The world of cross – training and fitness is vast. One of the fastest growing areas is that of the “barre” class.
As a serious dancer, many of the options out there are silly to me. Most of them claim to have ballet influences however, I’ve definitely taken barre classes where the only ballet influence was the fact that there was a barre attached to the wall.
I’m not going to give you an overview of all barre classes but rather I’m going to share one that I’ve found that speaks to my sensibilities and abilities as a dancer – because it can do the same for you.
As I’m retired from dance and have struggled with pain from my ankle injuries I don’t take ballet classes regularly anymore and even some workouts cause issues for me.
In August, I started teaching and taking Xtend Barre regularly. With Xtend Barre, I’ve seen a steady increase both in my ankle strength and stability as well as increased flexibility and overall body strength. I got my ballerina arms back (there’s even an exercise in the arms section called “black swan arms” – a personal fav.).
The class starts with a dancey warm up followed by arms, barre – targeting thighs then glutes, Pilates inspired abs and a final push through seat muscles before ending class with a stretch.
Xtend Barre provides a big cardio element, something you don’t get in all barre classes or a ballet class with all the stopping and starting. It’s high energy and provides a really great balance of movement and sculpting.
Instructors use actual ballet terms to take you through class – 1st and 2nd position plies, tendus, battements, port de bras, attitude, passe. And, there’s a focus on alignment – with familiar cues like shoulders over hips, knees tracking over 2nd and 3rd toes, belly button to spine, ribs knitting in – the familiarity is really comforting and you’ll feel right at home.
You’ll likely find a more balletic class with a former dancer and you can read instructor bios right on each studios website to see who you’d like to work with.
Last week I went back to a ballet class for the first time in over 6 months. In the past when I’ve gone to class after being away for that long it felt nearly impossible – even when I was incorporating other exercise or barre classes.
This time, however, I was able to control my breath from all the cardio I had gotten used to. I noticed right away the strength I had from Xtend Barre and my extensions were close to where they were when I was dancing professionally. Even more importantly, my ankle felt awesome throughout the entire class and I was able to jump – I haven’t done that in nearly 3 years!
I wanted to share Xtend Barre with you because it’s on 5 – continents, it’s growing, and I think it’s a great way for dancers to cross train – you’re working your muscles the way you’re supposed to but with a different intensity and energy. It can improve strength, flexibility and stamina.
If you’re in the Burlington, MA area you can come check out my class – I’d be SO thrilled to meet you in person!!
I’d also love to hear your experience with Xtend Barre or another barre class you’ve tried. Share your thoughts in the comments below!
photo: Sydney Rose Photography