Joffrey Brings "Fit Ballet" to Equinox

May 8, 2011
Today's Chicago Woman
Cassandra A. Gaddo

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If you've ever admired the grace, elongation and athleticism of Joffrey Ballet dancers, you now have the chance to take a turn at the barre. Every Thursday between now and June 2, Equinox Fitness Club is hosting "Keep Fit Ballet" at its 900 North Michigan Avenue location.

For one hour, you'll tendu, arabesque and rondejon at the direction of dancers from the legendary Joffrey Ballet. The workout may not leave you panting for air, but it will leave you stronger and leaner, says instructor Jocelyn Garner, who, in addition to working with the Joffrey, is also an adjunct professor in Northwestern University's dance program, a distance learning tutor for the Royal Academy of Dance and a Pilates instructor.

"Ballet works muscles in a long, strong manner," Jocelyn says of the workout. "This keeps muscles supple and ideal for efficient movement and effortless stability."

The class at Equinox is designed for maximum exposure to basic ballet principles - in an approachable, novice-friendly format. "Posture is often notably changed after a few classes of ballet," she notes. "Given the format of this class, working at the barre allows for time to pay attention to particular areas of the body that are sometimes ignored - ankles, feet, connection of arms to back, position of head - and how all of these parts work together for movement."

On May 5, the class was filled with participants of a wide variety of dance backgrounds but equal enthusiasm; while some came prepped with their own ballet slippers and tights, most were in regular workout duds and bare feet. Jocelyn lead the class through a series of Pilates warm-ups, barre work, jumping movements and several traveling exercises across the length of the workout room. While the hour is unlikely to leave you with the sweat-soaked aftermath of Zumba or kickboxing, the focus on posture and individual muscles is a refreshing -- and, for this childhood dancer, just plain fun -- change of pace. Don't be afraid of the French vocabulary that leads the workouts; the instructor is careful to explain and demonstrate each movement.

"The class moves at a pace with a non-dancer in mind, and the content is also considerate of this person," explains Jocelyn. "I present the class in a traditional ballet class format, and I also hope to make it fun!"

While you'll have four more chances to catch the class at Equinox (Thursdays at 7:30pm through June 2), you can always find Jocelyn and other Joffrey dancers at The Joffrey Ballet Academy, where Fit Ballet is currently offered twice per week, along with a variety of other classes for a wide range of skill levels.

For more information, call Equinox Gold Coast at 312.254.2500.