Growing up I spent most of my afternoons and weekends at my local dance studio. I was enrolled in every genre of dance they offered, but ballet was always the class I looked forward to most. I loved the precision of it, how all the movements had French names and the way it made me appreciate what my body could do.
So when I learned that Steezy Studio — a dance technology company that offers online classes taught by professionals — was launching a new ballet dance curriculum, I dug up my old ballet shoes and leotard to see whether or not this program could help get my ballet body back.
The basics: Cost and equipment
Pre-COVID-19, I'd take an occasional dance class here and there at my local studio in Queens, New York, for around $35 per class. So access to Steezy's Intro to Ballet program seemed like a steal by comparison. You can access their five-week, 25-class program for $20 per month or $99.99 for the year, which shakes out to around $8 monthly. This cost includes access to the entire Steezy platform, which you can access by logging onto the site or through the app. Want to learn how to dance to K-pop? Dance in heels? Break dance or krump? It's all included. Even their new contemporary and jazz programs are accessible through this $20 a month membership, which follow a similar structure to Intro to Ballet.
Other than that, you'll need something sturdy you can use as a ballet barre (a standard sized chair will do the trick), and lots of space. This is especially crucial toward the end of the program, since you'll be doing turns, leaps and full dance choreography that travels from one corner of a room to another, mimicking the way it'd be performed in an actual studio. The classes can be done barefoot if you don't have ballet shoes, but you may want to invest in a pair of dance stickers to optimize your turns.
Navigating the app
Steezy's virtual platform was clearly designed with dancers in mind. Once you select the class you'd like to take, you can switch the camera view of the class so that you're either watching it facing the instructor, or following along behind her as you would in a dance class. If you're working out in a room without mirrors, you can turn the camera feature on and see yourself dance alongside the instructor to check your form. The platform also allows you to change the speed of the class in case you need to take things slower.
Or if you're the type that often get confused between your left and your instructor's left, play the class in "mirror mode" to take out the guesswork. And using loop mode, you can replay sections of the class on loop as much as needed.
Within each class there's a "view sections" option, which shows you what the class will entail and lets you skip backward and forward in case there are certain portions you want to spend more time on.
What the workout entails
The Intro to Ballet program consists of 25 days worth of classes, clocking in at around 30-45 minutes per day. It teaches all the basic techniques of ballet, starting with a traditional ballet warm-up and key stretches. From there, the program moves on to mastering the arm, leg and feet positions used in ballet. These positions are then put into action through a series of barre technique classes, where you'll master ballet movements with the aid of the barre (or in my case, a sturdy chair) to keep you stabilized.
Once you have the hang of it, the next series of classes take you off the barre and to the center of the floor, where you work on holding your center of gravity and balance on your own. Then it gets really fun: turns and jumps. The turn portion of the program focuses on the preparation needed to execute a turn successfully before moving into full turns. Similarly, small jumps are taught and mastered before moving on to the large jump series. At the close of the program, you have the opportunity to learn classic ballet choreography, like the sugar plum dance from "The Nutcracker."
While the program is set out for 25 days of classes, it's also designed to be adjusted to your own learning pace. It's easy to repeat certain sections using the loop feature or skip forward and backward within the class sections.
My experience trying Steezy's Intro to Ballet
Taking the program's Day 1 Stretch and Warm Up class was a humbling experience for me. I knew there was no way I'd be as flexible as I was in my prime dancer days — but attempting a split for the first time in over a decade showed me just how little flexibility my body had retained.
As I moved through the core foot positions and corresponding arm placement, I was happy to see my body still had some muscle memory. But even if I were trying these movements for the first time, the instructor explains proper form and repeats the breakdown throughout each sequence, which makes it easy to learn.
The barre sequences were equally prescriptive. This made relearning proper plié form (when you bend your knees to expand over your toes in various ballet positions) quick to master. By the end of the barre classes I really felt as if I were taking part in a live ballet class.
I really struggled when it came to turns and jumps with this program. Even with all the technology offered by Steezy's classes, jumping and turning in your home and not a studio built for it is challenging. It's not just about having enough space to execute the moves, it's the actual floor that started to become problematic for me. My floor doesn't have that same give of an actual dance studio that's engineered for this kind of movement; Even with a shock-absorbing mat, performing these moves "all out" shook my entire apartment.
The final portion of this program was my favorite — learning the choreography of a full ballet dance to perform. I especially appreciated Steezy's option to turn your camera on and see yourself dance alongside the dancers for these last classes. Not only was it fun to see, but it made it easy to follow along and helped me get the timing right on each move. I loved that these dances really traveled from corner to corner the way you would during an actual dance class. I only wished I had more space in my apartment to dance them full out.
Even if you've never set foot in a studio in your life, Steezy's Intro to Ballet makes this form of dance feel accessible for rookies or even first timers. The program's lead instructor, Brittany Cavaco of The English National Ballet, does an excellent job of providing encouragement and modifications throughout the program, which I was particularly grateful for while relearning the basics.
The platform's features and functionalities provide all the tools that would be accessible to you in a live dance studio to use at your own leisure. Instead of asking your instructor to go over a certain move, you have the loop feature and can slow the class down to your own speed. Want to switch your position in the classroom to be closer or further away from the instructor? Use mirror mode or shift the view from front to back. The program and technology are clearly well thought out, catering options for anyone from absolute beginners to experienced dancers just looking for a refresh.
Even if you have an entire room to dedicate to taking ballet class, it's not going to afford you the shock absorption you really need to be able to leap, jump and turn the way you would in an actual studio. This only becomes problematic as you near the end of the program. But after dedicating so much of your time to learning the basic moves and positions, it's a bummer to not be able to move as freely as the dancers you're learning from during these fun portions of the program.
While the program is well paced and easy to follow as a beginner, I still wish I could've taken the class alongside at least one other beginner dancer. All three of the dancers featured throughout the program appear to be seasoned ballerinas — which feels great once you've mastered these moves and are able to keep up with them, but when you're just starting the program it feels intimidating.
If you're looking for a workout that's going to make you sweat or leave you with the burn you feel after a barre or Pilates class, this isn't the program for you. Intro to Ballet will undoubtedly help improve flexibility and provide toning benefits, but it's truly a dance program, not a fitness class.
I would recommend this program to:
- Anyone who has always wanted to try ballet (or another classic style of dance) for the first time or loved taking ballet classes as a kid and wants a refresher
- People with plenty of space in their home
- Someone who wants to come out of COVID-19 with a cool new hobby
- People looking for novel ways to get their body moving
- Those who are intimidated by in-person dance classes