Fitness class raises the barre

BRIA GRANVILLE | Staff Photographer
Jessica Heid helps teach the first barre class of the season Monday in the Carnahan-Jackson Dance Studio. Heid is also a teacher of open creative movement and beginning ballet for Chautauqua Dance.

Barre fitness classes have been sweeping the nation, and now this combination class of Pilates, ballet, yoga and aerobics has arrived at Chautauqua Institution.

For those interested in increasing their fitness level by blending the principles of a variety of workout programs, the new barre fitness Special Studies class may be the perfect workout.

Jessica Heid and Rebecca Janes began teaching barre fitness during Week One. Classes will continue during Weeks Two through Five and Week Seven from 7:30 to 8:30 a.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at the Carnahan-Jackson Dance Studio.

The class begins with a warm-up and arm exercises. It then moves to the ballet barre, where about half of the class is taught. Afterward, abdominal exercises and a cool-down stretch finish out the class. Taught to upbeat music, the session is also designed to keep the participants constantly moving and to boost their metabolisms.

“Some people might see some similarities to the progression of a ballet class where we start with pliés and work our way up to bigger moves,” Heid said.

Barre fitness is easily adaptable to fit all age ranges and fitness levels. Janes said when she teaches at a local YMCA in Charlotte, North Carolina, her classes are made up of students whose ages range from 20 to, in some cases, 80 years old.

“All of our bodies are different, with different body structures,” she said. “Barre fitness is for everyone.”

Once a professional ballet dancer herself, Heid said she enjoys the incorporation of ballet into the exercise program.

“I have always have enjoyed those movements,” she said. “The basics like pliés and working on that beautiful posture that dancers have.”

Heid spent three summers as an apprentice in the dance program at Chautauqua and now teaches Special Studies ballet classes each season. She has been teaching barre fitness in her hometown of Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, for about three years.

She said barre fitness is a good way to work the body and mind while still having fun.

“I completely believe in sustainable exercise — both as mental health and physical health — because if it’s something you don’t enjoy, then you won’t continue,” she said.

Janes is also a former professional dancer, with the Charlotte Ballet, who started barre fitness to keep in shape after retiring from her dance career. She currently teaches dance at the Charlotte Ballet Academy in North Carolina. She spends her summers in Chautauqua with her husband, Sasha Janes, associate artistic director of the Charlotte Ballet.

Janes said she is excited for the community to see her in the studio rather than on the stage, and to meet more of the community members and to share the experience with them.

Heid hopes that guests who take her class will take what they learn at Chautauqua and continue once they leave.

“I feel like this is something that people will come away from saying, ‘I really enjoyed that and I want to continue at home once the season is over,’ ” she said.