How Camille Rommett Is Keeping Her Mother's Floor-Barre Method Legacy Alive

Camille Rommett, left, with her mother Zena, who founded the floor-barre method. Photo courtesy of Rommett.

In 1965, Zena Rommett was asked to teach her unique Floor-Barre method at the American Ballet Center by ballet legend Robert Joffrey. Her gentle-yet-effective technique inspired countless professional dancers over the years, who became faithful followers as a supplement to their dance training. From choreographer Lar Lubovitch to Tommy Tune, Patrick Swayze and Judith Jamison, many swear by the benefits of the technique. Rommett taught it until she was 90.

The summer after Rommett's death, her daughter Camille made her debut on the faculty of our Dance Teacher Summit. She describes teaching to a packed convention room as "a very humbling experience." Despite students often telling her she sounds similar to her mother, she's learned it's not about filling her mother's shoes, but keeping her mother's legacy—and the integrity of the technique—alive.

Dance Teacher: Do you approach teaching the technique differently to teachers versus to dancers?

Camille Rommett: At the Summit, for instance, I give an introductory class because it's a very detailed and meticulous technique. It would be impossible to teach the whole curriculum in an hour. That's why we offer the teaching certification workshops. When I teach teachers, I emphasize what Zena was about: reinforcing correct alignment, strengthening the joints, lengthening the muscles and being gentle. The three movements I'm able to break down in an hour class always come back to these points. We don't say "exercises," we say "series of movements."

Camille teaching at a DT Summit. Photo courtesy of Rommett

DT: Why not "exercises"?

CR: It's not like a gym or an exercise class where a specific set of muscles is going to be targeted for the day. Zena could tell what students needed by the way they entered the classroom. That's why we refer to the Rommett technique as a "series of movements." My mother used to say "a good teacher doesn't teach what she knows; she teaches what the dancers need."

Photo courtesy of Break The Floor

DT: What's it like continuing your mother's brand?

CR: I think of Zena every day, yes as my mother, but maybe even more as my partner. We talked about Floor-Barre five times a day. When I bump into my mother's old students, the feedback can be overwhelming because she reached so many people through her technique. When you correct your alignment, and address the body in this way, it can affect everyone, not just dancers. It was typical in Zena's classes to not only have dancers attend—an architect would be lying next to Judith Jamison. This is what drives me to continue the brand and her legacy. The new team of Floor-Barre mentors—a panel of 12, which includes Renee Robinson, who just retired from Alvin Ailey after 30 years—are also keeping the technique alive. This group of high-caliber former professional dancers and teachers are devoted to passing along the method in its purity. It's extremely motivating and rewarding. Zena would be very proud.

Teacher Voices
Getty Images

I often teach ballet over Zoom in the evenings, shortly after sunset. Without the natural light coming from my living room window, I drag a table lamp next to my portable barre so that the computer's camera can see me clearly enough. I prop the laptop on a chair taken from the kitchen and then spend the next few hours running back and forth between the computer screen of Zoom tiles and my makeshift dance floor.

Much of this setup is the result of my attempts to recreate the most important aspects of an in-person dance studio: I have a barre, a floor and as much space as I can reasonably give myself within a small apartment. I do not, however, have a mirror, and neither do most of my students.

Keep reading... Show less
Allie Burke, courtesy Lo Cascio

If you'd hear it on the radio, you won't hear it in Anthony Lo Cascio's tap classes.

"If I play a song that my kids know, I'm kind of disappointed in myself," he says. "I either want to be on the cutting edge or playing the classics."

He finds that most of today's trendy tracks lack the depth needed for tap, and that there's a disconnect between kids and popular music. "They have trouble finding the beat compared to older genres," he says.

Keep reading... Show less
Teachers Trending
Courtesy Lovely Leaps

After the birth of her daughter in 2018, engineer Lisa McCabe had reservations about returning to the workforce full-time. And while she wanted to stay home with the new baby, she wasn't ready to stop contributing financially to her family (after all, she'd had a successful career designing cables for government drones). So, when she got a call that September from an area preschool to lead its dance program, she saw an opportunity.

The invitation to teach wasn't completely out of the blue. McCabe had grown up dancing in Southern California and had a great reputation from serving as her church's dance teacher and team coach the previous three years (stopping only to take a break as a new mother). She agreed to teach ballet and jazz at the preschool on Fridays and from there created an age-appropriate class based on her own training in the Cecchetti and RAD methods. It was a success: In three months, class enrollment went from six to 24 students, and just one year later, McCabe's blossoming Lovely Leaps brand had contracts with eight preschools and three additional teachers.

Keep reading... Show less

Get Dance Business Weekly in your inbox

Sign Up Used in accordance with our Privacy Policy.