The clients are lying on the mat with their shoulders and knees drawn up while sucking in their bellies. Resistance bands are looped around their feet. Gripping the ends of the bands, they curl their biceps. Later in the class, they stand up with the bands planted under their feet. They pull the bands to stretch the sides of their bodies, as if doing dumbbell side bends.
If CrossFit, plyometrics, marathon or weight resistance training may seem too much load on the joints, the new Ballet Philippines Dance Studio at SM Aura offers dance-based workouts that focus on better posture and improving physical conditioning.
Active Stretch is designed to increase the range of motion in the joints, loosen up tight muscles and prevent muscle soreness caused by vigorous exercise. Unlike the static stretches where you hold the poses for over a minute, this workout emphasizes reaching out and pulling inward toward the body’s center and articulating the spine and the extremities.
For better oxygen and blood circulation, the movement is coordinated with the breath. Some exercises utilize resistance bands that work like elastic weights. The session ends with stretches at the ballet barre to further lengthen the muscles.
The workout was developed by Stanley Cañete, former member of Ballet Philippines (BP), who derived some movements from the preconditioning classes at Hong Kong Academy of Performing Arts, where he was a scholar.
The Active Stretch class begins with exercises to relax the shoulder blades, neck and hip joints—the tighter parts of desk-bound individuals. The standing exercises focus on correct pelvic alignment. Cañete explains that the pelvis is the “focal point” of the body, or the main attachment spot for muscles that move the upper and lower body. When the pelvis moves, the body moves with it.
However, poor posture and wrong ways of moving can create tension around the legs, buttocks and lower back. The most common problem is pushing the pelvis backward from sitting too long or “tucking in” the pelvis from too much core exercises or sit-ups. You can end up activating more muscles than needed or use the wrong muscles to compensate for imbalance.
All these hamper freedom of movement or result in stiffness, fatigue and muscle pains. Cañete makes use of exercises to release the overused muscles and to perk up the weak muscles that aren’t utilized enough.
For all ages
To BP president Margie Moran-Floirendo, Active Stretch improved her muscle placement. “In the past, I’ve felt strain on my right hip. This removed my discomfort.” She adds that the exercises elongate her muscles, thus making her look taller, and the resistance bands help to tone the arms.
Advertising agency owner Vickie Perez de Tagle finds the workout powerful even without pumping iron. “At my age, when I do weight training, I get injuries. This is gentler yet intense because of the stretches.”
Nina Halley, entrepreneur and tanguera (tango dancer), appreciates the importance of stretching which she had taken for granted. “I haven’t felt this good in a long time. I got to know my muscles again. I didn’t know certain muscles existed. The stretch is very relaxing. Good to do this every morning at my age. It’s one of the best anti-aging practices. It’s very comprehensive because you exercise the neck, upper body and lower body.”
The studio workouts are not just for women of a certain allure. For young chef Amanda Tengco-Banzon, the stretch was a contrast to her boxing workout. “Since it was slow, I felt I could concentrate on my muscles. It will make me more aware of my body,” she says.
An entrepreneur for artisanal meat products, Monica Floirendo-Ugarte, who does yoga, boxing and Barre3, finds the stretch class refreshing. Active Stretch doesn’t have the static poses or the explosive movements in her workouts. “My hips and back are not flexible. This can improve my mobility and posture. It’s graceful, not too strenuous and fun.”
A former dancer of Karilagan and Julie Borromeo Dance Arts studio, Floirendo has been taking up the Argentine tango. She got her groove back joining other studio workouts. Cañete has also developed a ballet-based workout which focuses on balance, coordination and deportment.
For more dancing, there’s the Ladies’ Ballet, which teaches the standard combinations at the barre, turns and jumps. The women’s ages range from an 18-year-old student to a 73-year-old grandmother. “I was inspired by my mom, who took up dancing at 60,” says Floirendo.
The Ladies’ Ballet Class taught her how to work her triceps (back of the arms) just by lifting the arms correctly. Ballet helped her rediscover her insteps for balancing in her tango moves, and the adagio exercises gave her a cleaner body line.
Adults can also join the Latin Workout, which is a series of dance moves that pump up the heart, or take the Modern Dance Workout, which consists of floor exercises that emphasize the contractions, releases and spiral movements and standing exercises for the legs and feet.
The BP Dance School is led by Victor Ursabia, director of CCP Dance School. Having a studio at a mall is convenient for families where they can do everything from going to the chapel and watching a movie, to shopping and exercising. The enrollment in baby and children’s ballet classes is high, and mothers end up taking the studio workouts. The only drawback: as soon as you go down to SM Aura’s fifth floor, there’s the Todd English Food Hall and the Magnum Café to tempt you.
Ballet Philippines Dance School is at 6/F SM Aura. The fitness program consists of Ballet Workout, Ladies Ballet, Active Stretch, Latin Workout, Modern Dance Workout. For details, contact BP at tel. nos. 4407304, 8333244 and 8323689.