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How Oscar-nominee Natalie Portman got her Black Swan bod

Natalie PortmanWant a lean, mean ballerina body? Well, you may not have to go all Black Swan-intense to get one.

Mary Helen Bowers, who danced with the New York City Ballet for a decade before training Natalie Portman for the ballet thriller, says it is possible to get a ballet body without all of the nasty bunions (and lesbian freak-outs). How? Her Ballet Beautiful method, which develops the strength, carriage, and elongated muscles of a dancer through targeted low-impact classes.

Of course, Portman’s training was particularly hard-core. Bowers says she worked with the Oscar front-runner for at least two hours a day, five or six days a week, before the film was even given the official go-ahead. She coached Portman, often at 5:30 a.m., through a melange of Ballet Beautiful, actual ballet exercises, and cross-training, including swimming.

Mary Helen Bowers, Black Swan

Mary Helen Bowers, creator of Ballet Beautiful, put Portman through her pas de deux

“I had to get her as close to the life of a professional ballerina as possible,” Bowers says. “We couldn’t do 10–12 hour days, because she was working on other things. But her artistry and her drive—they were really amazing.”

It was actually in the course of training Portman that Bowers came up with her next great idea: taking Ballet Beautiful to the web.

She was on the road with the actress, bouncing between places like Belfast and LA, but didn’t want to leave her other clients behind. So she raced to the Mac store, determined to put classes online.

Now, her site has begun offering live, interactive classes for up to 12 students at a time—most between 30 minutes and 1 hour—during which Bowers can actively correct and lead her students. Like a Skype call or video conference, only with tutus. A 12-pack of Demi Class Ballet Beautiful Classes (30 mins.) for intro level students costs $250.

And speaking of students: yes, Bowers has continued to work with Portman after filming wrapped. But to the same degree? “Uh, no,” she laughs. “It’s been so nice to be able to relax. Her preparation for the film was so intensive because the role was so extreme.” —Catherine Pearson

For more information about Body Beautiful classes, visit www.balletbeautiful.com

10 Comments | ADD YOURS

  1. February 25th, 2011 at 3:40 pm

    [...] you’re obsessed with getting Natalie Portman’s Black Swan physique, you can sign up for ballet classes with Mary Helen Bowers (her teacher) online. But surely, everyone is sick of trying to look like a calorie-deprived [...]

  2. February 26th, 2011 at 2:51 pm

    The key factor to developing a ballerina body is to be built like a ballerina.

  3. February 28th, 2011 at 9:35 pm

    the amount of hard work and exertion overuse done on her body in order to get in character for a girl struggling with an eating disorder is not something i see as health promoting news (in my opinion). and, one cannot have a “ballet body” unless they are genetically born with certain types of bones and muscles and/or work their bodies to such extremes via exercise regime and include variations of eating disorders to get the ideal.

  4. March 2nd, 2011 at 12:07 am

    This workout is what I call “ballet bullshit.”

  5. April 22nd, 2011 at 1:29 pm

    Not True. You don’t need to have any different built to achieve a more lean and graceful body, but what you do need for sure is two things: 1) you need to have the strong commitment that many complacent and overweight people have.
    2) You need to take Action!
    Tha’s all.
    I sense anger in this despondent comments above, no need to be angry. This IS very doable, but first you have to be willing to give up your junk food or your overeating, or your lack of commitment.
    And you do not need to take these exercises to the extremes to get results. I am proof of that.
    Don’t be angry, change your lifestyle.
    cheers

  6. April 22nd, 2011 at 1:30 pm

    Not True. You don’t need to have any different built to achieve a more lean and graceful body, but what you do need for sure is two things: 1) you need to have the strong commitment that many complacent and overweight people don’t have.
    2) You need to take Action!
    Tha’s all.
    I sense anger in this despondent comments above, no need to be angry. This IS very doable, but first you have to be willing to give up your junk food or your overeating, or your lack of commitment.
    And you do not need to take these exercises to the extremes to get results. I am proof of that.
    Don’t be angry, change your lifestyle.
    cheers

  7. July 11th, 2012 at 10:40 am

    [...] of fit, says Joe DiAngelo, founder of Superstar. It looks like the goal here is not necessarily a Ballet Beautiful body. Instead, the focus is on bodybuilding and serious strength [...]

  8. September 11th, 2012 at 2:05 pm

    [...] Upper West Side this month.   Mary Helen Bowers Ballet Beautiful Bowers became famous after training Natalie Portman for her ballet sequences in Black Swan. But long before that, at age 15, she scored a full scholarship to the School of American Ballet. [...]

  9. November 8th, 2012 at 7:02 am

    [...] work on Black Swan had a huge impact on the way I launched Ballet Beauty,” explains Bowers who famously trained Natalie Portman for her Oscar-winning role. (Portman gave Bowers a career-making shout-out in her acceptance [...]

  10. November 8th, 2012 at 3:45 pm

    [...] How Oscar-nominee Natalie Portman got her Black Swan bod [...]

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