January 13, 2003
As I walked into the dance studio at Steps on Broadway and 74th Street in Manhattan, it looked like I was in for a ballet class much like any other I’d ever taken. It was a typical scene: a large space with wood floors, a mirror on one wall, and ballet barres on another. I saw students stretching on the floor, so I found a spot of my own and began to do some stretching myself. Same old same old, right? Wrong.
My first clue that something was unusual was that the teacher told me that I would be more comfortable without my ballet slippers. Ballet without ballet slippers? That was odd. My second clue was that the teacher started the class by asking all of us to lie down on the floor. What was going on? She proceeded to direct us, in a calm melodic voice, to do classic ballet moves, such as tondue, coupé, passé, and developé without musical accompaniment-all while we were still lying on the floor. That was even more odd and I ultimately had to look around at my fellow students to figure out what was expected of me. As the class progressed, however, I quickly discovered that there was a method to the madness. And that method is called the Rommett Floor-Barre Technique, developed by Zena Rommett in the 1960’s.
This revolutionary technique, which has had a quiet yet steady and growing following for nearly 45 years, is based on the idea that without the pull of gravity (hence, lying on the floor) dancers are better able to learn movements and correct alignment. Rommett, a former professional dancer originally from Italy, came up with this technique because she found that regular ballet classes often went too quickly, and as a result, some of the basics of ballet were being lost. Consequently, Rommett developed her floor exercises with the intention of helping dancers refine their technique, center, lengthen, and strengthen their bodies, and increase their turnout and extension. Her classes not only help to enhance training and body conditioning, they are especially helpful for injury prevention and rehabilitation (think back and knee problems). Rommett’s teachings, which have contributed to the development of the Pilates Method, help the body’s muscles relearn and memorize optimal alignment to the point where dancers can actually improve beyond their pre-injured state. Through a return to clean, simple, basics, dancers can build on a stronger foundation.
But returning to basics does not mean easy classes. In fact, Rommett’s classes are quite difficult. No, there are no grand leaps or jumps, but the entire hour-and-a-half class requires enormous concentration, attention to detail, and muscle control. What’s more, Rommett watches everyone closely and corrects students’ postures frequently. More than once she told me to even out my shoulders and turn out my hips. She made me intensely aware of my body and my alignment.
The results of that focused muscle movement and awareness (for long-time students, especially) are remarkable. Rommett, who has taught throughout the world and whose name is practically synonymous with her Floor-Barre technique, is known for producing dancers with highly sculpted, lean muscles and exceptional technique. But one doesn’t have to be a dancer to benefit. Many non-dancers take Rommett’s classes to help ease arthritis, tendonitis, and rehabilitate back injuries. Pregnant women even take her classes in order to strengthen and prepare their bodies for delivery.
As the Floor-Barre technique grows in popularity, it is also becoming more widely available. Through the Zena Rommett Dance Association, a non-profit corporation founded by Rommett in 1969, teachers can now become trained and certified in Floor-Barre. This enables other instructors to bring Rommett’s teachings to their studios. In addition, Rommett has released several videos that enable people to do Floor-Barre technique at home.
As for my first Floor-Barre class, we finished up as Rommett’s classes usually do with a brief stint at the barre (standing up), so that we could incorporate the technique we’d practiced on the floor into our barre exercises. I realized that day that I’d moved my body in ways I hadn’t exactly moved it before. I’m eager to see what Rommett’s technique can do for my body and dancing over time. In fact, I’m ready to return for another class.
For more information about the Rommett Floor-Barre Technique or to find out about classes or videos, check out www.floor-barre.org or contact the Zena Rommett Dance Association, Ltd., at 44 Downing St., New York, NY 10014, (T) 212-633-0352 (F) 845-657-2510, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please note: “Floor-Barre” is a trade mark of, and “Zena Rommett Floor-Barre Technique” and “Rommett Floor-Barre Technique” are copyright by the Zena Rommett Dance Association.