Good Sweat

Friday, February 25, 2011

How Oscar-nominee Natalie Portman got her Black Swan bod

Natalie PortmanWant a lean, mean ballerina body? Well, you may not have to go all Black Swan-intense to get one.

Mary Helen Bowers, who danced with the New York City Ballet for a decade before training Natalie Portman for the ballet thriller, says it is possible to get a ballet body without all of the nasty bunions (and lesbian freak-outs). How? Her Ballet Beautiful method, which develops the strength, carriage, and elongated muscles of a dancer through targeted low-impact classes.

Of course, Portman’s training was particularly hard-core. Bowers says she worked with the Oscar front-runner for at least two hours a day, five or six days a week, before the film was even given the official go-ahead. She coached Portman, often at 5:30 a.m., through a melange of Ballet Beautiful, actual ballet exercises, and cross-training, including swimming.

Mary Helen Bowers, Black Swan

Mary Helen Bowers, creator of Ballet Beautiful, put Portman through her pas de deux

“I had to get her as close to the life of a professional ballerina as possible,” Bowers says. “We couldn’t do 10–12 hour days, because she was working on other things. But her artistry and her drive—they were really amazing.”

It was actually in the course of training Portman that Bowers came up with her next great idea: taking Ballet Beautiful to the web.

She was on the road with the actress, bouncing between places like Belfast and LA, but didn’t want to leave her other clients behind. So she raced to the Mac store, determined to put classes online.

Now, her site has begun offering live, interactive classes for up to 12 students at a time—most between 30 minutes and 1 hour—during which Bowers can actively correct and lead her students. Like a Skype call or video conference, only with tutus. A 12-pack of Demi Class Ballet Beautiful Classes (30 mins.) for intro level students costs $250.

And speaking of students: yes, Bowers has continued to work with Portman after filming wrapped. But to the same degree? “Uh, no,” she laughs. “It’s been so nice to be able to relax. Her preparation for the film was so intensive because the role was so extreme.” —Catherine Pearson

For more information about Body Beautiful classes, visit www.balletbeautiful.com

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