Natalia Xylouri is the founder of Ballet Grace, a dance and fitness studio teaching Natalia’s very own ballet-inspired fitness method. Here, she speaks to Reporter Lea Jakobiak on how she created this method of dance, how she wishes to transform the ballet method, and how she has kept her community together during lockdown.
Can you introduce yourself and what you do?
My name is Natalia, I am a professional ballerina and founder of Ballet Grace, which is a ballet inspired fitness method. Having been a professional ballerina my whole life I have created a fitness method for people who want to add tone, burn fat, strengthen their body and have a beautiful ballerina posture and physique.
I have therefore created this concept of blending ballet with fitness that will allow you not only to get fit but also experience the magical ballet world in a way that is about respecting and loving your body and creating a strength from the inside out. Ultimately, my wish is to bring health, grace and beauty into the lives of people.
Tell us about your journey into becoming a ballerina and why you love it so much
I started ballet when I was 3. I remember very vividly dancing in the living room in my parents’ house from a very young age, I would wear my ballet slippers and a tulle skirt, put some music on and just dance! I think that ballet for me is what I was always meant to do.
I knew in my heart since the beginning that this is the path that I was meant to follow! So I continued studying ballet and training professionally in London, Paris and Athens in order to obtain my diploma in dance teaching and become a professional ballerina. I then danced professionally for several years before founding Ballet Grace.
I love ballet because it transcends you into a world of beauty, magic and grace. Ballet is one of the few types of dance that can touch people’s hearts and make them forget about their worries for a while. I find this quite magical.
What are the benefits of taking ballet classes? Who takes your classes?
Ballet Grace method is about very targeted workouts; we are targeting what we call the “ballet muscles”, in order to build lean muscle, strength, flexibility and grace. So Ballet Grace workouts incorporate butt toning, arm burning, core sculpting moves combined with lots of stretching that helps build that long, lean and powerful dancer’s physique.
My classes are open to adults of all ages, genders and sizes with any fitness background! I also provide classes to companies, designed to significantly increase employee wellness.
How do you feel about running your classes online during lockdown? What are the pros and cons?
I have been offering online classes since 2019. I find this is a very modern way of approaching fitness, especially for people who have very busy lives, travelling often, or they have children and their time is very precious.
Staying connected with your trainer and having access to amazing workouts anytime, anywhere I find is a blessing. We are really lucky to live in this day and age where technology helps us stay so connected with each other! I do not think that there is particularly a con about running the classes online rather than in the studio, I just think that they are two different experiences.
I find that during lockdown exercise is one of the most effective ways to burn off stress and keep our minds and bodies healthy and strong. I think it is so important to support each other not only during these very challenging times for humanity but in general, every day.
To try and make each other healthier, stronger, to live a better quality of life. To me, that is very important work. And that is what I am trying to do with Ballet Grace, empower people, make them feel stronger, healthier and more in tune with their body and mind.
What is the first thing you are going to do when lockdown ends?
The first thing I am going to do is book a flight to return home to Paris as I am quarantining in Athens! I am dreaming of a beautiful walk near the Seine followed by dinner on a terrace with my husband. I find it fascinating how things that we were taking so much for granted feel such a privilege now!
Who inspires you in the ballet world?
It is so hard to choose who to mention! So many ballerinas all over the world inspire me because each one has something unique to offer and creates beauty in a different way.
At the moment I am closely following Maria Khoreva, a young star, who is only 19 years old and she has proved that with hard work and determination you can achieve anything. She is already a first soloist at the Mariinsky Theatre in St Petersburg and she is really so inspiring to watch.
Can you start learning ballet from scratch in quarantine?
Of course you can! Learning to move your body in different ways has no limitations. All you need is a good teacher, a good internet connection and a big smile!
Is there a big ballet community?
Ballet community is huge! Especially now during lockdown this community is larger and stronger than ever! I love how all dancers stay connected, principal dancers and amazing teachers from ballet companies from all over the world are offering classes online, supporting each other. I find this so inspiring!
What is your top tip for anyone who wants to learn ballet?
Try Ballet Grace! It is such an enjoyable and easy way to approach ballet. It is ballet made accessible to everyone, regardless their age, their shape or their fitness background!