Lord of the Dance: Cardio Barre

It’s no secret I’m a huge fan of dancing.  I’m an avid viewer of So You Think You Can Dance and various dance movies, including but not limited to the entire Step Up series, Dirty Dancing, Footloose, and Center Stage. I did every biographical report in school on Liza Minnelli.  I watch White Christmas even during the summer and I about died when I discovered Natalie Portman would be playing a ballerina in Black Swan.  Like so many little girls growing up in a time of outstanding dance movies such as Flashdance and Fame, at one point in my life I wanted to be a professional ballerina.  Ballet includes so many things that I love.  Tulle, for one.  And it’s French. I’m a big fan of things that are French.  I soon realized, however, that my body type was not exactly prime for prima.  For one thing, my feet are terrible.  And if there’s one thing I’ve learned about ballet from years of watching it on television, it’s that you have to have good feet.

This is the extent of my ballet career. I'm the one on the left with knock-knees and flat feet.

The beginning and end of my ballet career. I’m the one on the left with knock-knees and flat feet.

I traded toe for tap shoes and tapped my way through elementary and middle school. I even took tap in college for P.E. credit.  I Belly Danced with Veena and Neena (in my living room) and took a hip hop dance class so I could Step Up to the streets.  However, none of this could prepare me for the hour long, thighs of fire inducing glorious hell that is Cardio Barre.

Cardio Barre is described by PureBarre.com as a total body, low-impact, strength and stretching sequence that tones and lengthens muscles.  It combines basic ballet techniques with weights and focuses on tiny isometric movements.  The key is to only move an inch or two, but you do this many times.  Each toning section is immediately followed by a stretching section, so you strengthen muscles without bulking up.  Some sources say that you can burn from 300-600 calories per 60 minute session.  And this exercise in anaerobic.  Which means you burn calories even after you’re done working out (I find this almost too good to be true).

There are many variations of barre, but my experience has been with Cardio Barre.  Cardio Barre incorporates activities, such as high knees or running place, to increase heart rate.  The activities are done barefoot or in yoga socks and we use very light weights, 2-3 pounds, for basic arm toning exercises.  We squat like 400 times and then lunge for an eternity and then we move to the barre.  This is when the real pain begins.

The barre exercises consist mainly of plies but they’re done on your toes so that your calf muscles are engaged.  Then you drop your booty an inch or two over and over and over until your legs are literally shaking with fatigue.  I reach fatigue about halfway through each section at the barre and it burns so good.  I’ve seriously never experienced this type of fatigue in any exercise I’ve tried.  And I’ve been around the fitness fad sweeping the nation block.

That badass to my right is the instructor.  Her thighs are incredible.

That badass to my right is the instructor. Her thighs are incredible.

The class wraps up with an ab and core section.  Again, tiny, minute movements are stressed.  You’re supposed to be mindful of your muscles and a lot of the core exercises are just holding positions.  Which is harder than moving sometimes.  Barre uses a lot of techniques from Pilates and Yoga as well, incorporating deep breathing and stretching to lengthen muscles.  The best part is the focus on posture and form.  I have a bit of a slouching problem but in this class, I make an effort to make be regal and tall.

My verdict?  I can’t get enough of this class.  It’s so incredibly challenging and that first class is intensely devastating.  I run, I squat, I lift-weights, but my muscles were not prepared for this kind of workout.  It’s a great way to shake up your routine and shake your booty! (Now is the time when you stand up and join me for a booty shake.)

Have you tried Barre?  Did it give you the shakes?  Who would win in a dance battle, Paula Abdul or Janet Jackson? Let’s talk it out in the comments!