Structure of a Ballet Class – The Do’s, Don’ts and General Guidelines

by | Nov 1, 2016

A ballet class can sometimes seem like an intimidating class to take, but if you know what to expect and are equipped with the dos and don’ts you are sure to have a great time. Below I have broken down each section of a ballet class into what that given section entails and the different guidelines to follow for each.

Class Breakdown:

  1. Warm up
  2. Barre
  3. Center
  4. Across the floor
  5. Reverence
  6. Thank the teacher

General Guidelines – How to Act During Class:

  • Make sure you are in the proper dress code for the class.
  • Bring water so that you may hydrate during the breaks allotted by the instructor (if any).
  • You are allowed to ask questions for clarification.
  • Try not to speak with your classmates.
  • Try to not be disruptive.
  • If you need to use the restroom, raise your hand and ask permission.


  • Warm up your body so that you are ready to go when the class starts at the barre.
  • If warm-up is not provided during the first 10-15 minutes of class make sure you arrive early to warm up. It is expected of you to do so.


  • Don’t hang on the barre.
  • Feel free to step away from the barre to be able to see what the teacher is demonstrating so you can memorize the combination.
  • Always start to the right side, which means you have your left hand on the barre.
    • To go left, place your right hand on the barre.
  • Make sure you are gripping the barre at the correct distance and hand placement–
    • Your arm should not be fully extended and your elbow should not be resting on the barre.
    • Your hand should be placed slightly in front of your body.
    • When placing your hand to “grip” the barre, place your four fingers around the barre with your thumb either resting on top of the barre or completely parallel with the barre.
    • Never grip the barre where your thumb wraps around the barre from the bottom.


  • After barre work the class will usually head into the center of the room for more movement and combinations.
  • Make sure to spread out and use the entire studio space.
  • Stagger so that everyone has a “window” to see himself or herself in the mirror.
    • If you are in the front line make sure you are allowing for those in the in the lines behind you can see themselves in the mirror too.
  • When you start to travel either from upstage to downstage or vise versa in groups, make sure you are always aware from where your fellow classmates are entering to start the given combination. This way you can exit in a way that does not disrupt their movement or the line of sight of the instructor.
    • For example: Let’s say your group is performing a petite allegro where you are traveling downstage. When the combination for your group ends make sure you exit towards the left and downstage if the instructor is to the right. This ensures that the next group to go who will be starting behind you has the entire studio space to dance while you are running towards the left to get out of the way.
  • Basically, the rule is that if you are exiting while doing a combination in the center, make sure to do so towards the opposite direction of where the next group is starting.

Across the Floor:

  • After you have centered yourself with movements away from the barre, across the floor work may commence.
  • Across the floor may mean – moving from stage right to stage left completely parallel and it can also mean performing combinations on a diagonal from corner to corner.
  • Again in the event that the class has been divided into groups, make sure you always exit the space opposite of where the next group will be coming on.
  • To ensure you are not wasting time – make sure you know which group you are part of, or who your partner will be for the exercises.
    • You never want to let music go to waste or have the teacher have to re-start the song because you weren’t ready or you weren’t paying attention to when your group was to start.


  • To bring the class to an end.
  • Many classical ballet teachers will end the class with reverence, which means to thank your audience. In the case of class, this is used to practice taking your bow on stage.
  • Even though this signifies the end of class, always treat this section as an integral part and with the same importance you have given all the other sections in class.
  • This is also the opportunity to show the instructor how thankful you are and how much you respect him or her for the corrections they offered you during class. By doing so, you are demonstrating that you understand how much time it took to prepare a challenging and appropriate level class for you to work on your technique and improve as a dancer.

Thank the Teacher:

  • Once class has ended and the music has stopped always make a point of thanking your teacher personally. A simple “thank you” will always go a long way.


If you follow these guidelines to attending a ballet class, you will be sure to impress your fellow dancers and teacher every time. Not only will they be impressed with how well you conduct yourself, but also you will be an exemplary student in class and who others look up to.




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