Haven’t we all dreamed of a ballerina’s body? While you might not join The Nutcracker cast anytime soon, you can channel your inner Anna Pavlova in a Fluidity class. This fun, ballet-inspired workout is ideal for strengthening and lengthening bodies—in and out of leotard.
Maybe it was the itchy tights or the repetitive exercises, too unbearable for my limited attention span, but at five years old, I became a ballet-school dropout. And while my more-patient friends who stuck with ballet through high school developed long, lean dancer bodies with immaculate posture, I developed a decidedly un-dancer-like body with mediocre posture at best. I've often thought about signing up for a ballet class, but have been too intimidated, until recently when I read about fitness expert Michelle Austin's Fluidity class, a ballet workout centered around a ballet-type bar. The workout class uses ballet and yoga-inspired movements designed to use your own body weight to develop long, lean muscles and the flexibility of a dancer. And for women who can't make it to Austin's classes in New York, she offers a Fluidity kit which includes a bar, instructional DVD and a nutrition guide.
As I walk up to the studio, Austin warns me, "This class is going to be challenging for you. Don't feel bad if you can't do everything. I've got a lot of regulars that have been coming a long time." And many of her students do look like regulars, lean and toned. But thankfully there's a range of ages and sizes, which makes this newcomer feel a little bit better.
The hour-long workout consists of a series of stretches and repetitions of fluid movements all centered on the bar. No muscle is left untouched. After each exercise, we stretch out the muscles to keep them long and lean. I suddenly have aching muscles that I didn't know existed until now.
Because of Austin's unusual combination of a background in kinesthetic anatomy and physiology of motion as well as a previous stint as a VH1 VJ, she'll keep you simultaneously informed and entertained. She developed her program to reflect its principles; she gives informed, easy-to-follow explanations behind each exercise. You feel like you're learning more about your body as you're working on it. Her recurring theme is muscle balance, which only can be perfectly achieved by using your body weight for resistance, and not isolating muscles as other fitness routines—such as weight lifting and Pilates—routinely do.
Even after my first class, when my form was a little shaky, I felt my muscles were introduced to a new way of performing and maybe if I kept it up, I could achieve the dancer's body I longed for—itchy tights not included.