Strong is the new skinny….hurrah!

When I first embarked on my vocation of professional dance and performance at the age of 17  I was immediately told to lose weight in fact it was implied at the audition. It would appear that in order to succeed I would have to have a different body? Until this I was blissfully unaware of my size and its effect on me as an athlete, I thought instead that having a muscular physique was a positive thing, I was fit and strong and ready to do any physical task at hand. Although I donned thunderous thighs I had not one piece of fat on my body in fact my BMI was right on point, so what was I to do? How could I become Skinny while remaining strong and effective?




We trained athletically for 40 hours per week ( I did that for 5 years straight, only missing two days of the entire time), we worked on ballet techniques including I.S.T.D, R.A.D, contemporary dance techniques including Martha Graham, Merce Cunningham, Release and Lemón, Jazz and Modern techniques Including I.S.T.D, Commercial Jazz and Matt Mattox. We focused on technique first and performance after so you can imagine that is was very hard on the body and the mind. We would Self critique in front of a mirror every day so my confidence pitifully drowned in a pool of my hard earned sweat and sometimes actual tears!!! Suddenly my body shape obsession became more important than focusing on technique and I found it hard to truly enjoy what I was doing without tearing myself apart.. Although I am small and slim I am not skinny and I think I sometimes in an effort by my peers and mentors to make me become a ‘professional dancer’ I was pushed slightly the wrong way. I have little interest in slagging people off because what they were doing wasn't bullying it's what they do to prepare you for the bullies and the constant rejection and the fact that you literally need to put the best foot forward in order to succeed.


I am sharing this not to get pity but to say that focusing on the aesthetic is unsustainable and unfulfilling. Of course you want to feel good and look great in your clothes but you have to know what's healthy and what is just plain madness. It's very negative and taxing on the body and mind to strive for six packs and gaps in between your thighs if getting there means a gruelling diet and an unhealthy obsession with exercise.


I love the art of dance, I love the fitness of dance, I love the enjoyment of dance and how it can truly enhance people's lives whether you partake or you spectate but I am often at odds  with the warped perception of the dancers body and in the face of this ridiculous notion that we should all look the same I have had a fruitful career, I continue to work in dance, music and theatre and feel deserving of the roles because I am right for the job and I work hard. When  I started to do barre for fitness I felt more confident and so much stronger because it hits everything you need in the one class,  I love teaching it because I know that you will look and feel so much better!

I don't always love  the body I am in, but I am thankful that after all  I have put it through it gets up and does another days rehearsal or another show or teaches another class and never gives up. I am strong not skinny and I have the energy to prove it, I never run out of steam because of it. So If you are skinny, curvaceous, out of shape, at your peak fitness, tall, small, two left feet we don't care if you want to be strong and iron clad for anything that life throws at you then come to Rebel Barre because we know what it's like to feel like crap and we love you all the way you are while we kick your butt’s into a J-Lo shaped derrière! And all together now ‘Strong is the new Skinny’ JADE X

Eat yourself Happy




So March is here...... We can start looking towards sunnier days but here in Ireland we're not guaranteed an actual summer so what can we do to try to cheer ourselves up when they weather is constantly grim?  Here at Rebel Barre we know how much food can help cheer us up, and no, sorry, I'm not talking cake, although that can help it's usually a short term fix.  So here are 6 foods that can help raise your spirits.


Walnuts - Walnuts are one of the richest dietary sources of serotonin, the happiness chemical. Add some chopped walnuts to your breakfast porridge or make some tasty protein balls

Beetroot - Beetroot are a great source of Vitamin B, and are packed with betaine.  They are basically awesome. Drink your beets in juice or add some grated beetroot to salads for your beet happiness kick

Chickpeas - Our love for chickpeas here at Rebel barre is strong. We could pretty much eat them everyday in different forms.  And they are full of vitamin B6 which can help our mood.  Eat some hummus or throw a tin in a salad or a curry.

Red Wine - Well obviously we hear you say, yes, we all feel happier after a bottle of wine or 3 but red wine is full of antioxidants so go ahead and have a glass!

Chocolate - So we are not talking about a bar of Cadburys, lovely as that is the sugar can make you crash, to get your happiness fix you need to go for dark chocolate and the darker the better.  It's loaded with polyphenols which can boost your mood.

 Apricots - Oh how we love a sweet apricot, they make us feel all summery and they are packed with vitamin B6 and zeaxanthin which have been linked to higher moods,


And finally the best way to boost your mood is exercise or a bit of a dance... So hopefully we'll see you at the barre very soon.




Why I love Barre by Orla

About 10 years ago on a trip to Los Angeles I was walking past the mirrored window of the studio in a gym I was training in and I saw lots of slender poised woman going through a series of plies and moves that looked pretty easy but their legs were shaking and you could see the effort they were putting in.  As someone who danced from the age of 3 and went to stage school where I danced every day from the age of 12-18 I was intrigued.  I had taken a couple of dance classes as working as an actor I always want to keep great movement in my body and I have also been a trained Pilates instructor for 10 years but I missed that element of dance class that I was now witnessing.  I had to give it a try.  So I took my first Barre class and I was hooked.  During Barre class you go through a series of ballet conditioning exercises, which are aimed at toning your whole body.  We started with arm work moved onto our legs and butt and finished with ab work, we stretched as we went and had a last longer stretch at the end.  Although it was hard I loved every minute of it and for days afterwards I was sore in muscles I’m pretty sure I hadn’t used in years! So I decided to train to teach Barre as I felt it would be a nice complement to Pilates.  There are loads of different Barre classes available in the states, Bar Method, Barre Concept to name a few, they are all pretty much the same type of ballet conditioning class mixed with callanetics moves from the 70’s!


One of my main reasons for loving Barre is the change I began to see in my own body.  As someone in my 40’s with a child and the type of pear body shape that means if I so much as look at a piece of cake my thighs end up an inch bigger I felt like a few improvements here and there wouldn’t go a miss.  I walk a lot and work out regularly and Pilates has kept me in great shape for years but barre has managed to make changes that probably only I can see but make getting into my favourite going out dress a little easier! My legs are much more toned, I’m never going to have a thigh gap but they definitely look better in a pair of shorts than before, my butt is a little more lifted and my arms are much more toned than when I used to lift heavy weights 3 times a week!


I came back to Dublin and realized that no one was teaching this type of class.  I ran a couple of weekend workshops in Rathmines to see if anyone else would be interested and they both sold out.  So I started teaching a couple of classes a week and that has now grown to teaching 8 barre classes a week in Platinum Pilates studio in Rathmines in Dublin and I've recently launched Rebel Barre with another great barre teacher, Jade.  There are now barre classes springing up all over Dublin but its great to know that I was one of the first to find out how great it is for your body.  I have ladies coming to my class that have been coming ever since I started and they come back week after week, some of them 2 or 3 times a week and I can see the changes, one client remarked to me that her husband now calls her iron bum because of how toned her butt has become!!


I love to play a mix of great music (in my humble opinion) during class and I change the exercises around so that no one gets bored. The key to exercise for me is fun and making it not feel like a chore and Barre along with Pilates is something that I know I will do for life, it just works for me! So hopefully I will see some of you at the Barre!!