In their steps

Adult ballet offers a variety of fitness benefits

March 4, 2008
San Diego Union Tribune

Katherine Cordova approached a ballet barre for the first time when her younger daughter, an avid dancer, left home. œShe made me take a class to give me something to concentrate on when she left, Cordova says.

Three years later, the lithe, energetic Cordova goes to five ballet classes a week. œI’m in better shape than I’ve ever been in, she says.

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Cordova, who dances at Stage 7 in North Park, also enjoys the beauty of ballet as an art form. As Stage 7 director Kathryn Irey puts it, œThere’s something intrinsically satisfying about exercise that has an artistic lens.

Along with aesthetic rewards, adult ballet offers a range of fitness benefits, say Irey and other teachers who offer classes for adults.

Ballet training improves flexibility, tone, balance, coordination and posture, says Michelle Noblejas-Bartolomei of Music and the Mirror Ballet Center West in Mission Hills. œOne student went to her doctor, and she’d gained three-quarters of an inch in height by the improvement in her posture and the way she carried herself.

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At the intermediate level, students get an aerobic workout, Steven Wistrich of City Ballet says. œThey do a fair amount of jumping. When they leave class, they’ve worked up a good sweat, and they’re breathing pretty hard.

œA lot of students tell me it keeps their minds sharp, Wistrich adds. That goes along with recent research on the cognitive benefits of dance.

JANICE STEINBERG

Absolute beginners: Adult ballet attracts many people who danced as children, but there’s plenty of room for neophytes. A number of studios offer pre-beginner classes, such as Irey’s œBonehead Ballet. Irey begins each Bonehead class by drawing students’ awareness to their wrists, for instance, or their upper backs. The idea is to œfind alienated body parts and to integrate the body as a whole.

Belly up to the barre: Don’t worry that you’ll be expected to leap across the floor like Baryshnikov. Most of a beginning class is spent at the barre. œThat’s where the foundations for the center work are learned, Noblejas-Bartolomei says. The barre helps you balance as you shift your weight to one leg, freeing the other leg to trace a pattern on the floor or in the air.

No tutus required: Ordinary workout clothes are fine, though you’ll want to wear something form-fitting, so the teacher can see what you’re doing. For footwear, Irey’s Bonehead class is done in socks the wilder, the better. Other classes request ballet slippers, available for $12 and up online; you may want to spend a little more at a dance store to assure the fit of your first pair.

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