And one… and two… and point… and stretch…
My history with ballet is… well, to say it’s chequered would be something of an overstatement – I was the chubby child at the back in the hand-knitted cardigan who surprised everyone by actually scraping through her Grade 1 and was then *sniff* encouraged to give up by the teacher.
But, with my girlish dreams newly revived by watching my littlest leaping about in her leotard, the prospect of a Pilates class which incorporates elements of ballet was definitely intriguing. I take a Pilates class weekly anyway and love it, so I was curious about adding in some other bits to mix things up a bit. And giving Barre Pilates a go at the Pilates Pod in Hitchin seemed like the way to go – so along I went.
The class is taught by Ellen Tipping – who is a trained professional dancer (you can so tell) and a Pilates teacher. The idea is to bring together the grace and poise of ballet with the stability and control of Pilates. I could totally see that, watching Ellen demonstrate what we were doing – and as long as I didn’t look in the mirror, I could sort of imagine I was doing just that as well.
I really enjoy the Pilates I do every week – and I’m starting to get just the teensiest bit pleased with myself – but the Barre class challenged me (and particular bits of me) in some whole new ways, as well as pushing me in some familiar ones. The class starts off with short ‘routines’ – with music and everything – that repeat particular moves, at some speed for some of them, and focuses in on particular muscles (hellooo, calves…) as well as testing your balance.
Joseph Pilates wasn’t a dancer (much like me…), but he worked with dancers like Mikhail Baryshnikov and Martha Graham – to name just a couple – as well as teaching his method to young dancers to help them get back from injury or avoid it in the first place.
I’d sort of imagined a ballet barre along the wall before I got to the class – but there wasn’t one. Instead, there was a pole (and yes, Mr C made some hilarious ‘jokes’ when I told him that) which we used to stabilize ourselves. (Imagine holding it a bit like the teacher did at the beginning of Fame – “I’m gonna make you pay… in sweat!” – only without the banging and shouting.) Trying to keep the pole upright helped me keep myself upright, and (let’s be honest) stopped me falling over more than once.
Ellen was great as a teacher – very encouraging, very enthusiastic (without being shouty), and ready to both compliment and correct. She worked us hard, but smiled at us all the whole way through, and tailored the class, making individual modifications for different people.
Once we’d finished with the barre, we moved onto mat work – and got some serious stretching in as well. In fact, it felt like Ellen packed a lot into an hour, and the time seemed to race by. Despite really feeling like I’d worked hard (I did, honest!), I felt great afterwards and the next day.
The class did challenge me, but in a very positive way. I was focusing on my core, Pilates-style, but I was having to think hard about balance and movement and all the ‘ballet’ bits at the same time. I would definitely go back, though – wanna come?