#MyFitnessJourney: Meet Orla And Jade, The Ladies Who Brought Ballet Barre To Dublin

From Roz Purcell to pregnant clients who come to class the day before their due date, there's a reason Rebel Barre is so popular. We meet the #girlbosses behind it.

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Names: Orla Hannon & Jade O’Connor

Website: rebelbarre.rocks

Insta: @rebelbarre

Orla and Jade are the lovely ladies behind Rebel Barre, the first ever Ballet Barre studio in Dublin. Here, they explain the hype, and tell us why we should consider doing some classes.

You’re both dancers, tell us a bit about your background

Jade – My Mum was a dancer so I’ve been dancing since I was three! At 17 I started training at the Irish Institute of Dance in Cork then I got a scholarship to train at the London Millennium college of Performing Arts. I still work regularly as a dancer and choreographer and also I write and produce my own music.

Orla – I also attended my first ballet class age three. At 12, I was accepted to the Arts Educational School in England to study ballet and performing Arts. A knee injury meant I turned my focus to acting so then I went to Drama School in London and worked as an actress. I trained to be a pilates teacher 12 years ago after my daughter was born. Now I still act and write screenplays too.

Where and when did you first discover Ballet Barre?

Orla – I was in LA 10 years ago and attended my first Barre class which I fell in love with straight away. I did a training course over there and then came home and taught the first Barre classes in Dublin! They were instantly really popular.

Jade – I came across a class in London when I was injured and it was amazing. It combined my love of  exercise with dance, and I knew I wanted to teach it.

What’s the training like to become an instructor?

Orla – It helps to have a background in ballet and dance like myself and Jade have. We’re both Royal Academy of Dance trained in Ballet and Modern Dance and I trained in LA with both Bar Method and Physique 57 to better understand what makes a barre class different from a ballet class. With the popularity of barre growing, there is a rise of people taking weekend courses and advertising themselves as barre teachers when they have little or no background in dance or movement.

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The beautiful Purcell sisters are big fans of the cardio dance class

What exactly is barre? What happens in a class?

Barre is a series of exercises using the ballet barre and the floor with focus on small isometric movements to work and fatigue muscle groups. We generally start with some arm work using small weights and then move to the barre to work on thigh and seat muscles using small, focused muscles concentrating on great alignment and technique. We stretch as we go and then usually finish with core work like planks, press ups and pilates-inspired ab exercises before having a longer stretch and relax at the end.

Do many places teach it in Ireland?

Well we were the first but it has definitely grown in popularity in recent years. We are one of the only places that exclusively teach Barre and Cardio Dance classes.

Is it really popular now?

Yes, very much so and growing. Many of our clients fall in love with Barre after the first class and it becomes the form of exercise that suits them for life. It’s accessible to all ages and fitness levels and we have lots of pregnant clients as well, many who train with us up until their due date!

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What makes Barre classes different to say, pilates?

Most Barre classes spend most of the class standing before heading to the mat for pilates-inspired work. It’s a higher intensity workout than pilates but it’s still considered low impact. It’s a higher calorie burn that pilates too and focuses more on all parts of the body where as Pilates is more about the core.

What areas of the body get worked on?

We try and hit every part of the body but there’s a focus on leg and butt muscles as they’re big fat burning areas.

Is it good for weight loss?

It can be for a lot of people. You’re definitely going to burn calories and increase your muscle mass which helps raise your metabolism, but like every exercise technique,it needs to be combined with a healthy lifestyle. Cardio Dance will help you burn calories, sometimes we burn up to 500 calories in a fun sweaty class

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What are the benefits of attending regular classes?

You’ll increase your strength, tone and flexibility, it will aid your posture and alignment and there’s a good chance your butt will look much better in your favourite jeans. Many clients find the mental aspect of the class helpful as well, the focus on being in the moment is useful with today’s hectic lifestyles.

Can anyone do Ballet Barre? Do we need dancing experience?

Yes, we even have some men who come to class to increase their flexibility and strength of their smaller connecting muscles. We have all ages and fitness levels and pregnant ladies as well once they have clearance from their doctor. You don’t need any dance experience at all, if you can hold onto a barre, you can do Barre.

Having done some classes with you, I know that when you leave, you feel kind of elated. Why is that? Is it the same after all forms of exercise?

That’s your endorphins, exercise is a natural anti-depressant. And particularly in Barre the combination of working hard, stretching and then taking a few moments of meditation at the end is great to make you feel like you are floating out of class.

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When you’re not teaching or working, do you lead very healthy lives otherwise?

We’re all about balance. We try to eat a healthy balanced diet most of the time but you’re definitely going to see us with a glass of wine and a cheese board from time to time. We’re not interested in weighing our food or obsessing over every mouthful, we exercise so we can enjoy our lives and we like the way it feels to have strong healthy bodies.

Do you do any other form of exercise?

Jade – I cycle everywhere and hike, anything outdoors because I hate the gym. I still dance professionally so I’m in rehearsals a lot and I’ll take yoga and pilates when I’m not working. I’ll go to any dance inspired workshop or class, the more fun and sweat there is the better!

Orla – I like to box, I walk a lot and I’ll head to gym at least once a week to lift some heavier weights, I find this is important now I’m in my 40s. I also practice reformer pilates and I love Cardio Dance class, it leaves me sweating and it’s so much fun.

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