I was first introduced to Ballet Beautiful by a friend who raved about the classes. After a brief Google search, I found Mary Helen Bowers; trainer and face of Ballet Beautiful. Bowers could easily be a model, but has the distinct features of a ballerina. Rightfully so – she danced with the NYC Ballet for ten years. Also rendered in my search were pages of her linked to Natalie Portman; Bowers was the Academy Award winner’s trainer for her role in Black Swan. I immediately signed up for a class and printed a photo of Portman to tape to a box of Thin Mints on my desk.
To set the record straight, I’m no dancer. I’ve taken a few dance lessons as a child (and since humiliated myself at a Hip Hop class for an article), but was always the chubby student with a spiral perm. The signature long, lean dancers’ body of a ballerina? Not mine.
When I showed up to the studio for class, I expected to see a room full of miniature girls in leotards comparing dieting tips. In reality, the class was made up of a handful of ladies lounging about the gorgeous Soho loft that have bonded over Ballet Beautiful. They were wearing t-shirts with leggings and chatting about work, bands and puppies. Bowers says that her “target client is not a dancer, and that’s the point.” (While in the dressing room, one of the girls told me that she saw a difference in her body within three weeks of taking Ballet Beautiful.) I was already drinking the Kool-Aid. Rather than barking orders at the group, Mary Helen handed you a goblet of water and joined in the convo like your most beautiful bestie. (She also convincingly complained about the workout with you.) This class consisted of highly targeted ballet movements that are performed on a mat. The series of small (but oh-so-many) movements would have almost been relaxing if it were not for the stabbing feeling in my thigh during the leg lifts; or the pain in my muffin top during ab movements.
Each workout is designed to be accessible in the comfort of your home (or small studio). The software allows up to twelve participants to connect and interact simultaneously with a live, shared video feed. It’s completely different than a workout video (she has those too!) in that it allows you to chat with the other members, and Bowers is there to watch you, so don’t bother skimping on the sit-ups. This concept was conceived while working on location to train Portman (six days a week, five-plus hours a day).
Ballet Beautiful will have a book coming out in the spring that incorporates nutrition. Bowers explains that, “It’s all about finding balance with both diet and exercise.” She says that, “If you go crazy and eat a bunch of junk and a cheeseburger, then to have a salad the next day.” For the record, this ballerina eats cheeseburgers. “If I’m going to eat one, I’ll usually just have a salad on the side instead of fries – especially if I’m having a beer.” I think I’ll tape her photo to my Thin Mints.
Ballet Beautiful DVDs are available online at: http://www.balletbeautiful.com