A Black Belt Goes to Barre Class

Martial Arts Ballet Dance Kids Teens Adults Southlake TX 76092

I usually avoid the latest fitness crazes because I’ve found what works for me, but I’ve been intrigued by a trend that started catching on last year: barre class, as in, a body sculpting workout using a ballet barre.  Ballet, like Pilates and yoga, is well-known for its ability to build long, lean muscles and improve flexibility and balance. I actually like the fact that I’ve bulked up from taekwondo, which probably makes me the odd woman out, but having studied dance as an undergrad, I have an appreciation for the lean muscle tone ballet training can provide.

Luckily for me, I didn’t have to scrounge Groupon for a discounted pass to the PureBarre studio in my neighborhood. My gym, where I mostly swim and take yoga classes, recently added a barre class to the roster. Tonight I donned my favorite tank and stretch pants and went to check it out.

The only hesitation I had about the class was the name:
Bootybarre.

….um, okay, whatever.

First of all, I don’t need any help in that department. Nineteen years of yoga practice plus intense taekwondo classes and all the squats and box jumps I do in physical therapy have served me very well. Second of all, what a childish, pandering name for a class! It feels too ridiculous to even say out loud. I’m not trying to be a humorless prude, but…Bootybarre? Really??

I didn’t go into the workout expecting an easy, soft stretch class. Let’s level set here: Ballet is HARD. It’s strenuous, deeply technical, and demands full engagement of the body from head to pointed toe. The physical training and mind-body awareness I developed in college dance classes has helped me quite a bit with the equally highly technical demands of taekwondo, although kicking the crap out of someone has a certain…hmm…je ne se quoi that can’t be replicated in a dance class. I didn’t expect it to be too hard, though. “Bootybarre” is held at my gym, not a professional dance studio, so how hard could it be?

The short version: This class kicked my ass. Walking down my stairs tomorrow is going to be painful.

The class began with some simple plies. Okay, this was familiar, I could do this. When my quads started burning less than ten minutes in I knew I was in trouble. After the warm up we switched to dumbbell lifts. 2.5 pound weights? Pssh! No problem…until we started doing all the dumbbell lifts while standing tall on the balls of our feet. Ugh. Hopefully in taekwondo class my Koryo ready stance that I do on tippy toes (yes, that is the technical term) will be solid as a rock after this.

The rest of the class was a blur of leg lifts that left my legs feeling like jelly. After squeezing a ball between my burning thighs for what felt like an hour (okay, more like five minutes) it was a relief to drop to the floor and do some ab work. After being reminded to “zip up my core” for the last forty-five minutes I was pleased that my abs held up better than my legs did. Plus, the final song that was playing was a dance club mix of Led Zeppelin’s “Black Dog,” so I had extra motivation to keep moving. “Gon’ make you sweat, make you sweat, make you sweat!”

“Do you do ballet?” a woman asked me after the class.
“Oh, I did a little in college, but now I’m into martial arts,” I said as I put the aforementioned evil ball back in its designated box.
“Well you look like you do it. You move very gracefully.”
“Thanks…except these aren’t from ballet!” I cackled, flashing my bruised forearms at her.

I went home exhausted and sore and consoled myself with a leftover empanada and Cuban rice.

The verdict: worth a try. It was fun, and it can complement the cross training I do to be an agile (and aging) athlete. Like Pilates, yoga, and taekwondo, it taps into the mind-body connection and keeps my muscles lengthened and joints supple. And most importantly, bathing suit season will be here before I know it. I’m already looking forward to next week’s class, ridiculous name and all.

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7 thoughts on “A Black Belt Goes to Barre Class

  1. Our dojang is outfitted with a barre, and let’s just say I would think twice before attending that class!

    Is Koryeo the only place you toe-up in the ready stance, or is it a general thing? We used to do it in ready stance in general, some 10-12 years ago, but it was changed.

    Liked by 1 person

    • A barre in the dojang is a wonderful tool. I use it to warm up before almost every class–no ballet moves, I just stick to stretches and swinging my leg back and forth. My instructor created a warm up for me that specifically targets spin kick; I love it. After the “Bootybarre” class (ugh) I was mostly sore in my abs, so I guess my legs and rear end are a lot stronger than I thought. Thank you, taekwondo! As far as I know Koreyo choom-bee is the only one we do on the balls of our feet. Funny you should ask, I coached at a tournament today, and most of the competitors doing Koreyo stayed flat. At my school we rise up, lifting our hands in knife hands (palms up), and then do the triangle push-out hands thing as we’re lowering back to the ground. Same thing at the very end.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Such fond memories of pushing endless, slow kicks at the barre. The students just love it!

        Re: Koryeo, my approach is the exact opposite – I teach a screwing of the feet into the ground to generate internal torque (i. e. root), but this is a feature of every junbi in any setting here. Very interesting that you do it only in Koryeo.

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