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Up Close | Ballet Bodies

What is it about dancer bodies that are oh so divine?

After seeing Swan Lake, we’ve decided that ballerinas’ bodies put Pilates’ arms, yoga abs and cycling legs to shame. While muscle definition is achieved though each of the aforementioned workouts, dancers are the only athletes who practice poise and grace. We’ve noticed a number of ballet inspired workouts popping up in LA, but Ballet Bodies on Beverly Boulevard is our personal fave.

We took the Jump class (and literally jumped through ropes and on trampolines) before we sat down with owner Andie Hecker for a little Q&A….

JC: What inspired you to start Ballet Bodies?  

AH: I wanted to work for myself, instead of under the umbrella of an institution. In other words, I didn’t want a boss. But most importantly, I have been schooling myself as to how to create a ballerina’s aesthetic since I started ballet at 11 years old. The fact that I had to start doing Pilates when I was 12 years old to help manage my scoliosis, gave me a basis for an even deeper understanding of the human body and how the muscles and joints work together to morph the physicality from one state to another. I got a lot more years out of my body in terms of dancing than I should have, given my severe spinal curvature, due to my extensive physical training in Pilates and ballet.  My orthopedic surgeons wanted to fuse my spine when I was 14 years old, but I fought to forge a ballet career for myself, through muscular strengthening and change. I staved off spinal fusion surgery for 8 years and got to dance professionally with the ballet company of my dreams, New York City Ballet, for 5 of those years.  So I know the power of exercise and body awareness when it comes to creating positive change.

JC: How is Ballet Bodies different from other barre workouts?  

AH: Well, firstly, it’s not a barre workout. Lol. I do a bunch of different things that I’ve acquired over the years that tie into the molding of a ballet dancer’s type of physique. It’s a mixed bag of tried and true fitness techniques, from Pilates, to classical ballet, to traditional fitness training, to jumping rope, and swimming. One day I’ll create a studio with a pool and make people swim laps between ballet class and body sculpting sessions.  But my main focus is toned, lean, and long muscles. Most people who come to a place called Ballet Bodies are trying to lean out, and that’s what I typically help people strive for.

JC: What makes the Ballet Bodies work out more effective than, say, an hour of Pilates, cardio, or other types of strength training?  

AH: My trainers and I make it more effective. Physical change, in large part, is in the expertise of the trainer, and in this case, the specific and intricate knowledge that a ballet dancer with years of extensive training in different fitness modalities possesses. Most seasoned dancers have used Pilates to cross-train throughout all of their dancing lives. Those are the people I choose to be a part of my team. The trainer makes the difference. Anybody can do a six-week training course and get certified as a personal trainer, but very few people have spent their adolescent through adult years, living and breathing fitness and physical change…and then, to become certified on top of all of that creates the type of trainer I employ. Those true experts are the people who know the language of the body and movement better than anyone else in the world. Professional ballet dancers are disciplined and devoted athletes. I wouldn’t trust anyone else with my physique. ESPECIALLY as a woman.  A non-dancer simply does not understand how to help me achieve the physical aesthetic I want.  That said, the body I want is pretty specific…and it specifically looks a lot like Miranda Kerr’s.

JC: What post-workout tips can you offer for someone who’s serious about achieving a dancer’s body?  

AH: Stretch your muscles!  Dancers are constantly stretching out the areas they just worked.  It staves off injuries, and keeps the muscles from over-tightening and shortening. Water…lots of it.  Hydrate your body so that your body doesn’t confuse thirst for hunger.  I ALWAYS have a water bottle with me.  If I don’t, I get anxiety….  I’m so scared of getting thirsty.  Beyond my neuroses, however, water is aids in joint lubrication, nutrient absorption, body temperature regulation, waste removal, etc. Drink it; your dancer-body will thank you.

JC: Is there any nutritional advice you live by…anything you’d suggest staying away from or working in for a true dancer’s diet?  

AH: Don’t blow all of your hard work with a bunch of extraneous calories, such as excess alcohol, and huge portions of food. American portions are typically way too big to consume if one is looking to maintain weight, let alone trying to lose fat and transform into a lithe, dancer-like creature. I say, eat what you feel like eating, and when; listen to your body, and give it what it craves, but eat for nutrition and health, and stop when your body has had enough. Contrary to popular assumption, DANCERS EAT!

Photo courtesy of Balletbodies.com