Have you ever thought that you couldn’t do ballet because you aren’t a dancer, or because you don’t have access to a Ballet Floor Barre? Some people don’t know that ballet- or dance-related exercise doesn’t necessarily require experience, and you certainly do not need a barre. A great way to experience a similar style of exercise is through a workout called floor-barre. Floor-Barre is a technique in ballet barre training that takes ballet to the floor.
Floor-Barre was originated in the 1960s by Zena Rommett, a world-renowned ballet dancer and teacher whose students included the likes of Tommy Tune, Patrick Swayze, and Judith Jameson, according to the New York Times. Rommett was born Angelina Buttignol, but known as Zena, near Treviso, Italy in 1920. Her father, Antonio, immigrated to the United States first, and Zena followed two years later with her mother. They settled in Elmsford, New York, and Antonio eventually owned a brick factory there. Zena’s dream was to dance, and she was able to convince her parents to let her take classes in Manhattan, New York City. Her ballet technique and instinctual grace brought her to surpass the skills of her peers, and she was able to train “for eight years on full scholarship with Anatole Vilzak and Ludmilla Schollar of Ballet Russes, Elisabeth Anderson-Ivantzova of the Bolshoi, and with choreographer, Chester Hale.” Steps on Broadway, NYC states that “she studied dance with the leading teachers in New York and made her Broadway debut in 1944 in ‘Seven Lively Arts’ […]”. Rommett also danced on Broadway in “Song of Norway” and “Paint Your Wagon”. When she discovered an interest in teaching, Robert Joffrey invited Rommett to teach at his American Ballet Center, now the infamous Joffrey Ballet School in New York City.
She opened her own school three years later in 1968, known then as the “Oasis of Dance”, and she spent over half a century training dancers and non-dancers alike. Though based in NYC, Rommett would serve as a guest teacher across the United States and all around the world, including in Russia, Italy, Germany, and Asia. There were other pioneers of similar floor-based techniques at the time Rommett blazed her trail, such as Russian-born and Paris-based teacher Boris Kniaseff, who taught his “barre par terre”. She, however, was particularly passionate about catering to a larger demographic than just dancers, and “remained interested in the widest application of principles.” Zena and her daughter, Camille, started certifying both dance teachers and physical therapists in the Floor-Based technique in 1998, and to this day, instructors still take seminars to train and become certified in the USA Trademarked technique of Barre, carrying on Rommett’s unique legacy.
Get Body Aligned
This technique “utilizes the floor to correct and refine body alignment, and includes gentle exercises to strengthen joints, increase vitality, and help rehabilitate injuries without the pressure of gravity.” It increases cardio endurance, boosts metabolism, and burns calories quickly.
Through low-impact exercises that focus the majority of the body’s weight centrally rather than in its extremities, it is effective for building muscle without becoming bulky. Just as standing barre work does, Floor-Barre can improve stability and balance, as well as correct posture. In the ways it can strengthen the body’s extremities and core simultaneously, students of the technique find that they feel changes in their bodies right away. You have probably encountered technique yourself, at some point.
You Might Be Interested In: Body Awareness
You may have done it before in a rehabilitation session, or at the beginning of another type of workout class. It distributes body weight evenly throughout your body, and takes pressure and focus away from standing on your feet. Here inlies the reason why many students find relativelyquick changes in their bodies: in Floor-Barre and similar techniques, the body is being spread out and lengthened, rather than fighting the pull of gravity on the weight of your body while you exercise standing. For instance, if you are working your arms while standing up, you are also required to engage all other body parts at the same time, as they are holding the weight of your feet.
It explains why you are able to do more physical work while laying on the ground. In doing so, you are in proper alignment, which makes the work you are doing work better.
Floor-Barre Is For All
Your body is fighting gravity differently in that position, and you do not have to continue to hold the weight of your body on your feet simultaneously, Floor-Barre is a method that can target any demographic, from children to older adults. Rommett has been quoted saying,
“My technique gives children a strong foundation for unmannered dancing.”
The technique is an excellent introduction or supplement to a dancer’s training. Floor-Barre may also help a dancer keep up with their body’s conditioning, technique, and alignment during a rest period from dance, or help them ease back into dance and proper technique after an injury.
Recover From An Injury
It is great for addressing and working around any joint problems plaguing its students because it keeps weight off of the joints so the body can still be strengthened while it heals. It is to the individual’s great benefit to stay in shape while their body recovers from an injury or other issue, and with Floor-Barre, there are few moves that can’t be done while still working back up to performing at one hundred percent. The movements and exercises incorporated in Floor-Barre provide the foundation for an overall stronger body. Recently had shoulder surgery? Take a Floor-Barre class. Have a twisted or sprained ankle? Take a Floor-Barre class. The same goes for any athlete that is injured: despite the ailment, Floor-Barre can play a significant role in rehabilitation by strengthening and aligning the body, increasing stamina, and reestablishing muscle memory. Floor-Barre can benefit anyone, from people from any walk of life to those who are involved in intense dance training.
It serves as great ballet conditioning for all dancers, not just ballerinas. It strengthens the body and teaches proper alignment and technique for any type of dance, including, but not limited to, jazz, hip hop, and contemporary. Some may find that Floor-Barre is comparable to mat Pilates; the true difference, however, lies in Floor-Barre’s adherence to true ballet lines. Those who are familiar with the Barboza Method may notice certain similarities between it and the style of Floor-Barre. Essentially, the Barboza Method is Floor-Barre, but has adapted and changed some of the moves to be more fitness-inspired than dance-inspired.
Floor-Barre implements more combinations, whereas Barboza turns Floor-Barre technique into a more understandable exercise routine, rather than a full dance class. Floor-Barre and Barboza both eliminate the “rigidity that sometimes accompanies traditional standing-barre exercises.” Rommett herself pointed out that “many dancers don’t know how to stand correctly”, and Stefanie Barboza always emphasizes that we adapt all the lines of our body that we find on the floor to standing. The best way to strengthen your back is to do exercises on the floor, and both classes use the floor as a map to stay straight, thereby improving posture and alignment.
Both techniques are good for building long, lean muscles. Because there is no bodyweight applied on the joints, both Floor-Barre and Barboza are great for healing injuries. As is the case with Floor-Barre, Barboza is not just for dancers, but for anyone looking to get a good workout or to feel better about their body. It brings barre work to a pedestrian exercise level.Though now it is considered to be an older technique, many dance schools have implemented Floor-Barre into their curriculum to help establish proper technique and form-building in their dancers. Locations and certified instructors can be found in every region of the United States, and in the furthest corners of the world, including Australia, China, and Thailand. Utilizing available technologies and given the necessity, Floor-Barre has also taken their classes to the online space in a virtual format for maximum accessibility.