Barre Fitness Classes – Legit or the Next Sham?

It seems everywhere I look lately, barre fitness classes are springing up all over town. They are pretty much an outcropping of yoga and Pilates studios, which makes sense as there is plenty of anatomical cross-over between moves done in yoga, Pilates and ballet. But I can’t help feeling a large bit of skepticism and maybe even resentment toward these classes.

If you want a “dancer’s body” as so many of these fitness classes promise, you need to do more than an hour a week of fitness moves very loosely based on ballet. If you want to look and move just like a dancer, you need to live just like a dancer. And that means hours of physical training every day and a meticulously planned diet based much more on fuel than flavor. Even professional dancers lose their dancer’s body if they slack on their routine. So my first issue is that, like many other fitness programs, there’s just no way the promise can be delivered.

Fitness Plie

This, my friends, is not a plie.

Next, there’s the issue of not actually teaching ballet. Look at this photo above. That’s what I call a Fitness Plie. Many magazines are guilty of putting “plies” in their workout spreads. They are not plies. They are modified squats. To the uninitiated, a plie and a squat may appear to be the same thing – knees bending, person moving up and down, etc. The gal in this photo looks like her knees are together. This would never happen in ballet. Ever.


Properly executed demi-plie (male dancer) and grand plie (female dancer). Notice the hips opening as wide as possible.

In ballet, the knees open out. In fact, getting legs that turn out for wide straddles and splits start with warming and opening the hips in plie. Fitness gal above is probably feeling the burn in her quads and calves, the same as any other kind of squat. You may feel it there in plies as well, but plies are actually a stretch. That’s right, I said stretch. You are stretching everything around the knees as well as the Achilles tendons. The strengthening of your quads and calves is just the bonus; it’s not the purpose of the exercise. Notice the ballet dancers in the photo. In plies, you go as low as you can keeping heels on the ground. In the deeper grand plie, you lift the heels as little as possible. It makes for a pretty intense stretch if you’ve never tried it.

Fitness instructors rubbed me the wrong way when they started making fitness versions of yoga a few years back. Yes, their classes are accessible to the average gym-goer, but they lose a lot of the heart of yoga. They are simply stretching and toning classes called “yoga.” Why not just own that fact and call it a stretching & toning class? Cashing in on a yoga fad – pretending to be something it’s really not. I fear that is the case now with ballet fitness. You can get certified to teach some of these ballet fitness classes without ever having taken an actual ballet class. That seems ridiculous to me, and disrespectful to practitioners of the art.

If you take a ballet fitness class or follow along with the numerous videos available, I have no doubt you’ll get a good workout complete with sweat and sore muscles the next day. But please do not be fooled into thinking you’ve learned anything that would be transferable to an actual ballet studio or that you will look like Polina Semionova by going to a ballet fitness class a couple even a couple times a week no matter how intense it is.

This is Polina Semionova - arguably the greatest ballerina of the 21st century. And she has great calves.

This is Polina Semionova – arguably the greatest ballerina of the 21st century. And she has great calves.

I’m Makin’ Fliers!

I made up this flier/flyer (how do you spell it?) for my jazz class. If you want to spread the word about how much fun we have in class, feel free to print it out and hang it up somewhere. 🙂

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Introducing…NEW CLASSES!


Well, I may be crazy for doing this, but I’ve agreed to add more classes to my schedule!  Oh, who am I kidding?  I can’t get enough teaching dance.  Starting this September I’m going to be teaching more than ever before (and that’s saying a lot!).  I’ll be adding three classes for adults at a brand new studio downtown called Express Yourself Madison.*

All of my new Express Yourself Madison classes will be on Thursdays starting September 13th.  These are not drop-in classes.  You’ll need to sign up for a 15-week session.  And at the end of the 15 weeks you have the opportunity to perform in the recital!


The classes below are linked to pages with more detailed descriptions.

5:30pm – 6:30pm Adult Beginner Ballet

6:45pm – 7:45pm Adult Irish Step Dance – The Other Steps

8:00pm – 9:00pm Adult Beginner Tap Dance


*Express Yourself Madison is located at 401 N Lake St, Lower Level.  Many of you have known that space as Dance Fabulous.  I want to clarify that Express Yourself Madison is in no way affiliated with Dance Fabulous. It’s just a coincidence that my new studio moved into the previous location of my old studio.  Express Yourself Madison is not trying to copy or one-up Dance Fabulous in any way.  I would not have agreed to teach there if that was their M.O.  They are going to be offering kids classes and 15-week adult sessions in addition to drop-in classes.  But I hope you will find the staff and environment as warm, welcoming and free of judgment as Dance Fabulous was for so many dancers.




Giving Up or Going Beyond?

There is a blog post by Shawn Renee Lent that I just really love. Are you a dancer that gave up? In an art form that seems more and more focused on competition success followed by commercial success, it would be easy to think any dancer that doesn’t follow that path has given up on his or her dream. But what if the dream simply changes?

Check out the original blog post here:

Getting the Most out of Private Dance Lessons

“Heidi, can I pay you to give me private lessons?” I have been asked this more than once by students in my group classes, typically on a night when we’ve done some particularly tricky moves. The short answer is “sure.” But most of these students don’t really know what they’re asking.

Who Benefits from Private Lessons? Read more

Audition – Dancers for show in Oct-Nov

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I am choreographing a play! I’m pretty excited about it. I’ll be needing some dancers, so please consider auditioning. Click the link above to see the entire notice.


Discounts for my Students!

Years ago I signed up for the Discount Dance Supply teacher program. But since then, I’ve never given my teacher code to my students, and I’m supposed to. What?! I know! Apparently if you use my Teacher ID# at check-out, you’ll get a 10% discount the first time you use it and 5% every time after that.

I’ve always been happy with my online shopping with Discount Dance Supply. If you decide to give them a try, use my code and let me know if it works. 🙂

Something Jazzy

This is my musical theater/jazz dance class.