About a year ago, after multiple fitness failures, I lost my patience trying to find a sustainable exercise regime. Fitness fads had me feeling more frantic than fit.Gyms were a no-no after too many bad experiences involving second-rate machinery, combined with inflated monthly membership fees. I threw in the towel, got lazy and those netflix induced kilos began to pile on, leaving me no choice but to find an alternative.
After a long thinking and sulk session, I remembered… yas – Dance! I had forgotten I knew how to boogie. Not just any kind of boogie either. Proper dance. Ballet!
Aside from the performance aspect of the art form, ballet dancing for health and fitness has become quite the rage both in and outside of Argentina. It combines balance with muscle strengthening and lengthening, flexibility training and cardio. It’s proven to be a brilliant way to stay in shape as well as fix your posture and can help relieve everyday aches and pains.
Picking A Spot
Sometimes it can be difficult to find a dance studio that fits your needs and abilities. Especially if you’re an adult who’s been out of the loop for a long time. The good news is that Buenos Aires is one of the region’s art and dance epicenters, and has a huge array of schools that offer ballet classes all across the city.
While I don’t assume to speak for everyone’s needs and goals, finding Ballet Estudio in the heart of Recoleta helped my creative life and fitness objectives click into place. This is in no way the only studio in town, but has a range of classes and a flexibility that matched up with what I was looking for.
The studio has a pretty iconic reputation, in great part due the two people who founded it. The late Olga Ferri, who passed away in 2012, and her husband Enrique Lommi were highly regarded dancers in their own right. They were both established figures of the “golden age” at the Colon theater in the 1940s.
As soon as you walk through the school door the royal red and blue painted walls and the vintage dance memorabilia adorning them, hark back to the Grand Splendid (now the famous bookshop El Ateneo) and the Teatro Colon.
Once known as “Miss Ferri” to her foreign audience or Olguita to her peers, Ferri was an icon in her day, travelling the world dancing and becoming one of the first Argentine ballerinas to truly dazzle British and European audiences in the 1960s and 1970s, receiving rave reviews, often being hand-picked by directors to be invited back to dance lead roles in major ballet works. Notably, this occurred with the London Festival Ballet, which is today’s English National Ballet (ENO).
Upon returning, Miss Ferri dedicated herself to teaching, while continuing to perform. She also helped foster the careers of some of Argentina’s brightest ballet stars; most notably that of Paloma Herrera, who at the end of 2015 retired from ABT (American Ballet Theatre) in New York and hung up her shoes as a guest prima ballerina at the Teatro Colon.
Today, the dance icon’s niece Marisa Ferri runs Ballet Estudio also teaches a number of classes, for both adults and children.
I started with a simple once-a-week routine, trying Marisa’s intermediate class for adults first, to see how I felt. Over the course of the year I added, mixed and matched other classes, to help my technique get back to somewhere close to where it was when I was a teen, or better yet, somewhere new and greater.
If you’ve never danced before, try the adult beginner classes, and if you have danced before but haven’t danced in ages, throw yourself straight into intermediate and see how you get on. Obviously if you are advanced and know you can handle something tougher, try one of the Colon teacher’s classes (Alejandro Totto or Noemi Szleszynki are particularly). The cool thing is that there are a ton of classes to choose from, offering different approaches.
Instructors To Look Into
Francisca Durao is a flamenco and ballet dancer from Portugal who trained through Royal Academy (RAD) and ISTD ballet syllabuses to their highest levels in Europe, and continues to perfect her craft today. She teaches adult beginners and retrains forgetful oldies (like myself) in the downstairs studio. The classes are set, which means you have to learn the class plan bit-by-bit.
This is THE class if you are an absolute beginner. In addition to being a pro at teaching beginners, Durao also speaks English and Portuguese. She also has a habit of adding in flamenco port-de-bras into her practice providing movement and music not seen in most ballet classes.
Luana is a vibrant teacher from Italy, bringing a wealth of ballet knowledge from years of experience dancing in Europe. She teaches technique to adult beginners. Her approach is quite tough, but worth it because she also goes in deep on certain physical aspects that sometimes can get overlooked in other classes.
For adult classes at an intermediate level Marisa Ferri, the director of the school definitely follows in her aunt’s footsteps maintaining a legacy of excellence, but adding her own personal flair to teaching.
She has her own wealth of experience from having attended the Teatro Colon school as a younger dancer, as well as having trained under her aunt for the majority of her career, carrying over to a possession of masterful insight in abundance.
In her classes, she is specific and quite focused on detail when it comes to technique, but has a great way of getting what she wants across to the student, and has the ability to do so in both English and Spanish.
Aside from providing a complete workout, the class also allows for a more of a soulful approach to ballet with music. Ferri’s direction is accompanied by a live pianist, Leonardo Bedetti, who skillfully plays some traditional ballet music and then adds in heart-stroking instrumental versions of classic songs.
Another notably lovely aspect about the class is that Ferri is particularly funny, so there are often a lot of quirky stories and breaks for laughter that accompany the hard work in class.
Of all the things the classes at Ballet Estudio have in common is that “no matter what’s going on in your personal life or the outside world, you leave the studio post-class feeling wonderful and completely renewed emotionally, mentally and spiritually.”
The fact that you get a great bod in the process seems like a bit of a bargain, to be honest.