Sweating with the Stars
I avoided barre class for 24 years. Here’s what happened when I tried it alongside professional football players.
Photography by Weston Carls
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There are few things more humbling in this world than comparing your body to a professional athlete’s. And yet here I was, walking to Dancers Shape studio to take part in a private workout alongside NFL players Fozzy Whittaker, Jordan Hicks, Adrian Phillips, and Dustin Hopkins, who frequent the studio during their offseason. The irony of sporting the black eye I recently suffered while playing amateur softball and sharing a workout session with these behemoths was not at all lost on me.
Fortunately, my jitters melted away the moment I entered Dancers Shape and was greeted by Jennifer McCamish, the studio’s owner and lead instructor. She makes me feel at home from the start, telling me about her previous career as a professional dancer in New York City and Chicago as she shows me around. Though she’s had a wildly successful career—including dancing at Radio City Music Hall as a Radio City Rockette—she’s far more excited about our upcoming workout together.
“Ballet and dance have been my life for years, so it’s been amazing to open Dancers Shape and share it with people from all walks of life,” she smiles. “Barre equips your body with the type of balance and focus that is crucial for all of us—regardless of whether you’re a professional athlete or just trying to get in shape.”
McCamish made sure to explain how barre works before my partners arrived. Named for its usage of ballet handrails, barre is a ballet-inspired workout that mixes in elements of dance, yoga, and Pilates. Although it can incorporate free weights, barre typically uses one’s body weight through repetitions of small, hyper-controlled movements to work muscles past the point of exhaustion. This full-body focus increases flexibility, balance, speed and agility.
“The biggest benefits of barre are increased core strength and range of motion, which help prevent and rehab injuries,” says McCamish, who has overcome hip surgery and recent operations on both her feet. It’s no wonder she’s in such a high demand with NFL players like Brian Orakpo (Tennessee Titans) and Marquise Goodwin (Buffalo Bills), along with Whittaker (Carolina Panthers), Hicks (Philadelphia Eagles), Phillips (San Diego Chargers) and Hopkins (Washington Redskins).