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By Lauren Kay
FlyBarre helps her build the strength she needs to succeed as a Rockette.
Elegant and leggy, Sara Hoenes can skim any stage with confidence: Her resumé boasts gigs ranging from James Sewell Ballet to an international tour of Zorro. But tackling her first season as a Rockette with the Radio City Christmas Spectacular last year was a whole new challenge. To prepare her 5' 9" ("and a quarter!" she adds) body for a marathon season of high kicks, she revamped her cardio routine and built up her strength with FlyBarre classes.
“Because I’m so tall, I need strength training to keep my body connected,” says Hoenes. She found her ideal workout in FlyBarre, a full-body sculpting technique that blends light weights, dance basics and core work. In 45-minute or hour-long sessions, participants are pushed to fatigue through high repetitions of small movements, such as pulsing turned-out pliés or parallel mini-squats on relevé at the barre. It’s an intense, quickly flowing workout that leaves even veteran dancers with wobbly legs. “Within the first two weeks of taking FlyBarre classes, my core and leg strength increased—without my muscles bulking up,” says Hoenes. Inspired by the technique, she became an instructor last May, and now teaches between six and 12 classes a week.
Building Rockette-style Endurance
While FlyBarre built up her muscle strength, Hoenes also needed to amp up her stamina to tackle the Rockettes’ demanding performances, packed with nonstop numbers. “I had been doing indoor cycling—getting my heart rate really high,” she explains. “But I actually needed to do lower intensity, at a level where I could talk.” The Rockettes’ athletic training team suggested using the elliptical or jogging for about 20 minutes instead. As they explained, this training was more constructive because it mimicked the long-burning, balanced energy she’d use in the show.
FlyBarre plié Strengthener:
• Stand in a wide second position.
• With your knees bent in a deep plié, pulse with short beats (about one to two inches of movement) for three to four minutes.
• Then, lift your right heel for eight counts, continuing to pulse. Switch feet a few times.
• Finally, lift both heels and pulse for four counts of eight.
TIP: It’s normal for your legs and feet to get shaky. Engage your core to maintain your balance.
Photos from top: Jaqlin Medlock, Courtesy Hoenes; Nathan Sayers, modeled by Emily Whittome of Joffrey Ballet School