Corazon Miller is a NZ Herald reporter

Alternative fitness: Raising barre for dance-led fitness

Pounding the pavements or heading to the gym is not everyone's idea of fun. Corazon Miller looked at some quirkier options. In part five she tries a ballet-inspired workout - Barrefigure.
Corazon Miller found Barrefigure testing despite her dance background. Photo / Doug Sherring
Corazon Miller found Barrefigure testing despite her dance background. Photo / Doug Sherring

A new fitness fad is offering a taste of the rigorous regime behind every graceful dance professional in a routine that mixes a range of Pilates, barre, floor and weight-based exercises.

The routine's basic technique was devised in London by German dancer Lotte Berk and a studio offering the regime was opened in New York's Upper East Side in the 1970s.

In the years since the barre workout has become all the rage and his original routine has been transformed into varying incarnations - all of which offer participants greater cardio fitness, better muscle tone and greater flexibility.

Some three decades later it has finally reached New Zealand with the first primarily barre-inspired workout studio opening in Newmarket a couple of years ago.

It has grown in popularity, leading to a number of other branches and studios opening around the country.

Above the tantalising scent of an Italian restaurant on Auckland's Richmond Rd can be found one independently run studio - Barrefigure.

Founded and run by former Royal New Zealand Ballet dancer Marysa Dalton, it offers a menu of varying routines that even the most unco-ordinated could follow. "It's not a crazy ballet choreographed routine," she said. "It's definitely a fitness class, so lots of toning and sculpting."

In fact even with years of dance experience the standard Barrefigure class I attended was no easy feat.

The workout began gently enough with pacing on the spot, lifting legs and arms in the air before the arm weights kick-started the hard work.

The killer was the seemingly never-ending chant, "drop and hold ... drop and hold" that accompanied repetitive movements which sent an excruciating burn through the target muscle group.

Fellow Barrefigure attendee Juliette Barrett said her legs had never shaken so much as they did at her first class.

"It was weird and frustrating at first, but as I got stronger, the shaking was less," she said.

After the rather intense middle section on the floor and at the barre, the class wound down with a few welcome gentle stretches.

For those wanting a less intense workout there's a class for beginners or an even more sedate class just to give the body a good stretch.

Those keen to amp it up can try the Barreburn or Barrecardio classes and those wanting a "dancier" option can give the Barregroove class a try.

Ms Dalton said the dance principles could be hugely beneficial.

"[They] become more confident, more graceful ... toned arms, back, flat strong abdomen, sculpted thighs, seat, increased flexibility, increased energy and awareness of your body."

The verdict: A good choice for those wanting to feel their muscles burn and to improve overall flexibility.

Barre workouts

• Established in New York in the 1970s.

• Ballet-inspired workout that helps tone, strengthen and lengthen muscles.

• First arrived in New Zealand in 2013.

• Offered in a number of gyms around the country, with studios catering specifically to it in Auckland, Wellington, Havelock North and Christchurch.

- NZ Herald

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