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Ballet barre emerging as Calgary’s newest health trend

By Carlyn Stilling, July 16 2015 —

was the kid in ballet class who tripped and took out all the other little ballerinas in the dance circle. Needless to say, ballet and I don’t get along.

When I started to see that “ballet barre” classes were the latest fitness trend, I cringed. These classes are all around Calgary and the most popular ones even have waiting lists for their extra clients. So I figured there must be something to it.

University of Calgary ballet barre instructor Stephanie Vahaaho talked about the myths behind this latest trend. Although I thought the classes were purely ballet-based, many are a fusion of various different fitness components.

“Barre fusion combines blended elements of pilates, core conditioning, classical ballet and resistance training on and off a barre,” Vahaaho said.

The class is typically broken into three components — barre, arms and core. The U of C’s barre class has more of a fitness-based feel to it, rather than focusing only on dance. Vahaaho believes these classes are popular because they appeal to both those interested in dance and those seeking the health benefits of a traditional exercise class. Ballet barre develops strength, muscle tone, coordination and flexibility while promoting proper posture, joint flexibility and lower back stability.

Vahaaho assured me that you don’t have to have a dance background to participate — they even allow ballet school dropouts like myself.

Those with injuries can also take part, as the instructors modify the program to fit participants’ limitations. Each person can adjust their workout to their own level and modifications are always an option.

The class sizes are usually small, with 12–20 students. Both men and women take part, with many using the class to supplement other fitness activities. Vahaaho suggests up to two classes per week to see results.

You don’t even need the leotard or the tight bobby-pinned bun. Vahaaho recommends wearing whatever exercise clothes you normally would, as well as socks with grips on the bottom or bare feet. Other equipment like free-weights is provided, but you should bring a yoga mat and towel.

The U of C’s summer class offerings will run until August 25. They cost $80 for the full program, and will continue during the Fall and Winter semesters from September 14 to December 7 for $110.


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