MMA Champion on Ballet Class: "It Was Harder Than Any Workout I've Ever Done"

We love hearing about professional athletes "seeing the light," a.k.a. realizing the benefits of ballet training. (We also enjoy watching them suffer while trying to learn from Miami City Ballet's Nathalia Arja.)

The latest athlete to admit to being a bunhead comes from the brutal world of mixed martial arts. According to a recent story reported by the World Series of Fighting, David Branch, the middleweight and light heavyweight champion of the world, swears by ballet classes.

“The first day I went, it was harder than any workout I've ever done," Branch told wsof.com. "I feel it in my balance. I feel it in my overall physical strength. I feel it everywhere. Just in my posture and I feel like when I get into scrambles in a fight or anything fighting wise that involves entanglement and striking, I feel so strong. It's natural strength, you know?"

His teacher is Dmitri Roudnev, a former Bolshoi Ballet soloist who gives private lessons in New York, and is mostly known for helping dancers overcome injury through his holistic approach to technique.

On Instagram, Branch writes that he was inspired to start taking dance classes after watching Alvin Ailey dancers. Though it couldn't have hurt that Muhammad Ali and Sugar Ray Robinson also reportedly trained in dance to improve their fighting.

Branch may still have a ways to go before he can hold his own alongside pro dancers. But if Sugar Ray Robinson's example is anything to go by, it's not out of the question. The charismatic boxing legend was a devoted tap dancer—and even left boxing behind for three years to try his luck in showbiz. In 1958, he teamed up with none other than Gene Kelly for a number called "Dancing: A Man's Game" on the TV series "Omnibus."

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Courtesy Bloch

The BLOCHspot + Alcyone Sneaker Are What Dancers Actually Need in 2021

Almost a year later and...yep, we're still in a global pandemic. As COVID-19 drags on, your pre-pandemic footwear is probably on its last legs by now (if it was ever up to dancing all day on floors that aren't sprung). And even when we do finally return to the stage, dancing in non-traditional spaces is a trend that's likely to stick around. Sporting a new pair of kicks designed specially for dancers might be just the boost you need to meet the dance world's "new normal" head-on.

Here, everything you need to know about the next-generation sneaker and handy spin spot that'll make this spring feel like the fresh start dancers deserve.

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February 2021