While speaking with a premier New Jersey floral designer, I was captivated by her stories about the painstaking effort thatRead More
Mary Helen Bowers has performed on stages all around the world as a professional ballet dancer and has dedicated most of her life to the craft, so it’s no surprise that Natalie Portman turned to her when she needed a pro to train for the Oscar-winning lead role in Black Swan. The pair worked together over the course of two years—before the film even got an official go-ahead. They trained for at least two hours a day, five or six days a week, with Bowers creating a program that consisted of exercise moves she had used during her years of dancing, coupled with professional ballet training. “We really focused on getting her strong and fit, as well as teaching her to move and look like a true ballerina,” Bowers says. “The transformation was amazing and the film did an incredible job of showing how hard the life of a ballet dancer is.” Luckily, you don’t have to be a Hollywood star to reap the rewards of Bowers’ knowledge—you can simply log on to her website for Ballet Beautiful (balletbeautiful.com), a fitness method that provides techniques to build and maintain the beauty, strength and tone of a true ballerina’s form. Bowers created the routine for herself during her years as a professional ballerina. She says it helped her to stay strong, flexible, lean and, most important, injury-free during her decade-long career. “I took my first dance class at 8, and by the time I was 12 I knew I wanted to be a professional dancer,” Bowers says. By the age of 15, she was attending the prestigious School of American Ballet in Manhattan on a full scholarship, and just one year later she was invited to join the New York City Ballet. For 10 years, she danced at Lincoln Center and on stages around the world. “When you’re a professional dancer, you really don’t have anything else going on,” Bowers says. “When you’re not performing, you’re training for hours. Your whole life is about ballet.” So when she retired from performing, Bowers was ready for a break from the ballet world—and her workout routine. But she returned to it while planning her own wedding in 2007. “It really helped me get back into ‘ballerina’ form, not to mention it’s a great stress reliever—definitely something every bride needs,” she explains. “And I loved that I didn’t have to go to the gym. I could do it from the comfort of my own home and take as little as 15 minutes or an hour.” The workout consists of a series of ballet-inspired moves that promote good posture, sleek micro-targeted muscles (abs, inner thighs, back of legs, butt and arms/upper body), elongated limbs and increased flexibility. “It’s perfect for brides that want to lose weight or simply tone up before the wedding,” Bowers says. “And you definitely want great posture while wearing that dress. At a certain level, every bride is performing on her wedding day, and the ballet techniques help to bring out the grace and elegance you want when you’re walking down the aisle.” Brides that have used the Ballet Beautiful method can’t stop singing its praises. “It changed my body like no other workout, and I have tried more than a few,” says Romy Soleimani, who trained with Bowers before and after her own 2009 wedding. “Ballet Beautiful tightens those spots that are impossible to get, like those on the side of your butt—you can feel it working!” Lynn Pompei took advantage of the streaming videos available on the website to get into shape before her 2010 nuptials. “I was traveling back and forth between New York City and L.A. during that time and I was able to do Ballet Beautiful online with Mary Helen. That relieved a lot of stress for a very busy bride,” she says. “I didn’t want to lose weight—my goal was to tighten and tone while remaining long and elegant. It was a relief to not have my dress size fluctuating between fittings, but to see that each time I tried on my dress, it looked better and better.” Classes are currently available through streaming videos online. “It’s amazing to log onto the site every day and see women from all over the world accessing the workout,” Bowers says. “And there’s definitely more to come.” In fact, she has plans to launch a series of DVDs later this year, and is opening a studio in SoHo, perfect for New Jersey girls who want to drive in and train in person with Bowers. Brides will have plenty of options to get Ballet Beautiful before their big day.