A Graceful Workout

If you’re looking to tone your body, improve your posture and learn a new skill, ballet dancing may be the activity for you. But what if you’ve never attempted ballet before? Can you still pick up the skills needed to glide and twirl your way to that elusive dancer’s body?

As a self-confessed gym-bunny who believes that a good workout should leave a person sweaty, out of breath and pretty exhausted, ballet is one activity that’s never really crossed my mind. But after reading that ballet is a total body workout that can help build a long and lean body, I figured it was worth a go.

Decision made, I signed myself up for a beginner adult ballet class at the Central School of Ballet (CSB) in Clerkenwell and went along the next day before I could change my mind.

Waiting to start the class outside the dance studio I couldn’t help but notice one woman chatting to her friend while casually doing the splits. I immediately started to panic. Would I be expected to pull off equally impressive moves?

The answer, it turned out, was no. The super stretchy woman was actually the instructor.

With that concern laid to rest I decided to just go with the flow and have fun, and I have to say that this is probably the best way to approach your first ever ballet lesson.

As I found out, adult ballet classes are not only popular with women, but also with men. The class featured a healthy mix of ages, body shapes and reasons for attending among its 20 budding dancers. Some in the class were former dancers looking to get back into ballet. Others (like me) were there to try something new. Some even admitted to starting the classes after being inspired by Natalie Portman’s physique in the film Black Swan.

The class itself is 90 minutes long. It starts with a 45-minute session of barre work, in which pupils get to grips with the five key ballet arm and foot positions. If you follow the instructor’s advice and hit your positions properly, you’ll start to feel a burn in your arms and legs, a bit like with pilates.

Once you’ve got to grips with the key ballet moves, floor work begins and things get more complicated. The instructor Hannah Frost (standing in for the usual teacher David Kierce) assured me that everyone feels lost during their first class, so with that in mind I decided the best strategy was to make up my own version of the jumps and turns shown.

I may have (OK, let’s make that definitely) looked like a prized idiot, but I have to admit that I had fun and the next day I woke up with sore back and arm muscles. In my book, that’s a sign of a good workout.

Tips for budding ballet dancers:

  1. Wear comfortable clothing you can move in
  2. Don’t go barefoot – wear socks instead
  3. Don’t expect miracles from your first class. Hannah assures me that she has seen total body transformations, but this comes with months of regular attendance.

Adult ballet classes at the Central School of Ballet cost £8 and are held in the evenings on Monday to Thursday and on Sunday afternoons.

Central School of Ballet
10 Herbal Hill
Clerkenwell Road

Tel:  020 7837 6332

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