Agile danseuse Kitty Maguire is used to performing versatile movements and complex bends. Looking graceful and slender at all times, even standing in a plié -- the continuous bending of the legs -- she makes it look effortless.
The accomplished ballerina started the expressive dance discipline at five years of age in Bayside community centre, Dublin. "With dance instructors Philip Cole and Ella Doran, I took weekly classes with my sisters until I was 15, after which I moved to Belfast."
She attended a full-time dancing and training school in Northern Ireland. "The training was full-on and a total shock to my system," she says. "The focus, determination and discipline I gained from my ballet training was life-changing. It filtered through to improving other areas of my life for the better."
The daily routine was 12 hours a day, six days a week, of prancing, springing and bouncing off her toes: "Body conditioning, pointe work, teacher training and practice, jazz, ballet and stretching made up the long hours. There were several performances throughout the year, from Les Sylphides with Scottish Ballet, to workshops with Broadway dancers from the musical Cats."
Winning a scholarship to Doreen Bird College of Performing Arts in Kent -- commonly known as Bird College -- was a major coup for the committed dancer. "I studied dance, drama and musical theatre. It was a very different experience to what came before: there were only six students in total at the ballet school and Bird had about 160 students. I learnt several new skills and made some great friends."
There were daily classes in ballet, jazz, tap, hip-hop, gymnastics, contemporary dance and singing. She represented Ireland as part of a dance troupe and worked with Wayne McGregor, the resident choreographer of Britain's largest ballet company, the Royal Ballet.
As the Dublin native had trained to teach children, it seemed a natural progression for her to go on to instruct ballet and jazz, which she has done now for many years.
With her super-toned physique, feeling the brunt of many years of hard training with repetitive strain and sprain injuries, the 33-year-old found great relief through Pilates and yoga. She is a qualified Pilates instructor and is training for her yoga credentials, too.
"I always incorporated ballet into my classes. I saw the benefits and how ballet and Pilates complemented each other."
Although the disciplines of yoga and ballet are very different, Kitty sees a big similarity on the physical front: "You can't rush or expect instant results with either. Patience and persistence always pays off. I have taught classes in Dublin and Belfast over the past 10 years."
Always looking to further her training and keep her exercise regime interesting, Kitty is now teaching Ballates Barre, a new in-demand craze which is a mix of ballet barre movements, Pilates and yoga. It is a perfect class if you're looking to tone and gain strength in your legs, glutes, abs and arms, while improving your flexibility, co-ordination and posture.
A horizontal bar or barre, about waist height, is the focal point for the class and warm-up exercises.
"The main bulk of the class is based at the barre, and then mixtures of different exercises are carried out on the mat. All of these physical exercises are about control and strength."
Ballates Barre classes have risen in popularity since the release of the 2010 film Black Swan.
The dark thriller revolves around a production of Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake by a prestigious New York City ballet company.
"Interest in attending ballet as an exercise class definitely increased when Natalie Portman stepped out in her tutu. New York has several different barre classes on offer -- they are new and exciting but, like anything of substance, it will always catch people's attention and the results speak for themselves."
An all-over body workout, the class ensures that legs, glutes and abs are constantly worked on at the barre. The class also tones and lengthens muscles as well.
"Down on the mat, arms, sides and back are worked with the assistance of Pilates balls and small weights. More advanced classes will definitely have a cardio feel as jumps and more challenging movements are included in the class."
With no dance experience required, one need have no fears regarding the level of co-ordination and rhythm, as a typical class at Aorta Fitness -- where Kitty teaches -- will start with simple ballet movements to get the body warmed up and centred, stretching it from top to bottom and from inside out.
"Throughout the class, a selection of ballet and yoga stretches are used to release unwanted tension in the body and improve flexibility and posture. I would recommend this class to anybody who wants to feel like they want to improve their overall general fitness. This class will definitely challenge muscles you never knew existed and improve mobility.
"The guys at Aorta Fitness create a nice training atmosphere and a good work environment, which is what attracted me to becoming part of the Aorta team. The gym itself is in a fantastic location and I really like the layout of the studios and the contemporary design. The classes cater to all fitness levels and the wide variety of clients who live and work in the neighbourhood."
It doesn't matter if a person isn't aerobically gifted or poised.
"Most classes I teach will always have different levels of ability and fitness. Different modifi-cations are always offered. So this way, everybody is working to their own level but still really challenging themselves and achieving their own goals."
There is no set age or type of person suitable for a Ballates class. "I've taught teens up to women in their 60s."
Yoga and Pilates are becoming a big part of athletes' training these days. For example, All-Ireland football champions Dublin used it as part of their training regime, and many other high-impact sportsmen are also availing of the workout.
"Pilates is a method of exercising that lengthens and stretches all the major muscle groups in the body in a balanced fashion. Yoga brings the body and mind together and is built on some of these main elements -- physicality, breathing and meditation. Yoga and Pilates both improve muscular and postural strength.
As yoga and Pilates are low impact on the joints, a lot more men are turning to both of these disciplines as part of their training session to help recover from injuries or prevent recurring injuries."
And topping if off with a sprinkling of ballet moves, Kitty looks forward to seeing you at the barre.
Ballates Barre is available at Aorta Fitness, 50 Eastmoreland Lane, Dublin 4. Phone 01 6688008; 087 6291373. Email: email@example.com Web: www.aortafitness.com