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The Real Dance and the City: The New York City Ballet Workout

by Rachel Levin
March 28, 2005
Los Angeles, CA

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The Real Dance and the City: The New York City Ballet Workout

Rachel Levin
March 28, 2005

If there was an official workout for the single dancing girl in the city, this would have to be it: The New York City Ballet workout (Vol. 1 & 2) on DVD. In the comfort of your own pad, you can tone your body with the grace of a ballerina, sans tutu.

It's not surprising that the fitness world has embraced ballet as one of the latest trends in strength training, flexibility and muscle definition. Women (and men) are increasingly seeking workouts that are not only fun and efficient, but also spiritually centered. Ballet is ideal since it combines the concepts of balance and opposition found in yoga and pilates with the artfulness of dance expression. And the ballet dancer's body - characterized by an illusion of delicacy with a core of strength - is certainly desirable for those city girls trying to squeeze into a pair of Seven jeans. In Los Angeles, Fitness Centers like Gold's Gym in Hollywood (Ballet Moves, 11:30-12:30 Saturdays, 323-462-7012) and Swerve Studio (Yoga Booty Ballet, see website for schedule, www.swervestudio.com) have jumped on the trend and offer various combinations of barre work and choreography that are accessible to those who do not want to study at a conservatory.

But for a girl (like me) who hasn't pulled out her leotard and ballet slippers for a couple of decades, the DVD of the "New York City Ballet Workout" just might be the best place to start. The production is introduced by fave "Sex and the City" gal Sarah Jessica Parker sporting bleach-blond locks and raving about the physical elegance of the members of the New York City Ballet Company. Could there be a more appropriate endorsement?

The workout (Vol. 1) is divided into 17 sections, including three warm-up sequences and 14 different exercises. Four dancers, two male and two female, are featured in simple black shorts and (for the women) sports bras. In group demonstrations, they line up in front of a background of blue ethereal light. In solitary demonstrations, a single spotlight illuminates the dancer, picking up the dusty glow of a stage light. A soothing classical soundtrack is provided throughout. Warm-up segments include stretches, abdominal exercises, and leg darts. The exercises work every possible part of the body with pliés, tendu, dégagé, passé, reverence, jumps, attitude, grand battement, and arabesque. You can either participate in the whole workout straight through or customize your workout by skipping between segments. The only thing that seems to be missing from this calming yet challenging workout is a ballet barre. None of the exercises are done at the ballet dancer's signature location, which I assume is because most viewers won't have a way to replicate this at home.

Under special features, you can view a short video called "Dance and the City" (!), which is a montage of New York City street images juxtaposed to flowing dancers inside the studios of the New York City Ballet. The city, with its labyrinth of subways and army of taxicabs, is fast moving and frenzied, while the dancers appear steady and relaxed, keeping a pace unchanged over hundreds of years. The dancers are like the skyscrapers: tall, lean, packed together at the barre, and coexisting in space through remarkable uniformity of movement. A pair of ruby red pointe shoes prances across the screen, a contrast to the muted white and pink of most of the dance attire featured in the video. These arresting shoes are like the lights of the city: commanding you to stop, watch, and be seduced by their power.

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