WHOSE SPOT IS IT ANYWAY?

13 Sep

I often wonder, why do people always stand at the same place at the ballet barre? No matter what the class, or whom the teacher, no matter what the day or what the level, it seems dancers always stand at the barre in the exact same spot! (In my class, I can almost tell you where people are standing with my eyes closed).

I remember when Sally Brayley Bliss, Trustee of the Tudor Trust, told me she always stood at the piano when she took barre in Mr. Tudor’s class at the Metropolitan Opera House and that’s how she became close with Elizabeth Sawyer, Antony Tudor’s accompanist for 17 years.

Dancers at the Barre - Tudor Centennial at Juilliard; Photo: Cliff Jernigan

I’m not talking about “the middle,” where the more advanced or higher level dancers tend to be first. I’m talking about the barre and why people always seem to stand in the exact same place. In my class, dancers are often so committed to their spot that people are literally afraid to “steal” a regular spot from another class member. (I recall one day a dancer holding a tiny section of the barre at the piano relocated like a bullet when the person who normally stands in that spot arrived late – yikes)!

Actually, there seems to be a bit of protocol regarding where you stand at the barre. In a 2009 article in Pointe Magazine, author Temple Kemezis said, “At the beginning of every day, class sets the tone for how you will work. Make note of where people like to stand to avoid standing in someone’s favorite barre spot….”  The article, which discussed proper etiquette for a first-year company member, went on to say, “Communication is your best friend. Checking ahead of time is far better than being kicked off the barre mid-plié by a principal who is late for class.”

Edgar Degas - 1888. "Tänzerinnen an der Stange" Source: Wikipedia

Ashley Bouder,  Principal Dancer for New York City Ballet, told me she always stands in the same spot in company class. “I have stood in the same spot in company class for eight years. I always stand directly behind the piano, no matter which studio the company is taking class in. It makes me feel comfortable. It’s like waking up in your own bed. A hotel bed may feel great, but nothing beats home. That’s how I feel about my barre spot. It’s my home base; a place to start my day,” she said.

In a story called, “A smile on my face… as long as you stay clear of my space” columnist Heidi Rice said it doesn’t matter if  it’s where you sit in college, yoga class or church – “People stake out their territory.” The article, recently published in The Post Independent of Glenwood Springs, CO, went on to say, “When I looked up this whole phenomenon on the Internet, I found something that said, ‘Humans are homeostatic by nature.’ In other words, our bodies like things to pretty much stay the same.”

Yes, we are creatures of habit.

Recently my daughter told me a lawsuit was filed at her NYC gym after one man pushed another off his “favorite” bike in spin class and wound up breaking the trespasser’s arm! She hears the “pusher” is now banned from the Equinox gym for life and “is probably in anger management.” Well, ballet people don’t go that far, but yes, we do like our spots!

Do you always stay at the same place at the barre? (I try not to. But then again, I do like a clear view of the mirror and hate being squished in the corner. The back of the room gets too warm for me and I don’t like being too close to the door…).

Well, I guess I do always stay at the same place at the barre! Or try to!

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4 Responses to “WHOSE SPOT IS IT ANYWAY?”

  1. AdriaBalletBeat April 30, 2012 at 4:46 PM #

    I was thinking of this post today in class, when a girl came in and said I was in her spot. We had just divided into two groups for the tendu combination, after the barre – she wasn’t even in the room at the time (probably stepped out for a bathroom break) but decided that very spot in the middle of the studio was hers.. who knew?

  2. AdriaBalletBeat May 8, 2012 at 10:54 AM #

    In class again, right now. Took an empty spot at the barre and the girl standing next to it said, “you can’t stand there, it’s Nancy’s spot.” Nancy?? “Oh, sorry…”.

  3. starduest May 6, 2014 at 1:31 PM #

    This is really interesting. My teacher used to move us (or ask us to move) around if she noticed that we kept standing in the same spots. I’m guilty of being in the same (good) spot in the centre but do try now and again not to hog the mirror space. I also think it’s polite to let others have a chance at using the barres next to the mirrors – but perhaps it stems from wanting to stand there myself 😛

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Ballet Class Etiquette 101 | Bits and Bobs - February 18, 2015

    […] Do not hog the fixed barres While some dancers may have a “fixed spot” where they stand each week, I feel that if your class has a mix of […]

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