By Dana Jean Costantino
Ballet Barre has quickly become one of the most sought after and popular forms of working out, both body and mind. As a former Ballerina and as someone currently practicing Yoga, I wanted to dive deeper into learning more about what this particular workout has to offer and bring that information to the WestView News reader, as so many people in our community have begun to take Ballet Barre classes or have expressed interest in them. In fact, several members of the WestView team are devotees to the practice. If you have also wondered about Ballet Barre, I hope you find this Q and A with Ashley McQueen as informative as I did.
Q – Is it necessary to have a background in Ballet to get the most out of a Barre class?
A – Absolutely not! What’s so great about Barre fitness is that it’s accessible to anyone at any level. Simple modifications keep it low-impact and safe, and it’s less of a dance class and more of a strengthening class.
Q – What brought you to teaching Barre?
A – I actually got into Barre when I was rehabbing a bad foot injury. I was 24 and fresh out of college with a degree in Dance, and faced with the possibility of never dancing again. I was attempting to rehab and cross-train at a gym, but it felt overwhelming and nearly impossible. A friend of mine was opening Pure Barre St. Louis, and invited me to take a class. I was hooked! The low-impact movements allowed me to strengthen without aggravating my injury, and the mental focus helped me get over my fears about returning to high-impact dancing. I was a client for a year before being cleared to dance again and moving to New York. I’ve been a Pure Barre instructor ever since! Pure Barre brought me confidence, strength, and a sense of community. I love teaching because I’ve seen how much it’s changed my personal life, self-esteem, and strength as a performer; I am grateful for the chance to share that with others. Also I’ve met some of my best friends at the studio!
Q – How have you adapted your personal practice and your teaching during these times of COVID?
A – It’s definitely been a challenge, because for me the best part about working out and moving is doing it with others! Over the last year, I’ve taught a lot of Zoom classes and had virtual rehearsals. I found ways to reinvent my (small NYC apartment) space, and tried to keep a consistent routine. My good friends and I would workout via Zoom every day, which gave us both a sense of community and structure. My company Smashworks Dance has always done performances in unconventional spaces (hallways, windows, on lawnmowers), so for us our creative process wasn’t impacted as much while rehearsing from home. The biggest challenge was giving myself time and space to actually rest, and recognizing the importance of that balance in my life.
Q – Do you currently dance as well? In a company?
A – I direct, perform, and choreograph for Smashworks Dance, a nonprofit dance company dedicated to women’s empowerment and human rights advocacy through performance, education, and community outreach. We are currently creating two dance films – one set in a giant indoor shower (DRENCHED) and another for the London Climate Change Festival. We’ve also been teaching virtual dance classes for Troop 6000, a Girl Scouts program for girls experiencing homelessness in the New York area. I also dance with Amanda Selwyn Dance Theatre. We can’t wait to get back on a stage very soon!
Q – Are you accepting new private clients and are you currently teaching group classes?
A – I am currently managing and teaching for Pure Barre Jersey City, and teaching for Pure Barre Union Square. While private Pure Barre classes are booked through the studios, I am accepting my own private clients who are looking for at-home or in-person conditioning, strength-training, and dance experience.
Q – How many times a week do you recommend taking Barre for the best results?
A – I usually recommend 3-5 times a week to see the quickest results.
Q – How long is an average Barre class and what does the flow look like?
A – Each Barre technique class is different, but overall they are about 45-50 minutes. Most classes include sections that focus on particular muscle groups (arms, abs, thighs, seat). Pure Barre in particular is great because it’s fast-paced and musical, and works out every part of the body!
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