‘Floor Barre was the turning point in my dance career.’
Stéphane Dalle is Ballet Master at The Royal Danish Ballet and one of the world’s leading authorities on Floor Barre technique. His three part Floor Barre DVD series based on the Boris Kniaseff training method has been described as one of the best dancer workouts available.
Stéphane spoke to us about his work, dancing with Yumiko and how Floor Barre became one of his greatest passions.
What do you enjoy most about being a ballet master?
Coaching - I love coaching. Right now I’m coaching Balanchine’s Theme and Variations and it’s so rewarding to see the details of the ballet coming through. I enjoy sharing my own experiences of dancing, but I also respect and encourage the dancers to take the information from me and create their own experience.
As an expert in Floor Barre techniques, could you explain the essential elements of your Floor Barre method?
Floor Barre is a special technique that is inspired by the exercises done at the Barre during the first part of the ballet class. During the Floor Barre exercises are done on the back, stomach, and side from the sitting position or lying on the floor.
I have tried all of the different techniques called ‘Floor Barre,’ and many of them are just a mixture of stretching, Pilates and Yoga mat work - which is fine but not a substitute for true Floor Barre technique. I teach the Boris Kniaseff method, which, in my opinion, is the only method deserving of the title ‘Floor Barre’ because it is based on and follows the exercises of a professional ballet class.
Do you teach Floor Barre to the dancers at The Royal Danish Ballet?
Yes, at The Royal Danish Ballet I teach an optional Floor Barre class three days a week. It lasts 45 minutes and we do it in the morning before the daily ballet technique class. I’ve also taught and continue to teach Floor Barre as a guest at companies all over the world.
What is the biggest advantage of doing Floor Barre?
Floor Barre allows you to reach the highest possibility in yourself. It takes you a level further than just doing ballet class. It improves arm and leg coordination, it sculpts your leg muscles and it strengthens your center to re-establish the lower and the upper part of the body. Ultimately it helps you to dance better and reach your maximum potential.
How did Floor Barre influence your career as a dancer?
The biggest turning point in my career was when I began doing Floor Barre at the age of 26. Although I had strong technique I was small, skinny, fragile, and not a very good partner. Doing Floor Barre completely changed my perception of my body and my understanding of movement. I felt so good - my technique improved and my artistic expression became much richer because I was so much more confident in my movement. Shortly after starting Floor Barre I became a soloist and later a principal dancer. I became very passionate about Floor Barre and went to Paris to study it whenever I could. That was 1998 and I still do it six days a week.
How does a traditional Floor Barre method compare to other commercial workout methods?
Boris Kniaseff’s Floor Barre method was specifically created to be appropriate for dancers and help them improve their art. It’s not aerobic or the type of workout you can commercialize and then put in a gym. Floor Barre is something that requires a level of technique and physical awareness. It is about the internal relationship that you have with yourself while you are dancing.
So, is Floor Barre only for dancers?
It depends. You need to have a level of practice already in your body and a basic understanding of ballet technique to participate. However if you are a person who is in tune with themselves and are wanting to find more control in your movement, you are going to love Floor Barre. I’ve had friends who are not dancers enjoy Floor Barre.
When you were a dancer, Yumiko Takeshima was one of your dance partners. Do you have any memories from that time you would like to share?
I met Yumiko when I joined the Dutch National Ballet, I’ll never forget the first time I saw her. She was wearing one of her beautiful hand sewn leotards and a beige green skirt. I was looking for a partner to dance with me in a number of galas I had been invited to. Yumiko was full of energy and a hard worker in class. We started working together in the evening, staying late every night after full days of company rehearsals. It was a special time because we were two young people who were happy and very passionate about what we were doing. We worked very hard and through that dedication we got the chance to dance all over the world together.
You are so passionate about dance and teaching, could you imagine yourself doing anything else?
My grandparents owned a large department store in Northern France and as a teenager I loved looking at the beautiful displays in the shop window. I was impressed with the elegant clothing and how it was arranged on the mannequins. I suppose I might have enjoyed being a window designer. Beauty and fashion are two of the other things that I love.
Stéphane Dalle’s series of Floor Barre DVDs are available to order in Beginner, Intermediate and advanced levels. Based on the Boris Kniaseff Floor Barre technique, these exercises will help both ballet students and professional dancers achieve more strength, better alignment, and improved technique.