This was the year I was going to be healthy. And not in like a New Year’s Resolution kind of a way, but in a real kind of a way. Why did I want to do this? I don’t know. What are the reasons that anyone (especially if that anyone is a woman) wants to be healthy? Does health even matter? Wait. I do know. I do know why I wanted to do this. I wanted to do this because (like so many other people whose lives are, shall we say, disorganized), I wanted to have some order. Also, because I wanted to feel good in a way that I had some control over. That’s part of the point of exercise, isn’t it? The fact that it’s so results oriented? I think so. And because this was all about discipline, I wanted to try ballet.
A quick note on the many exercise trends that are sweeping this city: I’m into all of them. No, really! I love SoulCycle. I could breathe in the humid-from-human-sweat air in Bikram yoga classes every day of the week. I am incredibly interested in taking a Beyoncé dance class. But even though it might sound like I’ve found some sort of program that I like and I should just stick to it and do nothing else and maybe then I would understand something about discipline and order and what it really means to be invested in something (and maybe that’s all true?), I’m still searching. Aren’t we all.
My search led me to look into ballet barre classes for a few reasons. One, it seems like everyone I know has been taking them and guaranteeing that it’s an amazing workout; and, two, since I’d taken ballet for many years when I was much (much) younger, I had some not unromantic visions of myself in this type of class—limbs outstretched, spine elongated, I was into it. All of which led me to take a class with Kristine Storie, owner of the Brooklyn Heights Xtend Barre (and a Brooklyn native!). Xtend Barre is the first ballet barre studio to open in Brooklyn, and while there are Xtend locations throughout the world, rather than seeming like part of a huge franchise, this branch has a boutique-like feel; and despite its size (the 3,000-square-foot facility houses three distinct, light-drenched classrooms—one large and two small), it retains an intimate feel, due in no small part to the friendly, accessible staff.
But what about the class? For anyone who has any worries about a ballet-based class being at all delicate or precious (which, please, you’ve seen The Red Shoes, right? If not, go see The Red Shoes!), let me reassure you that Storie had me sweating as much as SoulCycle or hot yoga ever has, and that my arms and legs were visibly shaking after holding extensions for a long time. It was, in short, amazing. Because that’s what I was there for, you know? To push myself, to pull myself, to get to a place that I wouldn’t ordinarily make myself go. Storie method borrows heavily from Pilates (and, in fact, Xtend also offers traditional Pilates mat classes), but also relies on choreography. I found the dance moves easy enough to follow along with, but even if you don’t have a dance background like mine (ballet till I was 11; so, uh, legit, right?), I’m pretty sure you’ll be fine. More than fine, really, because the main way I really judge a workout is how long that sick, strong rush of endorphins lasts after the class. And the Xtend Barre-endorphin rush? Was even better than the post-SoulCycle one. No joke. My arms and legs and abs all felt tight and tingly for hours, and were legitimately sore in the most beautiful possible way for days. It’s the kind of feeling you could get addicted to if you’re not careful. But why be careful? Get addicted. It feels good. It’s good for you. And it’s right here in Brooklyn. (More photos of the lovely studio below.)
Xtend Barre Brooklyn Heights; 147 Remsen Street, Brooklyn Heights xtendbarrebh.com
Follow Kristin Iversen on twitter @kmiversen