Whether they're rediscovering a love of dance or trying first position for the first time, a legion of women (and a few men) is going to the barre. A number of adult dance programs and ballet-inspired workouts have made the art form a hot fitness trend.
The New Orleans Recreation Development Commission (NORDC) and New Orleans Ballet Association (NOBA) partnered to provide free beginner/intermediate adult ballet classes at 6:45 p.m. Mondays at the Treme Center and 7:30 p.m. Thursdays at the Stallings St. Claude Center.
High school science teacher Simone Cifuentes hoped to return to ballet for exercise and as a form of therapy, but struggled to find adult classes in her budget. Thanks to the NORDC/NOBA partnership, she attends classes at the Treme Center near her house.
"Emotionally, it is one of those things that I do for myself, that I make time for," Cifuentes says. "Whatever problems I have don't matter. During that hour and a half, my focus is on my turnout. What matters is my tendu [leg stretch]." For Cifuentes, the feeling of focus often extends through the rest of the week.
Regardless of the format or branding, most barre classes are a hybrid workout designed to lengthen and strengthen key muscle groups. Classes in the Pure Barre model came from a former ballerina who wanted to maintain the strength, flexibility and trim figure of her dancing days. She created an intense program that is similar in effect to hours of dancing in a studio but easier on the body.
Kelley Ellis owns The Barre Code in Lakeview and works full-time as a psychotherapist. A dancer throughout her twenties, she missed the positive effects of dancing. She explored local barre classes and launched The Barre Code last month. The studio includes both barre and boot-camp style classes.
"Barre Code has a strong mantra toward positive body image," Ellis says. "After working for years with people suffering from eating disorders, it was important for me to promote overall health."
Barre3 has three studios in the New Orleans area. Classes take less than an hour, which appeals to people with busy schedules. The Barre3 method also includes dietary and lifestyle tips.
"Our movements combine deep isometric holds paired with small and large movements," says Kendall Carriere, owner of Barre3. "[Classes] can be kind of addicting. You just feel good."