A Beautiful Way to Shape Up

Ballet academy offers a graceful, artistic alternative to your usual workout class

A 5-foot-3 balletic nymph just burnt a hole in my calf muscle. She did it in 90 seconds, and that was the result of simply mimicking her graceful frame with a few basic postures. It becomes immediately apparent I’m a long way off being ballet fit.

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Meet Sarah Fuhrman, one of the highly trained, superlatively skilled instructors at the Academy of Nevada Ballet Theatre. “Toned” doesn’t do this young woman justice. If you fired a bullet at her, she could probably deal with it with either an elegant leap through the air to dodge the imminent threat, or just flex and let the bullet bounce off her. Watching Sarah walk is a thing of beauty, because she doesn’t really walk as such, she glides.

It’s something to which to aspire, which is why I’m in this studio at academy headquarters in Summerlin (1651 Inner Circle), where they offer this relatively new initiative designed for novices. If ballet can tone me to 50 percent of where Sarah is at, I’m listening.

The wise first move would be to try the beginner’s class, but, alas, I missed the opportunity. So I’ve found myself in the Intermediate/Advanced class—and quite a bit out of my league. I considered finishing what I started with Sarah, but as Clint Eastwood once rightly stated, “A man’s got to know his limitations.” So rather than disrupt a class full of talent with the ungainly inadequacies of a novice, I took my seat and observed the 90-minute class, which proved to be part fitness regimen and part art.

The class began with meticulous stretching, barre (stationary handrail) work and some complicated routines involving all sorts of legs, going in all sorts of directions, bending, leaning, twisting. Apologies to the experts out there: All these movements have their own poetic names in ballet parlance, but let’s just say there was a great deal of balletic splendor transpiring.

The disarming thing about ballet is that the initial part of the class looks as though there is very little happening. But slowly, beads of perspiration start to appear upon participants’ brows. The form of these artists is impeccable, and when done correctly, these specific movements are exhausting and absolutely wonderful for your body. The combination of stretching and strengthening provide a synergistic double-team that is a toning dream for the human frame. The hips, abdominals, legs and upper body all receive intense workouts, which in turn impact flexibility, cardiovascular fitness and also improve posture—and who in this computer generation doesn’t need help with his or her posture? The academy’s goal for the fall season is to get the community to experience the benefits of ballet. There are a several options available for all levels and goals (see sidebar for a sampling). The overwhelming atmosphere at the company is one of professionalism, yet there is no snob mentality here. This milieu is about dance, a beautiful form of dance that is beyond judgment or grading (take note, reality-judge buffoons). This is about an experience; this is about you and what you take from it.

Ultimately, it’s a marvelous way to get tremendously fit and learn a new yet classical skill while you’re doing it. Yes we could all grind away for an hour on the elliptical, but will any of that activity lead us to discover Ludwig Minkus or what it means to brisé? No it won’t. So stop procrastinating, sign up for the right class, and get your dance on, ballet style.

Ben Conmy is a performance consultant based in Las Vegas working with athletes, executives and performers in the United States and Europe.