Locals toning up with the help of ballet class

Published 12:00 am Sunday, September 6, 2009

Local ladies are slipping off their everyday shoes in favor of ballet slippers all in the name of fitness.

In a two-day-a-week class offered at Natchez Ballet Academy, participants combine ballet, pilates and yoga in a fitness class that focuses on a total body work-out, class instructor and academy director Mignon Reid said.

“Pilates focuses on strengthening the core,” Reid said. “And the addition of really basic ballet steps hits all over the body.

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“This combination allows you to get everything all at once.”

Jennifer Grant, a local physical therapist, said she signed up for the class to compliment her rehabilitation after back surgery.

“I had back surgery four of five months ago,” Grant said. “I thought this would be a good way to recover from that.”

The class begins with simple warm-up moves and stretches that focus on controlled movements.

“Roll your back up one vertebrae at a time,” Reid told the class Thursday night. “Each vertebrae should move independently.”

After the warm up, the class really gets moving with a series of basic ballet steps and movements with the assistance of the ballet barres that lined the studio space.

“Many of the ladies danced when they were younger,” Reid said. “So they are starting to remember some of the moves.”

Such is the case for Marsha Colson who joined the class late but is already feeling the effects.

“I’ve done yoga for three years but there were never any classes that really worked with my schedule before I found this one,” Colson said. “I feel like I’m 5 or 10 again.”

The class focuses mostly on leg work, but proper arm position during the steps provides muscle building opportunities as well, Reid said.

“Your elbow should be pointed toward the back of the room,” she said. “If it is drooping, it isn’t doing you any good.”

Reid said it is also necessary to maintain proper hip placement, tightening certain muscle groups and having controlled leg movement to ensure the steps that are exercising the right body parts.

“You want to tighten your thighs for this,” Reid told the class while they were working at the barre. “Squeeze your thighs, squeeze your thighs, squeeze your thighs.”

Grant said after just a month in the class she can already tell the classes are making a difference.

“It really works,” she said. “Now I’m really beginning to feel it and see it in my abdominals and inner thighs.”

When the class moves away from the barre, they move into a series of jumps that get the heart rate up before hitting the floor for some pilates-type exercises.

Reid said these types of exercises target the transverse abdominal muscles that provide stability to the body.

“These aren’t the muscles you work if you are looking for a 6-pack,” Reid said. “But these are the ones that give you that stability and balance you are looking for.”

Reid said the total-body workout concept is really fulfilled since the class requires participants to use their brains as well.

“While you are working your body, you are also using your brain to think about the movements and improve coordination,” she said.

Colson said the mental workout in the class is as positive as the physical workout for her.

“When I leave here, I feel all jazzed and revved up,” she said.

The class of about six meets for an hour on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The current class session has two weeks remaining.

A new 6-week class will form at the conclusion of the current class. Registration information is available by calling Reid at 601-442-9810 or 601-870-8920 or by visiting www.natchezballet.com.