Last summer, I went to my first ever ballet performance and I loved it. It made me wish I’d stuck with those ballet lessons I’d started taking when I was about six. Now, sadly, I feel my chance to become a ballerina has passed. The word “graceful” really isn’t one that many/anyone would really associate with me and I’m not sure that’s something I can ever change. Likewise the word coordinated. Plus I like Domino’s too much to ever be in that kind of shape. But I figured I do have it in me to at least try barre – a kind of ballet-inspired aerobics workout. That’s probably the closest I can get.
I first tried barre at Barrecore‘s Kensington branch. I was informed I would need a pair of sticky socks to be allowed into the class so I spent the time beforehand running around looking for a pair. I couldn’t find any so forked out £12 for Barrecore’s own ones. I suspect I could have got away with not having any if I just hadn’t said anything when I went in but I was actually glad of them. Not only were they really quite good socks (my feet were so cost) but the class was really intense (although still doable if you’re a beginner like me). Perhaps I would have found it even harder if I was sliding all around the place.
The instructor was very nice and very enthusiastic. There was music playing and I felt like I was in an American aerobics fitness video. We did a bit of work at the ballet barre along the wall but we mostly stayed at our mats, doing strength training exercises and stretches. 10 minutes into the hour class, I was ready to give up. One girl actually left halfway through. I assumed I’d do the same but I actually made it. The instructor later described the class as extreme pilates. I’ve never done pilates before but I imagine that’s a pretty accurate description.
The class ended with a shavasana (relaxation pose) – which is generally my favourite part of yoga classes – where you can just lie there while the instructor says soothing things. I’ve even be known to doze off. However, this wasn’t yoga and this class was not at all easy. I was not going to be allowed to take a nap, however brief. We had to do some more stretches here but at least these were easier ones for us to cool down.
Since then, other classes I have been to at Slice Studios and Cupcake in Parsons Green, Triyoga in Camden and Fitness Fusions in Clapham have involved more ballet-esque moves and time spent at the ballet barre. Triyoga’s studio made me feel like I had suddenly stepped outside of London and into a spa resort somewhere more exotic, with lots of wood panelling in the corridors. Although the leak from the skylight above my head brought me right back to England. My class at Fitness Fusions involved being at the barre for most of the class (which admittedly got a bit repetitive), before a bit of core work on mats towards the end. This barre was a portable metal stand placed in the middle of the room, as opposed to being attached to the wall, which made balancing slightly harder but at least this meant you had to focus and work even harder.
Disco Barre also hold a weekly class in Pop Brixton – a street food and local business venue, surrounded by shipping containers. The room where the class takes place is covered in rows of fairylights. It’s a pretty setting for such an intense class that will give your legs a serious workout. Most of the class is spent using metal fencing – the type you more often see used to organising queues outside of venues – as a barre and doing various leg exercises, before moving to mats on the floor – all whilst loud disco music is playing. This is probably my favourite barre class, although sometimes the loud music does make it hard to hear what the instructor is actually saying but you can still get the gist.
If you fancy being both a boxer and a ballerina at the same time, then Paola’s BodyBarre in Fulham offers a Boxerina class.The studio was quite hard to get to and relatively small, but it was quite sleek. The class did involve some cardio exercises in the plie position, but this was the extent of the ballet-esque stuff. There was a lot more general cardio and boxing exercises, which were completely exhausting. I left so tired I was barely capable of catching the two buses and two tubes I needed to get home. If you just want the ballerina side of things, Paola’s BodyBarre offers regular barre classes to in the form of its PBB Signature class, combining both work at the barre and on mats. If you can’t make it all the way to Fulham, you can find PBB classes also held at Lorna Jane’s in Covent Garden – a snazzy fitness shop with a studio below.
If you are in the mood for something more ballet-centric, Barreworks hold a ballet workout class, in addition to their barre classes. This class is held in The Vestry Hall in Richmond and, on my first visit, I almost missed it after getting stuck in traffic and just missing my train. Thankfully, I was able to jump into the warm up, although I didn’t feel particularly ballerina-y as I’d had to run and so turned up hot, red, sweaty and with my hair all over the place.
The studio felt like the kind of place where you’d learn to be a ballerina. The walls were mirrored and there were golden decorations on the white paint above. There was also classical music playing, but don’t be fooled. This didn’t mean the class was any less intense than classes with much more high tempo tunes.
The class involved a lot of ballet movements, composing of both stretches and dance elements, including plies and various leg positions. We also did quite a few movements using the ballet barre and even the odd twirl. Once again, my un-coordination reared its ugly head. My main problem, however, was simply holding my arms aloft for basically an hour. In my second class, the teacher even taught us a short ballet routine at the end. I liked the dance element even if I couldn’t actually do it, even slightly.