With many women trying for the lean dancer’s physique that Natalie Portman gained while working on the Black Swan, there has been an enormous demand for ballet-inspired and derived workouts. It’s easy to be skeptical of the hype and faddishness that a “Black Swan” inspired workout might seem to entail however, so why not go straight to Portman’s source?
That is, Ballet Beautiful by Mary Helen Bowers.Judging by Looks:
Aesthetically, I find Mary Helen’s studio backdrop for her workouts appealing. It is airy, clean, full of light, and distraction free. I love that she wears leotards and dance slippers –it makes you feel like you are actually in a dance studio and that you, of course, mean business. Beautiful business.
How much space does one need, and what about equipment?
The workouts can be done with the barest minimum of space. As Mary Helen herself says, these workouts are perfect for travelling and all you have for space is a hotel room. No need to worry about not staying fit while on vacation or business anymore. I even have her videos on my iPhone, thus eliminating the need for DVDs or a laptop!
[Screenshot from my personal copy of the Ballet Beautiful DVD]
There is no need for any dance experience or equipment besides a mat, some dance slippers (or non-skid socks) and a water bottle. All you need is your body! While Mary Helen is quick to point out that if you need to lean against a table or chair for balance during some of the routines, she uses none herself and I found it easy to follow along without one as well.
Unique and Cutting-Edge!
I love that Mary Helen is taking advantage and making use of both social media and the internet to the very fullest. She offers live classes at around $40-45.00/class via Skype; you even have the option of booking a private training class. Who needs to live in the big cities to have a personal fitness trainer? (Update 2022: Prices for live classes/training have changed –check the website for the latest info!)
Though already a firm celebrity favourite, Mary Helen never makes the tiniest devotee feel as if they are insignificant. With personal responses to almost every question or feedback that she receives, Mary Helen is a truly positive and encouraging person. No snooty retired ballerina syndrome here!
The workouts promise to give you a toned, lean look as well as emphasising the importance of stretching and good posture. With a ballet twist or what I call ‘extra step’ in each routine, from reverse push-ups, to leg lifts, to arm toning, there is a fair amount of repetition, ensuring you work those areas to the fullest. Each exercise is clearly shown, the pace is never rushed but just right, and you are reminded to breathe. I unintentionally hold my breath while concentrating at times, so that is a helpful reminder for me. Vocabulary-wise, what’s a ballet routine without learning the language? You will pick up a lot of ballet phrases, such as plie and dégagé. Isn’t that nice?
How often should the exercises be done, and does the workout deliver?
Mary Helen suggests that one aims for 1 hour a day, 3 days a week. If you have extra time or days, those would be perfect for squeezing in some blasts or a full workout if you feel up to the challenge.
I personally felt the results immediately after the workout –exhausted, muscles burning but invigorated, refreshed and floating. I saw results within 1-2 weeks. My favourite exercises are her ‘Swan Arms’, and her ‘ballet’ sit-ups – perfect for strengthening and shaping the arms and abs just in time to show off my pretty Christmas frocks.
Remember, determination and perseverance are an important part of your attitude in any regimen.
Which of the two DVDs do I prefer?
I love them both. The 15 minute one can be mixed and matched depending on which areas you feel like working, but I always end up completing them all –despite the work, it’s fun to push myself. The 60 minute workout is a complete all-over, and it’s the way to go when you can truly dedicate an hour’s worth of time.
As of this writing, additional cardio is recommended to supplement this routine, but Ballet Beautiful CARDIO streaming videos have recently been added to the BB store –which is perfect when it’s too cold to go outside for a run. Mary Helen responded to me via Twitter that there will be DVDs for the Cardio workouts soon – but they will feature different videos from the streaming ones available in the e-store.(I’ve tried the BB CARDIO: Tendu workout. This requires a little bit more stretching room, but still do-able with minimal space!)
Is there anything not quite ideal about Ballet Beautiful?
I would love to have some very soft music playing in the background. After all, what’s a ballet workout without the music? But that is a minor thing, and I often turn the music on in my iPhone before beginning…
This could be a potential biggie: If you are travelling, and will have poor to no internet access, be aware that the streaming videos available in store are not downloadable. This means that if you do not have internet connection or own the DVDs, you will have no way of accessing Ballet Beautiful workouts.
The fine print for Ballet Beautiful streaming videos:
– On the Go! Play from your computer or mobile device (iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch and Android devices all work!) – anywhere that you can get online.
– Easy to use! After purchasing, just log into Ballet Beautiful, visit “My Account” and click to play! Can be played multiple times with purchase.
(I am still unsure as to whether this means that after a certain number of viewings, access to it will be removed from your account and you will have to repurchase this streaming video to be able to view it again… if it does expire, then this is something to be aware of. I still have my TENDU workout, but so far, I’ve only viewed it 3 times.)
– Videos stream on the Ballet Beautiful website! Remember, these are not downloadable videos. Ballet Beautiful workout DVDs are also available in our store!
***[Image via BalletBeautiful.com]
I hope this review is helpful and gets you excited to try Ballet Beautiful out for yourself! I started doing Ballet Beautiful on May 5, 2011 and I’m never going back to all the ho-hum workouts I used to eke by on. This just ticks all the boxes for me, and I count myself very fortunate to have found Mary Helen’s method.
Here’s to good health for the winter holidays!!