Why I integrated Barre into my life as a Ballerina


Why is Barre essential to Life as a ballet dancer?

Ella O’Nuallain


“I have been a dancer for almost as long as I can remember”

I began ballet lessons at the age of five, having caught sight of a Waterford Ballet Academy poster with the logo of a ballerina amidst a grand jeté, and I begged my mother to let me start. To my dismay I was not pirouetting across the room on Day 1, I was not dancing en pointe by the end of Year 1. I quickly learned that those things take years of work, dedication and mastering ones technique.  I was willing to put in the time.

By the age of ten, I had become quite a tom-boy and doing ballet made me feel like I was living a double life. I didn’t understand how I could identify as both a tomboy and a ballerina. I tried to quit in an effort to relieve myself of my stressful double agent duties, but by then my potential was clear and my mother wouldn’t let me. At thirteen, finally deemed old enough to make my own decisions, I stopped taking classes. I had never missed something so much. Within the year I was back. My mindset had changed. I worked harder than ever before, I allowed myself to enjoy my dancing, I was proud to tell people that I did ballet. Watching my body move, seemingly effortlessly, across the room through the mirrored studio walls, gave me a great appreciation for the amazing capabilities of my limbs. The rush of adrenaline prior to every show and exam taught me valuable life lessons of how to channel those nerves into a performance!


“Ballet made me feel strong, elegant and beautiful”


When I moved to Dublin for university, I auditioned for Ireland’s Ballet Companyand was offered a place. My semester there was one of the toughest but most rewarding things I have ever done. The expectation, the commitment and the standard was unlike anything I had experienced before. I thrived on it, pushing my body to its absolute limits week after week, stretching my brain to remember each and every step. Forgetting the steps was not tolerated, not when striving for perfection in execution was the goal.

I studied in Sydney the following year and used the opportunity to take advanced classes with some brilliant former ballet dancers of The Australian Ballet Company. Those classes were a breath of fresh air, introducing exciting and complex routines, but maintaining a laissez-faireattitude in commitment and execution. When I returned to Ireland I tried to find something that would similarly challenge me, but would not require the extensive commitment a ballet company expects. Advanced classes, which are not based on an exam curriculum, are hard to find in Dublin. I just wanted to dance for fun, to keep fit and to keep those muscles (which I have worked so hard over the years to tone) engaged and in use. That’s when I came across Barre.

“It’s not difficult – You don’t need to be a dancer, or indeed have any dancing experience.”

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Barre is based on the concept of ballet warm-up exercises done at the barre at the start of any class. It works on strengthening, flexibility and weight transfer while eliminating the flairs and complexities of classical ballet. Barre adds further toning and conditioning through repetition and pulsing. It’s not difficult – you don’t need to be a dancer, or indeed have any dancing experience. You only need to be able to follow sequences and push yourself, to give your muscle groups a really good workout! As a trained dancer, barre comes as second nature to me, due to a familiarity withthe base movement of the exercises. I wanted to further challenge myself, and share my love for ballet with the wider population. I qualified as an instructor a few weeks ago, and I am thoroughly enjoying teaching barre classes to family, friends and colleagues. I look forward to where my journey with ballet, and now barre, takes me next!