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Barre for Beginners

  • October 13, 2015
  • By Brittany
Barre for Beginners

Hi there!  Barre Week is drawing to a close but I couldn’t conclude my favorite week without focusing on the moves.  I’ve put together a little tutorial on barre for beginners so if you are brand new to this form of exercise, you can learn the lingo and check out what you can expect to do in class.

First Position

1st position

The most basic barre position is first position in ballet.  All you have to do is bring your heels together and your toes apart to about 11 and 1 or 10 and 2.  Dancers try to get their hips and legs turned all the way out so that their toes are turned completely to the side, but in a barre class we usually don’t aim for quite so much turnout.  Although turning out from your knees and hips will help protect those knee joints as we move. Pull your abs up and in like you are zipping up skinny jeans and keep your shoulders down.

First Position Plie

first position plie

Plie is the French word to bend. In ballet, it refers to any movement where the knees are bent. From first position, just bend your knees slightly keeping your heels together and on the floor.



Releve is a fancy French ballet term for simply lifting your heels off the ground and rising onto your toes.  You can do this from first position and if you repeatedly do it, you’ll get a wonderful calf workout.  By coming up onto your toes, you will need to engage your core more to maintain balance.

Narrow V

narrow v pulse

This one is a real burner for the thighs! From first position releve, bend the knees into plie keeping the heels lifted and together.  Hold this position and you’ll start to feel the burn.  Start pulsing down and inch and then up and inch to really get into those thighs!

Second Position

second position

The second main position in ballet and also used in barre classes frequently is second position.  Your legs are wide (about 2 feet) and your toes are turned out to the side creating a v position with your lower body.  Abs are pulled up and in and shoulders are down.

Second Position Plie

second position plie

Just like in first position plie, all second position plie requires is that you bend your knees.  Make sure the knees are over the ankles and not going past your toes.  If they are, take the feet wider.  Drop the legs low enough so the thighs are parallel with the floor.  Hold this position to work the inner and outer thighs.  Start pulsing but staying low in the plie to really feel the burn.

Second Position Plie Releve

second position plie releve

From second position plie, lift your heels into a releve keeping your knees bent in a plie. This move works the calves as well as the thighs and requires greater engagement of the core to maintain balance.  Hold here and then pulse down an inch and then up an inch.

Second Position Releve

second position releve

From second position plie releve, just straighten your legs coming all the way up to a releve in second position.  For a greater challenge lift both hands up overhead and balance.

second position releve balance

Tendu Front

tendu front

From second position plie, draw the outside leg in front of the body pointing through the toe and extending the leg straight.  Keep the hips pulled back and the inner thigh pointed up the sky.  Repeat second position to tendu front to work the inner thighs.



From second position plie, push off the outside leg and draw the toe to the inside knee keeping the outside knee turned to the side.  Drop back into second position plie and repeat.

Passe Releve

passe releve

From passe, lift the heels of the supporting leg pulling up to a nice straight line.  Try to balance.

Flat Back Chair

flat back chair

Turn to face in to the barre with both hands holding on.  Take the feet about a fists distance apart, toes pointing to the barre. Straighten both arms and bend the knees keeping the back flat.  Hold here or starting pulsing down an inch and then up an inch to really feel the burn!  For a greater challenge, try lifting both heels off the ground but keeping knees bent.

flat back chair with lifted heels



Facing the barre, take one foot back keeping the heel lifted and bend both knees.  Arms are slightly bent and knees are bent at 90 degree angles.  Try to get your back shin parallel to the ground.  Hold here and then start moving down and inch and up and inch to really feel the burn!  For an even greater challenge, lift your front heel off the ground to a releve.

lunge with heel lift

Tendu Back

tendu back

Facing the barre with elbows bent, stand on one leg keeping the leg straight and point the other toe behind you keeping the leg straight.  Turn the leg out by turning from the hip so the knee faces the side of the room.


straight leg arabesque lift

From tendu back, bend your supporting leg and lift the leg in tendu to an arabesque.  Incline slightly towards the barre.  Repeat lifting and lowering your leg then hold the leg up at hip height and pulse it up an inch and down an inch.


attitude lift

From arabesque, bend your knee, keeping the leg turned out (knee pointed to the side) and come into an attitude.  Lift and lower the entire shape 1 inch to feel the burn in the buns!

Standing Crane

standing crane

From attitude, turn the knee so it faces down to the floor and bring it just behind the supporting leg.  Keep the supporting leg bent and pulse the working leg back behind to isolate the glute muscle.

[bctt tweet=”Barre class basics for beginners! #barre “]

Readers, have you tried barre?  Any burning-barre related questions? 

See also:

The Best Barre Resources

The Best Online Barre Classes

The Best Barre DVDs

The Best Barre Studios

Barre Playlist

By Brittany, October 13, 2015
  • 2
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