Rachel Grunwell is a fitness writer for the Herald on Sunday.

Fitness Challenge: Class raises the barre

Each week Rachel Grunwell tries a new sport to bring you the lowdown

Barre class at Re:ab gym, Grey Lynn. Photo / Getty Images
Barre class at Re:ab gym, Grey Lynn. Photo / Getty Images


What is it? Ballet-inspired fitness class on a barre.

What's needed? Gym gear, water, small towel.

The experience: New York has an abundance of ballet-inspired classes. There's extend barre, body barre, pure barre, even a butt barre class. They're US$30-$40 (NZ$35-$47) a pop too. Ouch.

Now Kiwis can line up at the barre to aim for a dancer's body. A couple of Auckland outfits are stealing dancers' secrets to get a long, lean and sculpted body. re:ab on Selbourne has just started running this style of class.

Teacher Barbara Dawson is 55 and has a fantastic bod. She has a background in dance in France and used to be on TV and in shows. She has worked beside big names such as Sammy Davis jnr ("he was really friendly"), Frank Sinatra ("he used to hide in his dressing room") and Cher ("small, short legs, long body, not what you'd expect").

Dawson greets the class smiling and tells the half dozen women (roughly in their 30s) "I'm going to help you create long lean muscles".

First we lie on our backs, point toes, stretch, lift legs up and down and sideways and then "wake up the arms", as Dawson puts it. Quiet music plays in the background but Dawson only needs to speak softly to be heard.

I do tiny ranges of muscle-quivering movements on my arms, tummy, back and legs. These leave each muscle screeching in torment.

We point toes, raise heels, clench our derrieres, do pirouettes with scooped arms. I try to do this with grace, but avoid looking at myself in the mirror in case I don't look like the dancer I'm trying to be. I instead admire the woman next to me - she has a ballerina's body already.

When I think I'm in the correct position with diamond-shaped legs, Dawson tells me "a little lower". When I'm a little lower, she says "deeper". When I'm in agony, she says "now pulse". They look like little movements, but feel brutal. My legs start shaking. Dawson sees my personal earthquake unfolding and smiles, commenting "the further down you go, the further it works".

She then quips "relax your faces!"

I had been so focused on my achy, shaky legs muscles that I hadn't realised my facial muscles were contorting beast-like.

Not exactly the look of a dancer ...

Dawson commands "keep ears, shoulders and hips in line" ie, keep your posture perfect.

Because this is a small class, Dawson sees everything. She hovers, corrects, demonstrates, talks us through every tiny bit of torment. She wants every muscle to remember this hour. Then it's kick-back exercises with the legs while holding the barre, and a warm down.

Dawson thanks us for attending and says "your muscles are warmed and worked now ... you can go to the couch feeling virtuous!"

How much? $25 per class; $22.50 on concession.

Worth it? Great girly class in a character boutique gym. This class is worth it just for an excuse to wear one of those cute wrap cardies ...

Try it: re:ab on Selbourne, 2 Selbourne St, Grey Lynn, Auckland, ph (09) 360 2929, info@reab.co.nz

Rating: 9.5/10

- Herald on Sunday

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