DanceFIT Studio hosted a fun event one week ago for Boston-area healthy living bloggers. DanceFIT has two locations; the Brookline studio opened in 2006 and its Natick location opened this past December. The owner is Gina Fey, a dancer most of her life who trained at prestigious ballet schools in California and France but eventually shifted to teaching dance to both children and adults. BalletFIT is her signature class that was inspired by her need to shed baby weight (her two boys are now 3 and 4 years old). The class incorporates barre work with pliés, relevés, and even développés (think straight leg extended high) that are intended to tighten the gluts and thighs, firm the abdominal muscles, and increase flexibility.
The blogger event in Natick was introducing a variation of this class called HOT BalletFIT, which employs similar exercises but in a 90-degree studio! I've taken hot yoga and survived, so I invited Fen my fitness contributor to try it out with me. I have to admit that ballet intimidates me, even though interestingly students new to my Zumba classes often ask afterwards if I have ballet training. I took ballet off and on for a few years as a child but always dropped out. I loved barre work but hated going "across the floor" as I could never quite get the jumps and intricate combinations. I also always felt like a clumsy giant in my leotard, next to everyone else who seemed to fall into the petite category.
But when we arrived at the event, I was immediately put at ease as Gina rushed over to greet us and was incredibly sweet and friendly. She looked like a ballerina in her off-the-shoulder sweatshirt, legwarmers, and impeccable bun. Some of the other attendees had taken classes here before and wore legwarmers and tights, so I knew this was not a Zumba crowd!
I have to say that I greatly enjoyed the traditional barre moves, as I had in childhood ballet classes. The room was hot but not overwhelmingly so, and it felt good when doing the slower movements. However, there were some cardio segments of jumping where the heat did not feel so great, as your heart and breathing rates increased and gulping the hot air was not comfortable! I also hesitated to do the high-impact jumping without sneakers (the class is taken with bare feet or grip socks) since I'm always hounding Zumba students to wear proper shoes. I know that certain dance classes encourage bare feet so this may just be an accepted practice that I'm not used to. An option to modify the movement to a lower impact version would have been helpful. In addition to traditional barre exercises, the workout also included use of a weighted ball to add resistance to moves such as pliés. One segment incorporated rapid bicep curls with an extended arm; I used a 1-pound ball which I felt didn't offer enough resistance, whereas Fen chose the 3-pound ball but felt it was too heavy to do the movements quickly with good technique without risk of pulling a muscle. We agreed that a 2-pound ball (not available) would have been perfect.
I loved the sweating and that this was a total body workout. I also loved the unusual playlist (who knew there was a classical music remake of Britney Spears' Toxic!). We ended with floor work of abdominal exercises and stretches. I would have liked more abdominal exercises, but Gina said that every class is different so that sometimes there may be an extended focus on abs. To note, much of the barre work automatically incorporates core muscles as you have to tighten them to maintain balance and good form. Overall I was glad to finally have the chance to experience DanceFIT, meet Gina, and mingle with some great Boston bloggers. I hope to try the other classes that DanceFIT offers. One cool option is their Skype virtual classes. If you're a busy mom who finds it difficult to leave home to take exercise classes and misses the social aspect, check that out. Also be on the lookout for a special BollyX class that Fen will be teaching at their Brookline studio in June!