You too can have a ballet body

If you exercise like the BalletBoyz, don't count on developing their physiques. Photo: Danny North
Katie is an award-winning arts journalist specialising in dance and physical theatre
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From the cavewoman workout plan to sweaty yoga, we're not short on quirky exercise options… But it is the new year and thus I must make an attempt at getting my flabacious butt into gear, to keep up with the Joneses if nothing else.

I am actually a fan of exercise, but I believe that for long-term sustainability, running like a hamster on a wheel inside a gym just isn’t going to cut it. With dancercise, you can develop strength and flexibility but you can also be creatively fulfilled, and make it into a bit of a social event too.

There’s a lot on offer in terms of ballet-fitness classes. Ever since the film, people have been going Black Swan crazy in an attempt to shrink down to Natalie Portman proportions. (This is a fool’s notion, btw, and impossible, and that’s the end on’t).

I’ve been meaning to get a DVD of the New York City Ballet Workout for ages – the exercise plan that aims to get you ballet beautiful through a series of targeted, small, high impact movements focusing on the arms, abs, glutes and thighs, and hopefully the stamina that doesn’t leave you a hot, sweaty mess post-workout. The idea is to work on muscle definition without bulking up too much.

But as much as we’d all love a longer, leaner body, I think you’d need to combine this kind of class with cardio, a pretty strict eating plan and do it once a day to look like Wendy Whelan. In fact ex-NYCB dancer Brynn Jinnett went so far as to say:

Just because a ballerina teaches your workout class doesn't mean you're going to look like her at the end of the class. She's probably has a restrictive diet and great genetics and has spent years and years working out.

Gal’s got a pointe (hah, sorry).

But there are classes all over the place at the moment, capitalising on the above kind of workout. My local gym runs an Xtende Barre class, a sort of fusion of pilates, ballet and aerobics. The idea is that: “If Pilates sculpts your body, Xtend Barre chisels it.” There’s lots of plies, jumping, demanding repetition of dance-based moves at the barre and in the centre focusing on different body parts, sometimes using added weights. It certainly feels like it’s burning the calories, and it’s a lot of fun too – there’s girls of all ages in the one I go to, and everyone is smiling throughout.

There’s also Barrecore that claims to be pushing pilates out of the top toning spot on the exercise charts. Working at the barre, the major muscle groups are exercised to exhaustion, which improves tone when you stretch. It also works on posture and deep, intense conditioning while using the traditional ballet feet positions, first to fifth. Barreworks (), Balletbefit and Ballet Tone offer similar classes.

Then of course there’s Zumba (booty-shaking mambo, salsa and hip-hop steps) and Polefit (yes, exercise on a stripper pole, would you very believe it), plus jazz and street dance that are great for exercise. Or for those who are less into the discipline but all about the raging, there’s a new rave dance class on the scene. Ravercise is a healthy, high intensity cardio, stretch and tone dance party to a live DJ set playing drum’n’bass and dub step. Barry's Bootcamp (also has a Dance Party class, with routines set to a live DJ).

So there you have it – here’s to more skank outs/plies in 2014.