The Development of

My Floor Barre

by Maria Fay

A Greek girl, Christina Beskou, stood out from all the other students. She had a better technique, possessed a strong personality and had an extremely pliable body. It was obvious that her foremost interest was not in teaching but in dancing and she had the talent for it.

Towards the end of the summer she arrived at my studio limping heavily and with a bandaged knee the size of a melon. During her morning class she had slipped and landed badly from a jump. We both knew this meant a long and complete rest for the leg. Her plans to study with me during the holidays had come to naught.

It seemed the best plan was for her to return to her home on Hydra where rest, gentle exercises in the sea, and the hot climate could all promote her healing. A few weeks later my husband and I followed, as her parents had invited us to stay in their family home. Their tireless hospitality and the beauty of the unpolluted island promised a perfect holiday until I found Christina sulking because I had told her off for doing some barre exercises — in spite of the swelling, inflammation and pain.

I wanted her to understand that if she continued exercising through her pain she would hinder the healing process, indeed probably do further harm, perhaps even chronic damage to the knee. But my lecturing and scolding was useless. I proposed a deal. If she would stop exercising on her own (I knew that if she gave me her word she would stick to it) I would look after her daily practice. I did not tell her at that point that any weight-bearing exercise would be absolutely out of the question. To begin with, she hated it, for instead of her beloved ballet lessons she was doing weird-looking exercises while lying on the sitting room floor. She worked dutifully but without motivation but after several classes her intelligence gradually took over and she understood that if she wanted to heal her injury and get back to dancing these exercises were there to help her. Her working spirit changed and she started practicing to the best of her ability.

Almost a year had passed since I gave up working on my floor barre so it was the first time I had taught it. It was a joy for me to watch it being executed by such a capable physique. Her suppleness actually inspired me to experiment further in inventing new exercises for a more advanced level. I was very satisfied that she recuperated relatively quickly and was able to continue her ballet studies much sooner than the most optimistic medical forecast had predicted.

Perhaps these good results let Christina forgive me for the trick I had played on her. Little did she know that later in her professional life she was going to become the front rank promoter of the very work the floor barre — which she had hated so much at that time!

"The Dancing Times" May 1999