Pirouette till you sweat

A new fitness class in Norwich has not only got many pirouetting to improve their health, it has also transformed the life of one local mum. Emma Harrowing speaks to Amber Davis about her new found passion for fitness ballet.

Hands up if you try out a new fitness class, go for a few weeks and then start to miss one or two until you give up altogether.

Most of us love trying out a new fitness craze but many fall off the fitness wagon before we really start to see the results.

Mum of one Amber Davis from Norwich is all too familiar with the constant battle of will power required to get yourself to the gym or to a fitness lesson every week – in fact, like many of us, Amber would sometimes miss the occasional class.

'Many fitness classes can seem like a good idea at the time but after a few weeks you start to get bored or find that the class is too difficult to keep up with,' says 33-year-old Amber.

'I've always had an interest in health and fitness, taking up yoga when I was expecting my daughter Ruby, but after having Ruby I have found it hard to get back into a good fitness regime; one that my body really responded to.'

Amber's constant battle to regain and maintain her fitness came to an end when she discovered fitness ballet, a relatively new fitness class created by dancer and fitness instructor Kirsty Pellant from Canterbury. However, this is not a familiar tale of finding the right exercise to suit you – Amber's story is unique:

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'I went to ballet classes from the age of three up until I was 18 years old,' says Amber who majored in contemporary dance as part of her degree in performing arts and media.

'When I found out about fitness ballet I could suddenly see that there was a solution to my frustration of not regularly attending an exercise class – I could teach one of the first fitness ballet classes in Norwich.'

Amber's joint honours degree led her to one of two paths – to train as a dancer or to pursue a career in media. Amber followed the media path and went into the field of PR, a role she says was the most sensible financial option. Now it seems as if she can do both. While working at her day job doing the PR for companies such as Chapelfield and looking after her daughter Ruby, Amber trained for her fitness instructor and her fitness ballet qualifications and is now a fully fledged fitness ballet instructor. She has also become a member of the Register of Exercise Professionals and she has studied the principles of the Alexander Technique.

Says Amber: 'Devising a class that is not only challenging and fun, but safe and effective is at the heart of my approach.

'I see fitness ballet as my hobby and it's a pastime that fulfils my desire to improve and maintain my fitness levels as I cannot slack off as I'm the teacher!

'I'm really enjoying planning and choreographing the exercises – it's like a workout for my mind as well as my body.'

Fitness ballet incorporates basic ballet moves to contemporary music, music Amber says you can sing along to if you want (her classes are choreographed to songs from Lady Gaga to The Bee Gees). Along with improving your fitness benefits of the exercises include increased flexibility, better posture and overall strength, the lengthening of muscles and improvement in core stability.

'I've done some practice classes and people have been surprised by how accessible fitness ballet is,' says Amber. 'You don't need any previous experience of ballet. Fitness ballet is an exercise class and not a dance lesson so everyone can do it.

'We use basic ballet moves such as practising the first position with the feet, rather than the third or fourth position. The focus is on getting your posture and stance right rather than storming ahead through a high-energy exercise class.

'The classes start with a basic move and we gradually add layers to it, adding more moves to create a sequence. Depending on the ability of the class we can progress to advanced moves so that those who have a good grasp of the basics can further improve their fitness.

'As for the singing to the songs as you exercise – this is optional although singing does help you engage your core muscles!'

Each exercise works opposing sets of muscles so if you work the biceps in your arms a similar exercise will be applied to the triceps in your arms.

The classes are in a similar format to an aerobics or yoga class. A gentle warm-up followed by stretches gets the body ready for some aerobic moves, before working on muscle strength and then returning to stretches to cool down.

'The stretches in the cool down are one of the important parts of the class,' says Amber. 'Usually an exercise class will spend the last two or three minutes on this part of the programme but in fitness ballet this takes a good ten minutes of the 45-minute class.'

As the focus of the class is to perfect moves and to increase flexibility the temperature of the room is usually at 24 degrees Celsius as this aids muscle flexibility, therefore making sure you drink water throughout the class is essential.

'I've developed an exercise program that is easily accessible to everyone no matter how fit (or not) they are,' says Amber. 'The important thing is to enjoy it, have fun and get fit at the same time.'

Fitness ballet classes are held every Saturday for until July 16 at the Oasis Sports and Leisure Club on Pound Lane. Classes start at 9.35am and finish at 10.20am. Classes cost �5 each when booked in a block of six, or �5.50 if you prefer to pay as you go. For parents who want to try out the classes there is a cr�che for your children which will give you a further 50p off the fitness class price. Members of Oasis also get a 50p discount. For more information or to book call Amber Davis on 07956 124 836 or email amberlinderdavis@gmail.com