A ballerina bod without all the training, bloody feet (yeah, I’ve seen Centre Stage) and nausea-inducing pirouettes? Sign me up.
A few times in my life, I’ve been asked if I was ever a ballet dancer. I like to think it’s because of my posture and femininity, but it’s probably because a good chunk of my wardrobe consists of scoop-back tops, flowy skirts and ballet flats. My response? “Yes! I was!” But that’s not exactly true. I took like six classes when I was five, and that was it. But, I’ve always wanted to be a ballerina—or at least have their physique.
I heard about barre, a ballet-inspired workout, years ago from my sister, friends, in the media—everywhere, really. But it wasn’t until I saw Heather Ogden in Swan Lake that I was convinced to give it a whirl (or twirl?) in order to try to master proper posture and a great ballerina figure.
“If you're looking to build a dancer's physique without taking a dance class, barre is for you,” says Nicole Rosove, Communications Director at Barreworks in Toronto. The barre workout is a combination of fitness training, core work and dance, as well as yoga and pilates. I’ve traditionally steered clear of certain forms of workout classes, like “spin”, for fear of bulking up, but apparently, barre isn’t like that. Its said to assist in the development of lean muscles, while also improving posture.
Just a couple weeks after watching Heather leaping across the stage, I was running up the stairs to my first barre class—“bAAArre,” which concentrates on arms, abs and ass—at Barrework’s Queen Street location. I was excited to take the class, but worried about a few things probably everyone worries about when they try a new class: 1) Was the instructor going to yell and be scary? 2) Was I going to be super intimidated by the other girls mastering every move? 3) Would my outfit be okay? Well, I already knew the answer to question No. 3, as I did my Instagram research well in advance to make sure my outfit would be en pointe (had to write that). I wore classic Lululemon 7/8s and a tank, like pretty much all the girls who have Instagrammed themselves at Barreworks.
After checking in, I was brought in to the studio to select weighted balls (lightest ones, please!) and a resistant rope (least resistance, over here!) and reserve my spot in the studio, which is done unofficially by placing a water bottle on the floor by the mirror where a matt and ball are waiting to be used. I was guided to the change rooms where I was able to lock up my belongings, and then I headed back to the studio to do random stretches (as the other girls were doing) to kill time until the class began.
Our instructor, Rachel, chatted briefly with everyone individually—or at least, the ones who looked a little frightened. She welcomed me to the class and told me that since it was my first one, I should feel comfortable to take it easy and take as many breaks as I felt necessary. Answer to question No 1: Nope, no scary instructor.
The workout consisted of squats, dance-like steps, back-kicks, arm moves with weighted balls, resistant moves with the rope, balancing moves with a rubber ball and a few pliés here and there. The moves were easy to catch on, and most of my classmates seemed to be around the same beginner level as I was at (answer to question No. 2). But stuff got hard—after the first 15 minutes, my legs felt like they couldn’t handle another bend, but then the target spot we were working on changed from legs to arms—and that trend continued. As soon as one body part was exhausted, the moves changed to work out another area. I’m going to say this was the mastery of my instructor Rachel—she seemed to push us to work out each part of our bod as much as possible then change to the next area before we’d feel the need to surrender.
After the class, my body felt a little sore, and a little sorer the next day, but it was that good kind of sore you get when you did your muscles some good—and the kind of sore that makes you want to go back for more.
For maximum results, 4-5 barre classes per week are recommended. But, I’m hopelessly devoted to my Tracy Anderson routines, which I conveniently (and cost-effectively) perform every morning in the comfort of my shoebox apartment, so I’ve settled for one class a week, which still offers plenty of benefits. “ Barre is beneficial in any amounts,” says Nicole. “Simply giving yourself the opportunity to connect with your body, even for one hour a week, will have a positive effect on your life.” Barre class can help improve your sleep, concentration and coordination, and it’s the perfect place to work on your posture. “With the support of the barre, you can, with the help of your instructor, improve your overall alignment,” says Nicole. “The more time you spend perfecting your posture at the barre, the easier it will be for your body to replicate it in your everyday life.”
I’ve taken a few classes now, and I feel like my posture is already improving—perhaps it’s just because I’m more cautious of it now, but whatever, it’s working. And until I acquire that perfect ballerina posture, I’ll keep wearing my scoop-back tops and ballet flats to fake it ‘til I make it.