Wednesday, April 29, 2015

DIY Barre on International Dance Day

In honor of International Dance Day 2015, I’m so proud to introduce the newest member of my dance family: my very own, custom-made Barre!

Meet my Barre! Isn't she beautiful?
In keeping with my health and wellness goals for 2015, I’ve been alternating between yoga and dance. I’m feeling really good – fit and strong! I’ve found some great ballet barre videos online that I’ve been following at home and I’ve noticed a definite  improvement in my balance and turnout when I’m in ballet class. I’ve used a few creative substitutes for a barre, such as a regular chair in our dining room or the railings in our loft-like bedroom, and they’ve all been fine. Our office, however, has mirrors built into the closet doors and a fair amount of space, so it was my natural choice for a mini dance studio. All that’s been missing is a barre. I looked into ordering something online, but then my husband suggested we build my own barre and it just felt right!

I’ve always enjoyed building and being in a workshop. I have so many happy memories of spending time in my Grandpa’s shop, chatting with him while he worked and ‘helping’ by brushing away the woodchips (at first with my hands and then later on, with a brush). I even had my own workshop in my parents’ basement, furnished with a custom/Grandpa-built workbench and my own tools for making houses and furniture for my dolls. I went on to take shop in junior high and I got the top mark for Grade 7 Industrial Arts. I was the only girl in my shop class when I was in my first year of high school.  That class also had a welding component and when it got out I was also a dancer, the Flashdance jokes starting flying. (I didn’t care though…that much...)

For my Barre, I did some research online and we came up with a design that would be simple enough to make ourselves. I thought finding the materials would be the hardest part but one stop at Bricorama, France’s Home Depot and Bed, Bath and Beyond combined, was all it took to get everything we needed. Then, it was an afternoon of measuring, cutting and assembling and voila! My Barre had arrived!

As my gift to you on International Dance Day, I’m going to share how we made my Barre and give you some recommendations for barre exercise videos:

Curtain rods, their holders and a classic 2x4 beam.
For my Barre, we used the following:

-2 wooden curtain rods (3.5 cm diameter, 6ft long each)
-2 curtain rod holders (the part that attaches to the wall and holds the rod in place, if you were actually putting up curtains; screws should be included)
-1 basic 2x4 piece of wood for the base (8ft long)

-a drill, saw, clamps, router and a large chisel
-heavy-duty wood glue
-eye protection – because safety is important!
-drill bit for drilling a 3.5 cm hole in the base for the support beams

Mike cutting the support beams.

1-We measured the halfway mark (3ft) of one of the 
curtain rods – 
measured twice, to double check – and cut it in half for the support beams.
2-I secured the curtain holders onto the ends of the two beams.
3-We measured (twice!) and I cut the baseboards into 4 pieces, 2 ft/60 cm long each.
4-We measured (twice!) the center of two of the baseboards and Mike drilled a 3.5 cm hole in the centre for the support beams.
5-To brace the baseboards, we measured (twice, again!) ¼ of the length of the baseboards and made two shallow cuts as wide as the other baseboard. (See photo for clarification)
Cutting the baseboards. It was great to build again!
6-Mike used a router and a chisel to gauge out two notches in the baseboards, so they fit together in a cross.
7-We glued and clamped the baseboards together and let them set for a few hours.
8-I assembled the barre by placing the support beams in the baseboards and inserting the long curtain rod between the holders and put in two screws to hold it in place.
9-Then, I danced with my new Barre! 

I’ve been following the YouTube channel of Kathryn Morgan, a former soloist with the New York City Ballet, and I can’t recommend it enough! Her channel has multiple barre exercise videos to strengthen your technique, as well as other videos for improving your turnout, your flexibility, your turns and feet – just to name a few. Plus, she somehow found the time while dancing for one of the top ballet companies in the world to also become an accomplished pianist and plays all the beautiful music for her videos.

I love her Classic Ballet Barre video because it builds on itself so well: plies and tendus flow into degages, fondus, rond de jambes, a (killer!) frappe exercise and ends with joyful grand battements set to a lovely Downton Abbey medley. She gives ample explanations prior to each exercise, which are simple to follow yet really get me warm and essentially kick my ass, just like a great barre should! 

I also enjoy her Stretching and Flexibility video and the Easy Ballet Barre video is great for when I’m feeling sore but still want a strong, technical workout. If you want to get back to ballet basics, or want to challenge yourself further, check out Kathryn Morgan on YouTube.

As with anything dance and fitness related, be mindful, listen to your body and be kind to yourself. I hope you take the time today, International Dance Day 2015, to dance somewhere – in your kitchen, in the car, or at a kick-ass class, because as the old Japanese proverb says, “we’re fools whether we dance or not, so we might as well dance.”  

Happy Dancing to You!

Barre Selfie!


  1. This is great! Can't wait to check out the YouTube barre exercises. Enjoy your barre and happy international dance day to you, my sweet sister!

    1. Happy International Dance Day to you too, my amazing big sis! I hope you enjoy the barre video - I sure do!