In this installment of Ballet Basics, we’re going to learn about the ritual of company class, a routine so fundamental to ballet that I chose to begin The Muse in Ballet Theater of New York’s company class. Company class, or “class,” as dancers call it, is the morning ritual of barre and center exercises that warm up the body for a full day of rehearsals and performances. All dancers from the 18-year-olds in the corps de ballet to the 40-year-old principal dancers take company class.
Class usually lasts around an hour-and-a-half. It begins with exercises at the barre that build upon each other in difficulty, which is why the exercises are performed in a set order. The movements start off small, as in pli
Half-way through class, the barres are removed to the sides of the room for center excerices. Again, exercises begin small and in-place. Women may choose to put on pointe shoes at this time to begin warming up their feet. For jumping exercises, men and women’s exercises might be split up, with women’s exercises emphasizing quickness of feet, and men’s exercises emphasizing height and jumping turns.
At the end of class, dancers move across the floor in a waltz, petit allegro, with smaller jumps and turn series, and grade allegro, with those enormous and exciting leaps that usually make it onto ballet promotional posters. Class always finishes with reverence, an exercise in which the dancers bow to the ballet master and the pianist.
This video, featuring the Royal Ballet of Canada, does a great job of showing what company class is like.