To put it plainly, ballet begins at the barre.
What does that mean, exactly? Ballet is usually taught in a studio that offers plenty of room for student dancers to move about. The lessons are basically exercises in "body mechanics" that help students perfect the basic positions and movements of classical ballet [source: Kirsten]. Repetition is important: In later years, accomplished dancers will still practice in much the same way.
Dancers begin to practice slowly while holding onto the barre, a long wooden, horizontal railing along the wall of the studio or rehearsal room. (Think of it as a set of ballet training wheels.) Holding onto the barre make it easier for young dancers to accomplish the exercises. Later, they'll be allowed to try the movements in the center of the room without the barre.
Make no mistake, though: The barre isn't just for beginners. Every day, every class, every ballet practice starts with a session of exercises at the barre. In fact, barre is also a term used to mean the exercises that make up the first part of a class [source: Dancehelp.com]. Constant practice is crucial to success in ballet.
Read on to learn more about ballet's basic movements.