First of all, a huge thank you to everyone who voted for me in the Face of Human Tested competition. While first place went to the very deserving Kristy, the top five finalists were asked to participate in the promotional photo shoot with the amazing photographer, Nelli Scarlet, and that includes me! I love Nelli’s work as a photographer and singer and it’s a little known fact we actually went to secondary/technical college together. Plus she’s on the campaign for animal rights and lives a plant-based life too!
Have you jumped on the Ballet-inspired fitness trend?
Even before Black Swan came out, the fitness world had started to embrace more traditional dance-based fitness classes, moving away from the Aerobics and choreographed group classes. Even the classes that dancers use to condition their own bodies, such as Pilates and Reformer, were becoming more popular due to the lean, long muscle shapes that develop. Ballet has been around since the 15th century but started to become popular for recreation in the 1920s. Many young girls who start classes with the dream of becoming a Ballerina, continue to take classes more casually as as a form of fitness and to maintain good posture.
Miranda Kerr works out with Ballet Barre Fitness
During ballet classes, there is not necessarily a choreographed dance portion, but most often a series of conditioning exercises, using the Barre (a beam about waist height usually installed alongside a mirror but can also be freestanding), or away from the Barre using balance only. Ballet-inspired workout classes use the barre as a prop for bodyweight isometric moves, holding positions like pliés (similar to squats) for a minute or more to work both leg and stabilising muscles.
Barre classes tend to have mainly women due to the association with the ballerina body and traditional image of a female dancer. Ballet dancers are well toned but due to the requirements of the dance style and tradition, don’t tend to have large muscle mass, which is an attractive model for women.
The benefits of ballet for the body
In barre-stye classes the standing exercises and floor mat work means that your core is constantly engaged. Using your body weight for isometric exercises—and a long range of motion—means that you develop strength while maintaining flexibility, and sculpting longer, leaner muscles.
Ballet not only improves agility and flexibility, but it’s great for balance—profesional sports players, especially those in ball sports like soccer—have used ballet and Pilates for dexterity and balance training as well as rehabilitation.
I talked my boyfriend into letting me put a picture of him without a shirt on the internet
for your viewing pleasure to illustrate my point. Not that I can remember what that was now…
Oh yes, if you’ve ever watched The Royal Ballet or The Bolshoi Ballet perform, even on TV, or seen any ballet movies like Centre Stage and, more recently Black Swan, you’d know that dancers are very lean but have amazing arms; strong, lean legs; toned abs and ridiculously good posture. Apart from the fact that the female dancers are unsustainably lean on a regular diet and exercise schedule, they have an enviable body shape. I most admire the muscles in the back and arms, but legs are definitely up there. The guys often do little gym work to support their dance schedule, instead their primary upper body workout is lifting those girls as they dance, and those jumps are squats on steroids! Not that you can see it in this photo but one of my favourite parts of my boyfriend’s body (aside from facial features etc pf course!) are his strong, powerful legs. I’ve tested their strength by “forcing” him to piggy back me up several flights of stairs after a few wines and he could do it with ease and barely a shortening of breath. These professionals are super-fit!
Since the early 19th century, Western society has adopted a negative view of male ballet dancers, or danseurs. Danseurs are stereotyped as weak, effeminate or homosexual. In a 2003 sociological study, male ballet dancers reported several stereotypes they had been confronted with including “feminine, homosexual, wimp, spoiled, gay, dainty, fragile, weak, fluffy, woosy, prissy, artsy and sissy”. — (Fisher & Shay, 2007)
I don’t know about you, but I don’t think my man looks fragile, weak, or dainty in any way, shape or form. He’s over six foot tall and is covered in lots of functional muscle mass, it’s not exactly what I would call scrawny! The young women he dances with may look delicate from the seats in the theatre but up close they are mostly lean muscle also, and they need to be. Not to mention that posture, which immediately makes one seem taller and more confident anyway.
The easiest way to get that amazing posture and core strength is to think of your posture and engage your abs and glutes while you’re doing dishes, brushing your teeth or preparing food. But most of all, be aware of your body. See your body and what it’s doing. The more aware you are, the stronger your core—and better your posture—will become.
Do you want a Ballet body?
In Australia, there are many different Ballet companies and dance studios that cater for casual public classes and fitness centres that offer fusion classes or even adult ballet. Search the internet for centres in your local area using ‘ballet’ and ‘fitness’.
If you’re looking for Barre specifically, try one of these studios;
My favourites are Xtend Barre for a higher intensity class that uses upbeat music and makes you sweat and Barre Body for the perfect yoga-Pilates-Barre fusion inside the amazing tranquil surroundings of Endota Spa.
Also try Barre Attack, The Booty Barre or BarreCode (Tas), or try one of these DVDs for a workout in-house!
Expect to work in classes like this though, always think “a little lower” than you are already. Not kidding! In classes, whether it’s pole dancing, barre or yoga, I always try and push myself a little bit further until I’m just over the line into agony and that’s when the instructors always say “now pulse” and my legs start shaking… but that’s where the magic happens! I always get asked if I am either a dancer or a swimmer and I don’t consider my background being that heavily dance-oriented, so a bit of maintenance does pay off.
Dancers really are otherworldly sometimes, with their flexibility, grace and storytelling ability, let alone the feats of balance, agility and strength. Just for fun, check out this behind-the-scenes video of QB’s Giselle regional tour, and you’ll see a couple of extra cameos from my boy too, heehee.
Have you been to an Adult Ballet, Barre class, Yoga/Ballet Fusion or maybe even a Pilates Reformer class before?
Leave a comment and tell me about your experience!
Fisher J, Anthony S (Eds), When Men Dance: Choreographing Masculinities Across Borders, 2009, Oxford University Press.
Fisher J, Make It Maverick: Rethinking the “Make It Macho” Strategy for Men in Ballet, 2007, Dance Chronicle,30:45-66.