Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

On Pointe; Trends the World's Best Athletes Know Ballet Takes Real Steel. Samuel Fishwick Limbers Up and Tries the Capital's First Barre Class for boys'A Successful Athlete Isn't Just Strong and Fast -- You Must Be Agile Too'

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

On Pointe; Trends the World's Best Athletes Know Ballet Takes Real Steel. Samuel Fishwick Limbers Up and Tries the Capital's First Barre Class for boys'A Successful Athlete Isn't Just Strong and Fast -- You Must Be Agile Too'

Article excerpt

Byline: Samuel Fishwick

'M WONDERING how I got here.

I'm squeezed into tights and holding onto a ballet barre, partly for balance, mostly for dear life. This is Barreworks' studio in Richmond, where founder Vicki Anstey has recently launched Lifting the Barre, London's first barre class for men.

Do I fit the bill? When it comes to dancing, I am less an Elliot and more of an Oddie. That's the point of a mensonly class, though, which is designed to encourage men to take a skip and a leap into the great unknown.

"It's multi-dimensional, so it trains the big muscle groups to work with those deep stabilisers, optimising your movement," says Antsey. "I was watching Wimbledon, and the benefits there would be obvious: a better leap so that you hang in the air longer, a more balletic stretch when reaching for a ball." Vicki takes me through an intricate series of standing splits, forward folds, single-leg squats and lateral lunges with a slider (a piece of cloth that makes it easier to slip your non-standing foot around the plywood surface). "Your turn out is really good," she says, unconvincingly, as my feet jut out at right angles. "Don't forget, we're working on muscles you never knew you had." I'm not convinced I have them.

It's been a huge hit: double Olympic gold medallist James Cracknell is one of Vicki's class members. "We like to think of it as your daily dose of rehab," she says. "We're keeping your joints and spine strong and flexible, so that on a basic level you will move in a more youthful way, and compete at a peak level, for longer."

Continued on Page 28 Continued from Page 27 Instead of Tchaikovsky, the class is set to funky, funky beats. This eases the pain somewhat. A pink medicine ball is rolled out, which I tuck between my thighs, and hold on to as I lean back from the barre. My legs shake like jelly as I bounce up and down on the balls of my feet.

Next, still holding the bar, I pop a casual lean on my left elbow and extend my leg far back, arm flung into the air. "And hold, and hold." The jelly is about to liquefy.

"Balance, co-ordination and flexibility play key roles in being a well-rounded athlete," says Vicki, which I feel is rubbing it in. …

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