuries. Like traction, it works to slow, and perhaps even reverse the detrimental effects of gravity, such as compression and misalignment, particularly as the body ages, making one feel younger and more energetic.” – Leslie Carothers
The entire Floor-Barre class takes place on the ground, and because the floor doesn’t move, you can immediately tell if your technique is off. If you’re using improper form, you’ll feel your ribs stick out or your hips shift slightly. It’s subtle work, but what you learn is invaluable.
Floor-Barre is also really strengthening. The exercises we did for our feet had some of us screaming out in pain (good pain). I take four ballet classes a week, yet a few of Leslie’s simple foot exercises made me want to cry!
Good technique isn’t just for dancers, and it starts with the feet. If your feet aren’t strong, if you pronate, or put too much weight on your heels when you walk or run, it can set off a chain of events in the body that can lead to all kinds of injuries or aches and pains.
Years of bad technique in any athletic discipline eventually comes home to roost, and when it does, it can lead to injuries or limitations. Think of Floor-Barre as a technique that helps inform you about your body and how you’re using it. It provides a good foundation for any workout or sport.
Floor-Barre, like ballet, elongates the muscles, so it’s a good complement to intense workouts that compact and tighten muscles, like running, spinning, tennis, or weight training. Floor-Barre was developed, in part, for injured dancers. So if you have an injury, it can help strengthen your body while you recover. It’s also beneficial for seniors because there’s no impact and it doesn’t put pressure on the joints. Floor-Barre is a great way to get a no-impact workout, strengthen injured muscles, or improve overall body awareness and positioning, which can help you work out more effectively and prevent injuries.
PHILLIP A. BAUMAN
“I am an orthopedic surgeon who specializes in the treatment of professional ballet dancers for New York City Ballet and American Ballet Theatre. Zena Rommett Floor-Barre® has been a foundation for rehabilitation and injury prevention of many of my patients who are professional ballet dancers.” – Floor-Barre.org
Floor-Barre showed me that I was forcing my turnout more than I realized, which puts too much pressure on my knees and hips. It also helped me activate my inner thigh muscles more in ballet class, which eases the load on all my other overworked muscles. I tried it, and now I’m a convert!
FIND THE RIGHT CLASS
If you’re curious about Floor-Barre, take a class from a certified teacher, especially if you are recovering from an injury. You can find a class near you here: https://www.floor-barre.org/home.html.
Disclaimer: 5th Branch has no relationship with Zena Rommett or her Floor-Barre class.