Ropes, medicine balls and boxing gloves lay idle as seven people held a wooden bar and pliéd.
“The performance is not for one month, so we have time,” said the instructor jokingly, as the class performed a relevé, the classic ballet move of rising to the toes from the flat foot position.
The instructor is Maria Teresa Del Real, a Puerto Rican prima ballerina who speaks with an English accent and wants to challenge classical ballet with a new fitness regimen called Barrebox.
“I believe ballet can offer a lot as an exercise form,” said Del Real, 50, in the lounge of the Barrebox boutique at 2420 SW 27th Ave., which opened in February. “The idea is taken from the body conditioning world that people don’t see because it’s back stage.”
Barrebox is designed for non-dancers to elongate their muscles, strengthen their core, and increase flexibility by combining the movements and posture of ballet with cross-training techniques that Del Real learned throughout her career.
She is a ballerina who became a principal dancer at age 17 in Ballet San Juan. In London, where she lived for 20 years, she danced for more than four ballet companies, including the English National Ballet. There she befriended Princess Diana, who would often take ballet classes with the company.
The Barrebox idea came to Del Real after she moved to Miami two years ago.
“I came here and did Zumba and salsa, but I wasn’t getting the same results,” Del Real said.
So, she set up a studio tailoring the latest fitness concepts to classical ballet. Her goal was to create an intimate space where people can feel like a ballerina for an hour while receiving personal attention to avoid injury. Del Real caps each class at 10 students.
“Similar body types have similar weaknesses,” said Del Real, who had four operations on her feet due to injuries. “After 15 years of teaching, I spot weaknesses right away.”
The Barrebox classes include BalletFit, which mixes ballet movements with bands that hang from the ceiling, resistance rings, weights and medicine balls. BalletBox blends boxing with ballet poses, with punches thrown from the plié position.
“The posture creates a full-body experience,” she said. “And it’s a huge problem nowadays because everybody is curved — curved over computers, curved over desks, everything.”
Del Real also explained that ballet involves rotating the hips, “so it lifts the butt.’’
And while the classes are billed for non-dancers, they have attracted dancers as well.
Jose Sarazen, a Dadeland-area resident who was a solo dancer in Ballet San Juan with Del Real and who helps teach some afternoon classes at Barrebox, is one of them.
“This brings a sense of belonging and connection,” Sarazen said. “There are even some people moving to Miami (from Puerto Rico) to be with us in October.”
Ivonne Labrada-Leichtling, 45, a Miami Beach resident who is a former dancer and watched Del Real dance at Ballet San Juan, has been attending classes since she first found out about them.
“If you’re interested in losing weight do other exercises,” she said. “But for long-term changes to the shape of your body, come here.”
While Barrebox offers wellness and conditioning classes for dancers, Del Real noted the exercises are designed for the non-dancer.
“This is very important for non-dancers because there’s a misconception that unless you do ballet you can’t come to this class,” she said.
But improving the ballet world also resonates.
“One of my goals is to keep dancers healthier in body, mind and spirit,” said Del Real. “In that sense, the ballet world needs to change very much because it is full of mental illness and eating disorders.”
Still, the overall purpose of the class is to keep people centered.
“Skinny? We don’t look for that,” she said. “You’ll come here and sweat, but underpinning all of that, this is a place where people come to feel nourished.”