There have been several moments over the years – usually when watching Swan Lake or admiring the sinewy strength of a ballet dancer’s body – when I’ve felt a real twang of regret that I gave up ballet dancing when I was seven. (With the exception of when I watched Black Swan. That made me glad to be a human potato.)
When I accused my mother of denying me the right to be the next Darcey Bussell, however, she replied: “You stopped going because you moaned that the 10-minute walk to the ballet studio was too far.” I refused to believe her.
But as I found myself clutching the barre at the ballet-inspired class Barrecore that uses the principles of a warm-up session mixed in with some cardio, yoga and pilates, I think my mother was right.
While the rest of the class were peacefully carrying on with their exercises, I was hopping around from one foot to the other, trying to take a break from the intensity of the exercises.
The fact is, that ballet is hard. And there is a reason why so many of us wobble into a studio as children only to fall at the first hurdle.
But with the onset of love handles and a chubby bottom that becomes increasingly hard to shift also comes experience and wisdom, so rather than quit when it gets hard, we know that if a class is tough it is likely to yield results.
On average, barre exercises burn around 450 calories. Perhaps it won’t give us back the bodies we had as teenagers, but it certainly will try.
The class starts with some dynamic stretches designed to warm the body up. So far, so easy, I thought, as I looked around the room with mirrored walls. But then comes sequence after sequence of gruelling exercises.
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Small yet very intense movements that work out the core and the abs will have you gasping on the floor. By far, I found the stretches and pulses that worked out the legs and the glutes the most painful, which told me that I needed to work out these areas more.
Also – a word on the music. I was expecting Tchaikovsky, and the soundtrack was a good mix of dance and pop, designed to get you motivated.
Our teacher Perri had the face of a wonderful, beatific fairy but I sensed a will of steel as she nicely but firmly asked us to lower ourselves to the floor.
There were several times I thought we’d be easing into a nice long stretch and instead found myself introducing my muscles to a new sort of torture. However, while the lazy girl in me protested, I knew that this was doing an excellent job of working out muscles I just can’t get to in the gym.
After we tottered out of the class, I felt a familiar burn running from top to toe: the sign of a really good workout. I did wonder how on earth I was going to find the energy to walk home, let alone come back for a second class, but after a while, the burn faded and I was left with a whole bouquet of endorphins released by the class.
The only prohibitive thing I’d say about the classes, is that for the average person, they are quite steep in price. They range from £28 for a drop-in to £22 if you buy them as a package.
I couldn’t afford to keep doing them regularly as well as pay for a gym membership (a lot of the class attendees were lawyers or bankers), but the next time I have a wedding or a big event to prep for, I know that this is most definitely a class that will give my body a sense of leanness and definition.
If you’re willing to put in the hard work, this is easily one of the best fitness classes going at the moment. Even if you are weeping like a baby at the end of it.