Dance enthusiast Katrina Strathearn was looking for a way to continue dancing following illness and despite a complicated work schedule.  Here she writes about her experience of a ballet based online training programme, Sleek Technique:

I have found the best way to exercise – it’s easy to commit to, gets results, and I can wear my robe before and after class.

In December 2013, I was suffering from Post-Viral Fatigue Syndrome (a cousin of Chronic Fatigue) and was looking for a way to maintain some of the dance fitness I once had in a measured, bite-sized way.  Having danced from the age of 13 and covered styles from jazz ballet and tap, to hip hop, salsa, jive and Zumba, I knew that dance was the type of exercise that I enjoyed most, and that gave me the best results for my body type.  But there were a few obstacles in the way.  Living in the Oxfordshire countryside, away from town centres, I found it very difficult to get the motivation or energy to drive to and from classes.  I am an Aussie, and exercising outside in the cold was not an option that appealed to me.  I needed there to be multiple class times available to fit around my work schedule.

I had read various articles in magazines about the trend for classical dance-based exercise classes, and an online search gave me Sleek Technique.  Founders Flick Swan and Victoria Marr describe it as a way to: “Tone and strengthen your body with a total fitness workout based on authentic ballet technique” .  They offer classes in two ways – either via on-demand videos which range from 15 – 45 minutes long, and ‘live’ classes conducted via a video streaming service (basically classes by video conference).  These short ‘bite-sized’ classes were a perfect way for me to start exercising again as I could add classes if I felt strong enough, or just stick to one class if I didn’t.  After a month or so I felt strong enough to do proper beginners’ ballet classes as a way to further regain my tone and some of my stamina, and so began Saturday classes with the lovely Susie Crow in Oxford.

Eventually, I started doing the ‘live’ classes with Sleek Technique’s lovely instructors. This is how it works:

  1. I put my exercise outfit on under my bathrobe.
  2. Clear obstacles from the living room and set up my laptop so I can see the screen, and the instructor can see me.
  3. Set up my home-made ballet barre (or chair) and yoga mat.
  4. Log-in to the video conferencing software.
  5. Say hello to my instructor before going through a 30, 45 or 60-minute class.
  6. Receive personalised tips and advice throughout the session as the instructor keeps an eye on my technique.
  7. Finish the class with a ‘reverence’, say goodbye and shut my laptop.
  8. Put my robe on and go back to what I was doing.

The classes with Susie accelerated my technique and posture and made doing the on-demand and live Sleek Technique classes better as I was able to extend myself more into the exercises.  Don’t be fooled: whether you are doing barre, centre or mat work you will be expected to conduct each exercise with proper ballet technique.  The cardio classes are intense and high impact.  This is hard work!

Two years and a house move later and I still ‘Sleek’ several times a week.   Because it’s fun, and I don’t have to go anywhere to participate, commitment is not an issue.  My dancer’s body is back, I have beautifully toned arms, a strong back and a longer figure.  I’m even considering buying a leotard.  While Sleek Technique is no substitute for proper ballet classes if you love working on choreography, it’s a wonderful way to get a dancer’s body in a safe, supportive environment and practice your technique under the watchful, expert gaze of professional ballerinas.

Katrina Strathearn

*Please note: I wrote this article because I genuinely love this programme. I do not receive any payment for endorsement of products or services.

Find ou more about Sleek Technique here

Oxford Dance Writers would welcome your comments on and discussion of experiences of this and other online and video dance training resources…

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