When I was a younger, there was one activity that I was never willing to try. My best friend did it, my cousins did it, it seemed like every girl around me at school was doing it: dancing. I'm not sure why I never was interested in dancing. I've always been more drawn to sports when it comes to movement.
However, when I found out there was a barre class at Royal Dance every Monday evening at The Forks, I seized the opportunity to open myself up to a brand new experience. After all, isn't that what I encourage everyone else to do?
Likely driven by nerves, I invited (coerced?) my husband Bob and some of my run club pals to join me, because I seem to have a pack mentality when it comes to exercise. Again, sports.
The Royal Dance school is tucked away on the southern corner on the second floor of The Forks Market. It's a gorgeous studio with oversized windows providing glimpses of passing trains. I felt like I was in a dance studio in Chicago! In addition to barre, Royal Dance offers classes in ballet, tap, contemporary, lyrical, jazz, hip hop and even has special classes for wee ones like "Me and my Shadow." Kendra, the owner and instructor for our class, was relaxed, friendly and encouraging.
So, what exactly is barre? It's like ballet, pilates and yoga all made an exercise baby. Concentrating on excellent posture with muscle engagement, we repeated teeny tiny movements with high repetitions. After Kendra led us through an intense arm lifting and squatting warmup, we headed over to the barre to execute a variety of movements: squatting, pliés, calf raises, leg lifts (so many ways to lift your legs!). As someone who tends to gravitate toward a more aggressive heart-pumping workout, this was a completely different way to challenge my body.
I started feeling muscles that I haven't felt in a long time. Just about when I thought I couldn't handle another pulse, we had to do 20 more! Burning is definitely the right adjective to describe the sensation. But it was manageable. It was a completely different feeling of intensity than I was used to.
Throughout the class, I had to constantly concentrate on the small placements and engagement of muscles while I was moving my body. It was surprisingly calming and challenging at the same time. I couldn't think about anything else: I was so intently focused on executing the precise instruction from Kendra. She came around and made small, gentle corrections, lifting and moving inches at a time. I was so present, which is always my sweet spot and goal with any activity.
As someone who has always struggled with the quiet stillness of yoga, this felt like it had similar benefits but with an active focus. I liked that. The class went by quickly, and we managed to work our upper body, lower body and core in the hour. I would totally do it again.
As with any activity at The Forks, afterward, I want to hang out and visit even more! We hit up The Common for some post-plié beers.
Want to check it out for yourself? The barre classes are every Monday evening from 8 to 9 pm. Drop in fee is $13 + GST. Check out their website for a full list of their classes.
UPDATE: I was very sore post class! My thighs and calves were on fire! I loved it, feeling and working new muscle groups. I felt taller and graceful too. Is that what I've been missing out on all these years?
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