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Floor Barre
Carla Vaughan
Administration Division Assistant 
Cabrillo College, California.
Interview with Stephane Dalle

Carla Vaughan: What is exactly the definition of Floor Barre?

Stephane Dalle: The title Floor Barre is a special technique on the floor.It is actually inspired by the exercise of the barre on standing feet, the first part of the ballet class.The exercises will be done on the back, stomach, and also some time on the side.They could start in sitting position first and to continue on the back.

CV: They are so many floor Barre techniques, which one do you teach?

SD: In my point of view, there are not many Floor Barre techniques.The floor Barre of Boris Kniaseff is the only one deserving the title of <Floor Barre>.This technique is really inspired by the first part of a ballet class.That is why we call this technique actually, Floor Barre, meaning Barre on the floor.

I have tried all of the different techniques called Floor Barre, but most of them are inspired by Yoga, therapy exercise, and gymnastics, the only one in my opinion, that deserves this title, is the one from Boris Kniaseff.

I am teaching the Boris Kniaseff technique. In this Floor Barre, the exercises are almost in the same order as a normal ballet class.

CV: Where did you learn this technique?

SD:In Paris with Jaqueline Fynnaert.

CV: Did you start dancing with this technique?

SD:No, not at all.
Actually, the first time I was introduced to this technique, I was already a professional dancer.In 1986 I was engaged as a principal dancer with The Opera in Bonn (Germany), the director was Peter Van Dyck, a ex-student from Boris Kniaseff and he was teaching a few exercises on the floor to start the morning company class just at the beginning of the season to come back slowly in shape after the long break of the summer.I remember the beneficial feeling of it.

And then many years later, while dancing with Bejart Ballet Lausanne, we were on tour in Egypt.Every dancer was sick.The famous sickness for the tourist called <Tourista>.The bacteria of this country are very different.Getting sick there is common and I remembered have a big stomach.It was difficult to posture our bodies in the class and the warm-up before the show.So, one of the dancers, Florence Faure, said to me ”Come Stephane, let’s go to the other studio, let’s do a Floor barre.”After this experience, during a break of two weeks, I went to Paris and start to learn with Jaqueline Fynnaert this “magical technique.”For me, it was really a revelation, my dancing changed completely.

CV: But what is amazing about it? 

SD: It is just very well put together.  It gives you coordination with arms and legs.  It's sculpts your legs with fine muscle in a healthy way.  

It strengthens your center to re-establish the lower and the upper part of the body. 

It just helps you to dance well.  Everything comes together to allow you to dance freely and let art come in you in a natural way.  

You have first the four first exercises, they are repetitive and every day the same. Between this four first exercises you have some excellent stretch. Then you have the second part of the Floor Barre, with very specific exercises connected with each other. 

For example, today when I teach at a school with a specific program and I have to follow precisely, so each one of my classes will be done with a theme. For example, for a school I keep the same class for a week to two weeks, so I will be doing exercises with retiré ’, so the stomach work will be with retiré’, the adage, the grand battement, petite batterie, at the end of the year the kids in the class know very well what they have to know.

When I teach a company, I teach with a different approach.
Personally there are many good techniques to help your dancing, but honestly, most techniques need big machines, or mats and this and when your traveling like most of the company I was with .you can not have all these things in your suit case.Most of the time I was touring.You have class on stage with not much space to really posture yourself correctly.If I did not have the Floor Barre I would not be able dance the way I want to, and do.

CV: So when did you start to teach, the Floor Barre?

SD: It came the way Jaqueline predicted.She said to me one day “Stephane, you will see, you are going to practice your Floor Barre in the studio before the daily class warm-up and some of your colleagues and friends are going to look at you and will ask you to do it with you.”
And it is exactly the way it went.

CV: When was that?

SD:It started in Ballet Frankfurt.I was new in the company.I came into the studio one hour before the official class.Then a few minutes later three girls came to the studio.
I remember like it was yesterday.

So three beautiful dancers where there also doing a Floor Barre.They were using a different technique, from Zena Rommett.
Because I was using music, they ask me to put the volume of my music lower.I said “of course.”Next day I was there again, and I was using a headset.These three dancers were also very committed to their routine, but also very intrigued by the exercise I was doing.

A few days later they came to me and asked if they could join me.So we put the music full volume again in the studio and I start to teach them.These ladies were: Kate Strong, Irene Klien and Tracy-kai Maier, the ex- wife of William Forsythe.We were committed, we came every day, and they asked me questions and so on. I learned to teach because of them, I am so grateful for the experience they gave me.

Then, I moved to London, with English National Ballet, and here again, during a touring program in New Castle, I was doing my Floor Barre in the small studio of the Theater.Jose Manuel Carreno was looking at me, and then after few minutes later he asked me if he could join me.He was not happy with the classes of the company.A few days later more and more dancers came to this un-official Floor Barre class.I had so many dancers coming every day.Some days I had to give my place on the floor, as we did not have enough space for everyone.

CV: Many great dancers came to work with you? Like Jose Manuel Carreno?

SD: Oh Yes. I must say, I have been very lucky to have had the trust of these beautiful dancers.
Carlos Acosta, and also Eva Evdokimova, who was guesting with ENB for Coppelia, plus the rest of the company.Everywhere I danced it went the same way.I never ask anyone to come to join me. The dancers always came to me and asked for it.
Then I danced in Düsseldorf and the same thing happened to me. Inna Dorofeeva, wife of Vadim Pisarev, was so fanatique about it; she was doing the floor Barre twice a day .The second one-she did it at home.She was so exited about improving her jump.Nadja Saidakova also and others dancer in Duesseldorf was fanatique about it too.

I had many problems with the cleaning ladies, because I was coming in the studio very early, when it was the time to clean the studio.I had some time to make compromise with them
Amsterdam was a big chapter for my teaching experience.I remember one day Susan Jaffe and Stephanie Saland coming to the Floor Barre.They were just visiting from New York .They worked with me for two weeks .They were very commited.

Many principals were not satisfied about the coaching of their parts at the National Ballet Amsterdam.So many of them asked me to help them.We worked in the evening time on extra hours.Anna Seidel has been a gift in my destiny.She trusted me and we worked so passionately on every role she had to dance. Her partners were cool enough to work with me.It is this way that I learned to coach the classical repertoire for feminine roles.

CV: How long did you dance at the Het National Ballet?

SD:I danced five years in Amsterdam. Then moved to the U.S.A

CV: Why U.S.A?

SD: During the five years with Het National Ballet I had the opportunity to be very creative in every level.I danced, I taught, I coached, I experienced choreography and I produced a show.After awhile, I realized that the artistque direction was not very supportive, so I looked for a smaller company where I could explore my creativity.Unfortunately it did not happen the way that I had hoped, but that is another story.

CV: To go back to your teaching, you are teaching ballet class too?

SD:Yes, I do.I just enjoy teaching in general but coaching is what I enjoy the most.

CV: Where do you teach?

SD: For the moment I am a guest teacher at the Stuttgart ballet school, Galili Dance and Het National Ballet. I also teach for the Henny Jurriens Dance Studio Amsterdam, open class, and last year I was twice in Japan.

CV: When you teach, is the Floor Barre the most successful class that you teach?

SD:As time goes by I have come to realize that I am well known for the Floor Barre class.I look forward to continue teaching and to passing on the wonderful technique of Boris Knasieff’s Floor Barre to many generations of dancers.
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