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Hold on: tips for selecting a portable barre.

To get in touch with her balance and prepare for center work, every ballet dancer begins class at the same place every day: the barre. Portable ones offer students an opportunity to wean themselves away from the seemingly limitless help of wall-mounted barres and watch their technique from a different angle--and they also offer teachers a solution to crowded classes.

"When my beginners began holding the portable barre with two hands and facing the mirror instead of the wall, not only did I stop losing their attention but they could see themselves in the mirror as I gave them corrections," says April Joseph-Sykes, owner of Suncoast Academy of Dance in Palm Harbor, FL. "I was so surprised by how much improvement there was in just four months after I bought the barres."

All portables are not alike. They come in different lengths, weights, materials, heights, and shapes. Some have two levels to hold, and some have one barre on each side of the platform. Gerstung's Fran Ice suggests deciding ahead what ages and how many people will be using it, whether you plan to store it, and if you plan to bring it on tour.

If your studio has students of many ages--and heights--it's probably best to consider purchasing either a double barre (with two levels) or one that adjusts easily. While it's time-consuming to alter the barre height for each class, single barres come in handy for inspecting technique in the mirror because nothing gets in the way of students' legs or reflection. "You're free to pirouette, or face the barre and battement front," says renowned ballet teacher Finis Jhung, whose Ballet Dynamics also offers single barres with pinholes that allow for height adjustments simple enough for young students to do themselves.

Portable barres come in lengths from 4' to 20' feet. Ones with a barre on each side of the platform let you squeeze more dancers on without their hands overlapping, but this variety eats up more space when you store them on the side and come to center.

Some portable barres are designed to be assembled and disassembled over and over. Figure out whether your barres will mainly stay assembled, or if you're going to take them apart for tours or competitions. Either way, make sure the setup is not complicated. If you're going to be transporting the barres often, it's probably best to find a design that just clips together without hassle. Try assembling (or disassembling) a barre before purchasing it. Some come with carrying cases, convenient for touring and travel.

Constant pulling, pushing, and stretching on barres test their screws and brackets. Check to make sure the construction seems sturdy enough to endure daily wear from your dancers. Metal piping is the tried and true classic. Although it makes for sturdier barres, they can begin to rust after several years. In humid, sweaty studios, dancers will eventually leave the barre with brown, smelly hands. Wood barres feel warmer to the touch, yet can end up splintering. Aluminum comes in very durable, yet light-weight, varieties and can be easy to maintain, says Jack Lucas, owner of En Pointe Enterprises, Ltd. "They're easy to sterilize very quickly just by wiping them down with a cloth, which is great when you have lots of students sharing the same barres every day."

Portable barres' prices can vary by hundreds of dollars. "But if you want good equipment, just remember that you get what you pay for," says Joseph-Sykes. "You should really only have to buy portable barres once, so go with something with quality."

Jennifer Stahl is Dance Magazine's education editor.

BARRE SHOPPING

BALLET DYNAMICS/FINIS JHUNG

"Ultimate Barre"

6 ft; 9 ft; 11ft

$325-$425

www.fjballet.com

EN POINTE

"Portabarre"

4.5 ft; 9 ft; 13 ft

$250-$465

"Studio Barre" custom sizes up to 16 ft

$195-$495

www.en-pointe.com

GERSTUNG "Ultralite Aluminum Barre"

4 ft; 6 ft; 8 ft

$160-$200

"Free-Standing Ballet Barres" (wooden)

4 ft; 6 ft; 8 ft; 10 ft; 14

ft; 16 ft $223-$489

www.gerstung.com
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:ESSENTIAL TOOLS
Author:Stahl, Jennifer
Publication:Dance Magazine
Date:Jun 1, 2007
Words:678
Previous Article:Your next floor: real-world advice from studio owners on how to choose.
Next Article:Mirror, mirror: the right one will reflect well on you and your students.


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