Good Sweat

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Mary Helen Bowers: The ballerina with bandwidth

Mary Helen Bowers Ballet Beautiful workout classes online

Wearing a purple jewel toned leotard and gray legwarmers, Mary Helen Bowers is stretched out in front of her laptop on the floor of her airy, white-on-white loft space on Greene Street. Her elegant, exclamation-point legs, lift and lower, lift and lower, and go on for days. I know this because we’re doing a live streaming Ballet Beautiful workout, and she’s coming through my laptop.

Bowers, who danced professionally with the New York City Ballet at Lincoln Center for ten years, has since become a fitness entrepreneur and technology innovator. The early morning class she’s about to teach is entirely virtual.

Natalie Portman and Mary Helen Bowers“My work on Black Swan had a huge impact on the way I launched Ballet Beautiful,” explains Bowers who famously trained Natalie Portman for her Oscar-winning role. (Portman gave Bowers a career-making shout-out in her acceptance speech.) “I had to leave New York City to train Natalie,” says Bowers. “In order to keep up with my other clients I had to start training online. The technology I needed didn’t exist, so we created our own.”

Bowers’ proprietary software is a huge step forward for online fitness classes, largely because the live classes allow for engagement and accountability: You can see the teacher and the other students in the class, and they can all see you. So you can be motivated by other students and the teacher can actually correct your form.

In the days after the hurricane, I logged onto the real-time studio and joined several other women in a live hour-long Ballet Beautiful class. Bowers could see me and made form adjustments. My Internet service wasn’t 100 percent, so there were technology issues with my screen freezing and slight delays. But overall, I stayed much more engaged than when I do a workout DVD. I felt as accountable as if I were in a real class.

The online studio is just one prong of Bower’s multimedia brand. She also has two Ballet Beautiful DVDs, a Ballet Beautiful book with workouts, tips, and recipes, and her physical studio (a fifth-floor Soho atelier). Bower’s forte is creating myriad access points to Ballet Beautiful—and to Bowers herself. A move that’s likely to keep this tech-savvy ballerina in the spotlight for a very long time. —Alexia Brue

Monthly memberships are $280. For more information about Ballet Beautiful’s live classes, visit www.balletbeautiful.com

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