By the age of three I was enrolled in tap, jazz, and ballet classes and loved them each in their individual way. But after spending several days a week after school in a dance studio and preparing for recitals, my adolescence kicked in and hanging out with friends became more important. I never hoped to make it on “So You Think You Can Dance?," but I do wish I hadn’t ditched something I enjoyed so much.
Flash forward, ahem, a few years, and my constant search for new workout classes finally brought me close to what I’ve been missing. Local Barre in Hoboken, NJ blends my love of fitness and hunger for ballet into one seriously toe-pointing, calorie-burning workout.
You’ve probably heard about the barre method already—it’s based on ballet techniques to sculpt a dancer’s body on even those who don’t know a plié from a relevé.
And that’s the best part about walking into my first class, Open Barre—it didn’t matter how rusty I was in terms of my lingo or technique. I was worried I wouldn't remember every position or that I wouldn't be able to keep up. Instead I found my small class size and warm instructor to be anything but intimidating.
I also appreciated that the class is designed to improve your workout each time. The instructors want you to push yourself a little further, a little higher, and get a little stronger with each class. Most moves have modifications for levels 1, 2, and 3. I found I was able to push myself to level 3 on some moves, while others I could only do level 1. This method is perfect for gauging your progress, because you get feedback on where you can improve with each visit.
Lead instructor Amber Hirsh says each client has a starting point and a place to challenge deeper when needed. “I am a former professional dancer and my legs still shake when I push myself in class,” she says.
Hirsh led all of my classes, including a Cardio Barre that really gets your heart pumping with non-stop drills that work the entire body. She says the studio’s workouts are designed to cover all the bases that an effective workout should, and I agree—-I felt it.
Among the list of benefits, which include building long, lean muscle, improving endurance, and flexibility, Hirsh says, barre fitness betters your stabilization, and coupled with strengthening your core, can greatly help posture. I saw this first hand when we held the tree pose, a move also found in yoga, which really brought my mind and body to center. You truly have to be engaged from head to toe to hone your balance.
Local Barre is an inviting atmosphere for anyone, even those not versed in the art of ballet. Hirsh emphasizes that you “absolutely do not have to be a dancer to enjoy this workout.”
“Although some of our program is derived from ballet training, we also include the most effective aspects of traditional weight training, yoga, and Pilates to create a well-balanced program appropriate for every fitness background,” she says.
It’s a perfect compromise for me between a high intensity class like boot camp, and more mellow routines like yoga. I might not be tying up my pointe shoes anytime soon, but at each Local Barre class, I get a chance to revisit the dance form I missed. (Thankfully without the pink tutu and layers of sparkly makeup.)