Strength and grace are important elements to beauty- and ballerinas seem to effortlessly capture both. Which is exactly why I'm so intrigued by this Elle interview with Mary Helen Bowers, the ex-New York City Ballet dancer who trained Natalie Portman for her role in Black Swan.
Check out a few portions of the interview, below, and switch up your regular workout with these four limb-lengthening, core-toning moves that Natalie used in training.
How did you get Portman ready for her close-up? I took my program, which combines mat work, cardio, and ballet and created a customized version for her. On the one hand, we wanted her to look the part so that her character was believable—ballerinas have obvious physical markers like long, lean muscle and beautiful posture—but we also wanted to make sure she was able to move and dance like a professional ballerina. Because of this, many of the exercises had a dual purpose. We’d work on her inner thighs to change how her leg was shaped but it’d also help her get a tighter fifth position. Or we’d target her abs to give her greater definition but also build her center of balance.
Did you include any cross-training in your sessions with Portman? I did. Ballet can be hard on your joints and when you’re on a movie set doing take after take it can become really repetitive. To give her joints a break, we’d go swimming because it allowed us to work on her endurance and elongate her muscles with zero impact. We swam about a mile each day, doing the front crawl and breast stroke—I had her do these really long, ballet-type movements, reaching ahead in the water as far as she could.