Here’s Why I Prioritize Pure Barre In My Schedule — And My Budget
Ballet is hard.
Physically, emotionally, mentally and oh, man, did I mention physically?
But it goes beyond the blisters and burgeoning hip problems. Part of the job as a ballet dancer is to stare in the mirror and say, “What’s wrong with this picture? What can I make better?”
To ask yourself that question for roughly eight hours every day, for years on end, is tough on your mental health. (See also: “Black Swan,” also, “Every Stereotypical Dance Movie About Mental Breakdowns and Eating Disorders.”)
That, of course, is part of the artform’s allure: Perfection doesn’t exist. Sorry, Natalie Portman.
Your leg can always be higher, that left knee can be straighter, you can always strive for one more pirouette, and those quick feet could always be just a hair sharper. It’s evolving. This constant room to grow is what keeps ballet interesting. And it’s also what makes some dancers snap and destroy their dressing room in a dramatic rage. Neato!
Ballerinas are delicate. Gritty. Strong. Effortless. That paradoxical nature is what keeps artists so engaged and the general public so enamored with them.
So, as you can imagine, it’s a tough break-up.
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Finding my footing
When I “retired” from my professional ballet career at the ripe old age of 19, I endured the emotional conflict of a Dashboard Confessional song circa 2007.
I was heartbroken.
I was relieved.
I needed a nap.
This one passion I’d dedicated myself to so fully for almost two decades had betrayed me. It didn’t want me. It didn’t love me back anymore. And that stings.
For years, I didn’t step foot in a ballet class to take. I taught ballet and other forms of dance, sure, but it’s not the same as taking a class. There weren’t many options in geographic proximity, but it was more of an emotional barrier that held me back. How could I watch myself struggle to hold my leg up, to hit that balance, to nail that triple, when I used to be so … good?
It was too sad to watch my abilities decline.
Instead, I tried to find my next *~thing~*.
I threw everything I had into my college education. And during that time, I heard about this thing called Pure Barre. And to be quite frank, I thought Pure Barre was kind of a hoax. I was an artist, you understand, and Pure Barre seemed pricey.
I’d taken similar classes that were physically demanding and made me sweat, but lacked emotional gratification. Even the forms of barre classes I’d tried felt cheapened somehow. I’ve been to countless yoga, spin, and dance fusion classes, and I generally enjoy them, but I never planned my whole week around those classes.
So a few years later, when my colleague pushed me to come with her to Pure Barre to tone up before my impending wedding (I only had three months to prep — young and in love and all that jazz), you can imagine my initial reaction.
I figured it would be a pretty good workout, but just an expensive way to do something I could do for myself. What could Pure Barre teach me about form and strength that I didn’t know? After a lifetime dedicated to a technical artform, how could a simple exercise class compare? Do they really think that they can just slap up a barre, play some pop music, and wait for me to shell out $155 per month?
You’re damn right they can.
Why should I pay a lot of money for exercise classes that I can do at home?
Because I found a way to appreciate my body.
To look in the mirror and not instantly see 14 things that could improve and 12 pounds that should be shed. To watch my biceps jump on my arm. To be proud of myself. Finally, I’ve found something again where hard work equals fulfilling growth — a place where I can be noticeably better than I was last month.
Here, I respect my body for its capabilities and don’t constantly wish away imperfections (except for you, left knee, darn you to heck).
After my first Pure Barre class, I came home and cried.
I also thought I might throw up because it’d been a hot minute since I’d last spent 90 seconds in a plank position, but the two feelings weren’t related.
It was an emotional experience for reasons that are hard to understand, and harder to explain. But I’d found my place at the barre again, and I was overwhelmed.
Of course, not everyone will come home and collapse in a salty puddle of sweat and tears like I did, but not everyone has the emotional range of a mile-wide pendulum working double-time like I do.
Even if you’ve never taken a dance class in your life, it’s a wonderful workout and encouraging atmosphere.
Here are the four more reasons why I value my Pure Barre membership and justify the cost:
I can already hear the cracking knuckles of people prepping to fly to the comment section to tell me to buy light weights, stream YouTube and do these exercises at home.
But here’s the thing: I wasn’t doing it myself. I’m in a one-bedroom condo, don’t have a home gym and can’t easily access the kind of space where I would enjoy putting on some music and leading myself in a structured class. (My condo complex’s gym has been out of commission due to construction for about one year now. An obnoxious story with no point for another day.)
The accountability, convenience and physical space of group exercise is what I need right now.
One of the things I love most about Pure Barre is that I can stand between a college student, a working professional, a stay-at-home mother and a 60-year-old retiree. And literally nobody cares. Everybody — and every body — is celebrated. Nobody is better than another.
