To get me to dance you have to a) ply me with alcohol or b) be Hugh Jackman. So I’ll admit to some trepidation when it was established that I would be attending my first Xtend Barre class.
For the uninitiated (ie, me, until last weekend) Xtend Barre is the new kid on the block of classes you can take in the pursuit of physical fitness. Billed as a combination of ballet/dance and Pilates it is designed to help you get a long, lean and toned physique (and why wouldn’t you want the elegant legs and pert bottom of a prima ballerina?). Best bit – no previous dance training or experience is required.
Trust me, I made sure of that last point before I signed up. I was not one of those young girls with dreams of tutus and pointe shoes. Nor have I ever been accused of having any grace of movement, shall we say. In fact, I had to have remedial training in gross motor skills in infant school.
I arrived at the city studio a little bit early, as instructed, to complete my registration form. I’ll be honest, I was intimidated for about 90 seconds until I realised everyone there just looked like me – t-shirts and tanks with yoga pants or running tights. I felt even more at home as I sat down to put on my regulation ‘grippy socks’ (which they will helpfully sell you at reception if you haven’t already got some) and started a conversation with the girl on the seat next to me. I confessed I was a newbie and she was warm and friendly – she even steered me in the direction of the lighter handweights, so I owe her one.
The class was held in a big ballet studio with regulation barre running around the perimeter, timber floor, mirrors etc. I followed the lead of my new classmates and collected my equipment – mat, aforementioned handweights, squishy ball, long strap and oversized rubber band – and set myself up at a spot on the perimeter. I realised all too soon that I had unwittingly chosen a spot right at the front of the class right next to our instructor – nowhere to hide!! It actually turned out to be useful because it meant I didn’t feel too lost at any point and could (only try) to copy her form.
Our instructor, an elegant young slip named Natasha, turned out to be in total control from start to finish. I was pleased that she asked the group about injuries before we began, which is good practice from any fitness instructor. She hit play on her little remote and away we went. I lost track of time for the next 55 minutes, it turned out to be quite demanding. We began with a few minutes of what I can only describe as ballet-style aerobics – which were easy to follow for even me. Ballet terms – such as plie, tendu and releve were used but again it was so easy to figure things out just by watching and we worked our way through some arm action with the handweights, then various things with thighs, butts and abs. There were lots of small moves and pulses. Most of the moves were new to me but totally do-able. Natasha guided us all through it, telling us where to put our hands on the barre, correcting the odd bit of form (she kindly pushed my sticking-out butt back into place). The Xtend Barre folk are right when they say no dance experience is required. You know what is required though? Glutes of endurance. Mine are still a bit sore two days later, in a good way of course.
It’s not huffy-puffy sort of exercise but I certainly had a ‘healthy glow’ by the time we wound down for the stretching component. I felt great, taller even. I’d recommend Xtend Barre to just about anyone. You don’t have to be particularly fit, strong or flexible to begin with. There were all types in the class, though they were all women. My only criticism is that I thought it was a bit expensive. My casual class cost $29, though of course membership options would bring that down a bit. Despite this, it was an overwhelmingly positive experience – so even though there is no alcohol or Hugh Jackman, I’m going to go back for more.