My workout: ‘Ballet has given me strength’

Lauren Hibbert, 32, on why she loves to dance

I have always loved to dance. Its a brilliant way to keep fit: its so much fun and doesnt even feel like exercise. Ive had lessons since I was little, everything from jazz and contemporary to street dance. Over the years, I started to realise ballet is the base of them all, and that my teachers were referring to moves and positions I wasnt familiar with. I signed up for adult beginners classes, and now feel Im learning not just a new style, but the fundamentals of movement.

The first half of the class is done on the barre (a long handrail you use for balance) and we concentrate mainly on footwork, doing moves such as tendu, rond de jambe and others with names I struggle to pronounce. Then well do travelling exercises, where we move and pirouette across the room, performing simple choreographies. Its a real challenge and gives me a huge sense of satisfaction.

We dont always dance to classical music. More often than not we listen to jazz or music from Africa and Latin America. It works brilliantly with the steps, which can be slow and deliberate, or fast and exciting. Some moves require a fair amount of flexibility, and while my legs dont go that high, I love how graceful ballet makes me feel.

Ballerinas will stand with one leg on the floor and the other way up in the air, and make it look effortless, but it involves a lot of strength, balance, stamina and concentration. Its not vigorous I dont get hot and sweaty but its a full-body workout. In the short time Ive been doing ballet, Ive become fitter and more toned. My backs straighter and everything feels more aligned. Its a lot like yoga in that sense.

Im never going to become a ballerina, but I feel I can manoeuvre better than I could before. Its physically and mentally demanding, and has given me a much better awareness of my body. Ballet has given me strength.

My weekend workout

Favourite music to dance to? African and South American beats.
Favourite move? A grand pli a sort of deep squat. I like the challenge of seeing how low I can get.

Five ways to get started

1 People tend to think of ballet as something for either children or professional dancers, but adult classes are a great way for men and women to keep fit, tone and stretch. Especially if you hate the repetitive nature of the gym.

2 Flexibility, coordination and balance arent prerequisites they come as a result of ballet. Worrying about trying ballet because you cant touch your toes is like worrying about going to the gym because you dont have a six-pack.

3 For most people, standing at the barre, being confronted with their reflection in the mirror can be quite scary. Try to let go of that self-consciousness. In time, looking in that mirror becomes as natural as brushing your teeth.

4 Wear what feels comfortable: tracksuit trousers or leggings and a top. Avoid baggy clothes that might trip you up.

5 One of the most basic steps is the pli. Stand with your heels together and toes pointing out to either side. Keeping your back in a neutral alignment and your chin up, bend at the knees, so they move over the centre of your toes.

Luke Ahmet, dancer and teacher with Rambert

The essential kit

Bloch
Bloch Proform leather ballet shoes, 23.95, uk.blochworld.com. Sweaty Betty contour crop leggings, 50, sweatybetty.com. Bunheads footsie roller, 7.95, amazon.co.uk.

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