If burlesque is on one end of the dance scale, it could be said that ballet is on the complete opposite. And yet, ballet dancers have often been popular in pin-up, and even in burlesque routines. Though they are different, both dance styles require a certain fluidity and grace to pull them off. Whether you’re balancing on a chair or en pointe, it doesn’t matter – you have to have the confidence to keep yourself upright! 😉
That being said, ballet dancers have a long-standing tradition of whisking us into the realm of the fantastic and the seemingly impossible. Haven’t you ever wondered how they can stand balancing on their toes like that without showing the slightest hint of agony? Not without a lot of hard work and training for sure. In fact, in the 1970’s, a study was done to find out which athletes were the strongest. All different sports were analyzed and reviewed, and the results were astonishing. Number 1 were football players, but guess who were number 2? Yep. Ballet dancers. The data showed that ballet dancers exerted incredible strength balancing their full weight on the tips of their toes, but it was the fact that they showed no signs of physical discomfort or strain while doing it that shot them near the top. Plus, male dancers also have to be strong enough to lift the female dancers. Just goes to show that beauty and strength don’t have to be exclusive of each other.
Now here’s the interesting part: if ballet dancers are so strong, why are they not typically bulky? Could it be that you can actually be toned and lean yet powerful at the same time? The answer is definitely yes, and with the popularity of ballet-inspired workouts today, many are starting to realize this. Of all of them, there is one series I find I like the most for kicking my backside while making me feel as elegant as the great Karen Kain. Say hello… to Ballet Beautiful.
Created by Mary Helen Bowers of New York City Ballet fame, Ballet Beautiful is a program that features ballet-inspired workouts to tone muscles all over the body. The sessions are typically 10-15 minutes long, and you can do them individually as part of a weekly regimen, customize the order for your own unique workout, or do them straight through for a total-body experience. And with the birth of her delightful daughter, Mary Helen has expanded her teaching to include prenatal ballet fitness too! And if you still have any doubt of her expertise, consider this: she trained Natalie Portman for her role in Black Swan, for which the actress won an Oscar. ‘Nuff said. 😉
The two DVDs I’ve tried from Ballet Beautiful are Body Blast and Total Body Workout. Body Blast contains 4 15-minute workouts for arms, full body, and the butt. Total Body Workout has 6 workouts over the course of an hour focusing on bridge exercises, standing exercises, the outer thighs, inner thighs, abs and arms. I was definitely aching by the end of the various sessions, and I found the Swan Arms one from Body Blast and the Arms one from Total Body Workout surprisingly to be the most intense. I never would have thought the exercises used in those segments could be so powerful. And the best part? These two workouts usually are not that expensive. I got my copies at Shoppers Drug Mart for like $15.00 each.
Along with these two DVDs , Mary Helen has written an expanded book for Ballet Beautiful, and has done two ballet-inspired cardio DVDs. You can get the cardio ones through Amazon.ca, and the book through them and Chapters. Your local library may have a copy of the book too, as that is where I got the copy I read. I even found some great stretches in the book that have improved the flexibility in my hips for Kung Fu. Bonus! And if you can’t get those items, no problem! She also offers online classes through her website. For more information about Ballet Beautiful and Mary Helen Bowers, please visit her website at https://www.balletbeautiful.com/.
Again, as with any exercise program, it is always best to consult with your doctor, and play it safe with any moves you feel might be harmful. You alone know your body, and your doctor will be able to help you find alternative moves you can do that will help you achieve your goals without injuring yourself.
Now if you’ll please excuse me, I’ve got some exercises to do. And… pointe!
Always with love,
The Canuck Pin-up