Besides, Pure Barre has created a true community, and its one I want to be a part of. This community is more than a marketing ploy — it’s a genuine commitment to supporting the local women and businesses that we walk by daily.
I’m sure every location of the franchise is different, but I’ve witnessed mine visit clients in the hospital, publicly throw support behind a client’s personal business, and host self-care Sunday-type events that include class, camaraderie, facials and after-class mimosas.
It’s nice to have strong, beautiful women in your corner constantly cheering you on in all areas of your life. And those are the kind of women I want to be around when I’m about to pass out from planking.
I look forward to classes. I crave them. My body knows when I miss a few days.
Having a place in a group where I belong fills a void I didn’t know had been created when I stopped dancing.
Calm, constructive critiques.
I’m no flower. I’ve been screamed at in Russian, French, Spanish and Southern Twang™ in a dance studio and I’m fine.
But harsh barks of esteem-ruining corrections don’t work for me. My self-loathing button is already wired and running, thanks, and I have to actively work turn that internal dialogue off. Don’t need any drill-sergeant wannabe trying to incite some sort of motivation in me.
What I need are sweet nothings whispered in my ear.
“You’re so strong.”
“Beautiful, keep it up.”
“Hang in there — show up for yourself today; remember the goal you set at the beginning of class!”
And my favorite: “YOU decide how hard you work today.”
I feel like there’s an opportunity for a “lifted seats, lifted spirits” joke in here somewhere.
In all seriousness, the instructor corrections are very hands-on and actually helpful, which is important to me.
In the past, yoga teachers have been easily blinded by my freakishly flexible hips and super-stretchy hammies. In other words, it’s easy to cheat. My favorite yoga teachers were always ballet dancers first, because they know how to spot where I’m compensating.
At Pure Barre, the instructors know how to correct you so that you are working the right muscle, and aren’t distracted by high legs or open hips because many of them were dancers too. You just can’t get those kinds of personalized critiques from YouTube.
I work in a creative business, which means my imagination is nearly always churning and frequently runs away, leaving me in the dust. Couple that with my type-A planning tendencies and my constant hyper-analyzation of every awkward conversation I’ve ever had, and you get a brain that’s whirring like a hamster wheel. Only the hamster just had eight cups of espresso. Also the hamster is also trying to vacuum the living room and remember to return the library books at the same time.
That’s what the inside of my head feels like a lot of the time.
Pure Barre puts a lot of emphasis on the mind-body connection — on focusing so deeply on your form and your breath that there’s very little room to think about anything else.
It’s hard to wonder what your manager wanted to meet about tomorrow, mentally draft an outline or panic about your unborn daughter’s susceptibility to cancer when your thighs are shaking hard enough to power a generator. You have to tune in to that.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t enter a zen-like state every time I hear, “Feet together, pull off the barre, drop your seat to 90 degrees.”
In fact, the only thing going through my mind then is a four-letter word I don’t want my grandmother to read in this post.
But see? That four-letter word is the only thing running through my mind — there’s no extra room to wonder what I should’ve planned for dinner or what sweater I should wear to the mountains in a few weeks.
I know the concept of a mind-body connection isn’t exclusive to Pure Barre, but it’s where it works for me.
And I’d pay well over $155/month to turn my brain off for 50 minutes every day.
Final 10, and you’re out:
Find a form of exercise that doesn’t fill you with dread. It’s good for your heart. (And mental health. And waistline.)
Save money by not wasting it on things you don’t like. Spend more on the things that fulfill you. Sometimes, more expensive things are worth the splurge.
Support businesses that support you.
Strength is chic.
Making time for a mind-body connection lowers stress and anxiety levels, which is worth every penny. Mental health is equally important to physical health.
Learn to be patient with yourself. And forgiving. And kind.
Give yourself a third-space. You have work and you have home — give yourself an outlet.
Show up for yourself.
Connect with a community.
Embrace the shake. In Pure Barre, the goal is to reach the point where your muscles are shaking and work from there. Because when you push yourself the breaking point, change occurs. That’s where the growth happens. So in your career, in that email you’re too scared to send, in your everyday workout — I think you should push yourself to shake. Finding your limits is critical to surpassing them.
Know thyself. And shake thyself.
It’s important to analyze your personal financial situation and determine what you can actually afford — and what you will actually attend. Pure Barre is what’s right for me. Do what’s right for you. So what do you think? Am I justified in my monthly membership? Or am I lift, tone and burning through my savings? I want to hear your thoughts and your approach to exercise in the comments below!
P.S. No, this 2,000-word ode to Pure Barre is not sponsored.