Safe Dance Practice

by Frank Freeman

When Maria Fay began developing her Floor Barre four decades ago she could have had no idea how famous and beneficial it would become to teachers, dancers and students all over the world It is now universally accepted as synonymous with safe dance practice.

The Floor Barre is a method by which strength and technique are maintained during and after injury by working the unaffected joints and muscles without weight bearing. In addition it is also a means of enhancing the understanding of correct placement, co-ordination and the various complex movements of the classical ballet barre. In. the book, and in its accompanying video, Madam Fay clearly and simply explains her method, which is the culmination of a lifetime’s work and study In my opinion they should both be on the shelves of every dancer and in the library of every college.

Although the book and video are each valid in their own right, and could be used separately, it would be more practical to study them in conjunction with each other, for as Maria Fay so rightly explains, “The written word can never capture the vitally important quality of dancers’ movements.”

They both begin with an introduction explaining why and how the floor barre evolved and came into being, and clearly demonstrate the vast amount of work, careful planning and experimentation that went into its creation and development. The book explains the structure of the system, and describes and analyses in detail all the exercises and breathing technique, the basic positions, warm ups and floor barre exercises, and ends with a sample class at each level. It is illustrated with clear drawings and photographs.

The video comprises three sample classes at each level showing exemplary demonstration by dancer Christina Beskou. She epitomises Maria Fay’s insistence on careful placement and on the perfect co-ordination necessary to develop and maintain unforced and correct control of each movement and exercise. Her port do bras is impeccable and she is a pleasure to watch. The classes are filmed clearly and logically and a split screen is often used to show the movements simultaneously from different angles for further clarification.

At each stage of the Floor Barre from the initial warm ups which begin each level of study, and then from Beginner through to Intermediate and Advanced, the focus is very much on the dancer’s physical capabilities and framework. Throughout there is an insistence of how much care should be taken at all times not to force movements and positions, “Control not height is important”. Repeated emphasis is also given, to correct breathiug, something of which dancers, and especially students, are not always fully aware. “If breathing is correct no strain or breathlessness ‘will occur.”

As Madam Fay says in her introduction, “Contrary to other conditioning and workout programmes the
floor barre is designed to serve the needs of a dancer. It is purpose built.”

This is why the study and practice of Maria Fay’s Floor Bare will equip students and dancers with the most invaluable tool for their entire dancing life.