Barre Class: Plié your way to a ballet body

    Barre Class
    Nutcracker season is over — and while Disney’s cinematic version didn’t quite set the world alight this year, plenty of us are still reliving our annual dose of live ballet at the theater. The grace, the strength, the beautiful bodies… Feeling inspired to work out like a dancer? That’s an excellent plan… and Barre class is the perfect place to go.

    1Benefits of barre

    Who wouldn’t want a dancer’s posture? Classical ballet classes are not just for five-year-olds. All about alignment, coordination, and sheer hard work, ballet is a brilliant way to get toned while giving your brain a workout too.

    That’s the thinking behind Barre classes, which incorporate elements of ballet into low-impact workouts that promise to sculpt your body into an altogether leaner and more graceful shape.

    Studios like The Bar Method and Pure Barre put their own spin on the practice, but basically you do a ton of pliés in various positions — feet turned out, feet in parallel, up on your toes, feet out wide — until your legs start to shake uncontrollably.

    “Shaking is good!” your instructor will tell you. “It means your muscles are changing.”

    Certainly it means that you’ll find it difficult to walk the next day. Do it regularly, however, and you’ll feel your legs getting stronger. I did barre twice a week for two years before moving to San Francisco and sent a prayer of thanks to my old studio every time I had to walk up a hill.

    2Jewish inspiration

    There’s a lot more to Jews and ballet than Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis in Black Swan. From the Russian megastar Maya Plisetskaya to Dame Alicia Markova, some of the most famous ballerinas of all time were Jewish.

    These days, Israeli choreographers are creating a buzz in the dance world. At Sadler’s Wells Theatre in London, there are three Israeli choreographers — Hofesh Shechter, Jasmin Vardimon and Sharon Eyal — among just 16 associate artists. Perhaps most inspiring of all is Jewish-Australian dancer Eileen Kramer, who is still performing at the age of 103.

    3What to wear

    For help getting motivated, consider that dance wear is just so eternally cool, with its effortless layering and those cropped sweats designed to fall off the shoulder, Flashdance-style. Not surprisingly, activewear brands have caught on. Under Armour and principal ballerina Misty Copeland launched the Misty Copeland Signature Collection this year, and Athleta has just released its new collaboration with the San Francisco Ballet.

    So even if your tendu technique is not quite there yet, you can at least look the part.

    Susannah Cohen is a fashion journalist, e-commerce editor (specialist subjects: lingerie and diamonds) and Jewish mom. Recently relocated from London to the West Coast, she’s feeling a lot more spiritual these days.