Jessica Sund, Ballet Bare, ABT Ballet

The Truth Behind the Ballet Body

How do you get a long, lean, dancer-like physique? Hint: Step away from the barre.

Ever since Natalie Portman made the ballet body every woman’s must have, ladies (and some gentlemen) have been flocking to barre-based classes in droves. But while there may be a ballet barre present in the room, many of these curriculums are only loosely based on the ballerina’s real repertoire — undeniably the source of her long, lean, sculpted frame. Long before the film — and the subsequent boutique barre studio boom — Equinox Instructor Nadia Zaki was creating dancer-like bodies in the classroom with her Inner Series Method. The secret? Using true ballet-based moves.

"No matter what the position, you always need to be mindful of your movements, and actively lengthen and stretch everything from your fingers to your toes," says Zaki, "The effectiveness of the moves comes from the simultaneous stretching and strengthening of the muscles." American Ballet Theatre Dancer Jessica Saund demonstrates Zaki's moves in the slideshow below. Do 2 sets of the indicated reps 3 times per week on non-consecutive days, and you'll be svelte as a swan.

View Slideshow Jessica Sund, Ballet Bare, ABT Ballet
Bring the moves with you. Download pdf instructions.

Photography by Ryan Forbes