What’s the Dancer’s Dent?

10 Nov

I’m a week into my 30 Days of Learning challenge, and so far I’ve been taking Spanish lessons, dance classes, and a new workout practice called the Bar Method.

The Bar Method takes the principles from dance – particularly ballet – and incorporates those moves and hard work into a physical fitness routine. There’s a reason those ballet dancers have gluts of steel and this little thing the instructors at the Bar Method keep calling the “dancer’s dent.” We work on it a lot when doing upper thigh work. It’s when that space at the top, outside edge of your thigh dents inward instead of outward. Basically, the exact opposite of what happens when we sit all day long, instead.

the bar method — integrates the fat burning format of interval training, the muscle shaping technique of isometrics, the elongating principles of dance conditioning, and the science of physical therapy to create a revolutionary new workout that quickly and safely reshapes your entire body.

Apparently a number of celebrities swear by the workout, including Drew Barrymore, Zooey Deschanel, Denise Richards, Eve, and a whole lotta other “celebrities” that I’ve never heard of.

I’ve taken two classes at Austin Bar Method so far and I can tell you – it’s HARD. Hard to imagine professional ballet dancers subjecting themselves to this kind of torture for 8 hours or more a day. But the Bar Method is a really good kind of hard. You’re doing leg lifts and crunches and push-ups, working on some of your largest muscle groups, to the point where you are literally shaking.

“Feel the shake!” instructor Erika yelled out. “I want to see your legs shaking!” I’m sure my shaking legs were obvious to the farthest reaches of the class. Some of the hardest moves are the ones that sound, and look, the simplest – until you try them.

Standing with one hand on the barre, heels together, and raise up on the balls of your feet. Then bend your knees, lean backwards (sort of a water skiing position) and then lower and raise. Lower and raise. About a thousand times. (OK, 30, but after the first 15 it sure feels like a thousand). I expected to be much more sore after my first class, but I wasn’t as sore as I had thought. Guess all my yoga pays off. But I could definitely feel it in my muscles, especially my quads and triceps. The Bar Method really works the big muscles, and it works them deep.

The system also has a fascinating history, I found. The Bar Method is based on the technique of Lotte Berk, (shown left), a German dancer who fled the Nazis in the late 1930s and came to London with her British husband.

After injuring her back, Lotte got the idea of combining her ballet bar routines with her rehabilitative therapy to form an exercise system.  In 1959 she opened The Lotte Berk Studio in her West End basement.   There, she sculpted the bodies of her students, among them Brooke Shields, Joan Collins and Brit Ekland, as she entertained them with bawdy humor and tips on love.

One of her students, an American named Lydia Bach, was so impressed with the technique that she bought the rights to Lotte’s name and in 1971 opened The Lotte Berk Method exercise studio in Manhattan.

Oh, and did I mention the claims that the Bar Method claims to be phenomenal for sex? Lotte Berk was quite the revolutionary, speaking frankly to her students about how the exercises and positions could create “sex-ready bodies” and vastly improve their sex lives. Of course, any exercise helps this (as well as overall happiness and endorphins) and yoga is also great for the physical, shall we say, capabilities of sex. But hey, I’m just reporting here what the Bar Method folks say.

If you’re interested in trying the Bar Method yourself, you can send a friend a free introductory class. Hey, maybe that friend is you!

I definitely like the workout, it’s challenging and aerobic and fun, and I can firmly see how it gets great results, pretty quickly, in the body. Recommended!

3 Responses to “What’s the Dancer’s Dent?”

  1. whersmacheese@gmail.com November 22, 2011 at 3:10 pm #

    I believe it’s “ballet barre”. Writing “bar” would be like pronouncing plie as “p-lie” or something.

  2. whersmacheese@gmail.com November 22, 2011 at 3:12 pm #

    Never mind, I see that you’re referring to a specific method, I would have deleted my comment but there doesn’t seem to be an option to do so.

    • Shelley Seale November 22, 2011 at 3:25 pm #

      Hi, thanks for writing!
      You are absolutely right – normally this would be called a “barre” – as in the ballet barre.
      However, The Bar Method is a specific system and trademarked method, which is why I’ve used their spelling and term.
      Pretty interesting stuff – and seems to be very effective, too.

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