Meet you at the barre

lr407 4 May 2016

Pure Barre, The Barre Method, Balletcercise – whatever you call it, if it means you develop the physique of Darcy Bussell, I’m interested.

Endorsed in recent years by such names as Natalie Portman and Madonna, it seems that prancing around in tights is more than a good afternoon’s fun: now, it’s good for you. This trend in the pursuit of the so-called ‘ideal-body’ gained popularity several years ago with the release of ‘Black Swan’ and has maintained its momentum.

As fun as it might be to indulge in old childhood dreams, I was sceptical as to any real fitness benefits (how is spinning around supposed to give me abs, I ask incredulously).

According to its supporters, the workout achieved through ballet helps promote the lean muscle, superior cardio-vascular system, balance, strength and flexibility of Baryshnikov or Fonteyn without – we hope – the grimace-worthy foot damage. Though not all barre based workouts are the same, the majority consist of a number of moves than can be performed (with some difficulty, I might add) at home. The Relevé Plié (the French have certainly outdone us on the word ‘squat’), Arabesque, or Rond de Jambe all appear to be popular choices, stimulating muscle growth in the calves, thighs, abs and glutes.

In the spirit of ‘new term, new me’ I endeavoured to try a few of these highly acclaimed moves at home. Before I give my verdict, an important point should be noted: I am about as inflexible as Donald Trump’s opinion on who will pay for the wall. To me, bending over backwards is a strictly intellectual activity, and not one to be attempted physically without on-looking medical personal. What could go wrong?

In spite of all this, my opinion of pure barre remains surprisingly positive. Carefully following online videos, I suspended my legs on chairs in all the appropriate ways, and am, in spite of myself, pleased with the results. I can’t say it was easy: be prepared for some serious fight-back from your thigh and ab muscles. Nor can I claim that a few days worth of balletcercise has got me looking like Misty Copeland (I know, I’m sad about it too). However, I would say that in terms of toning and core strength, it does what it says on the tutu.

Achieving those unearthly shapes on the barre requires an equally unearthly amount of control and stamina, the acquisition of which should prove immensely useful in any other form of exercise, and contributes no end to a clean bill of health. Happy dancing!