How To Work Out Like a French Showgirl

Legs for days.

by Samantha Tse
Originally Published: 
french showgirl workout

Keeping up with a winter workout is challenging at the best of times, but throw in a global pandemic that restricts group fitness and motivation can come to a screeching halt. Streaming options for at-home workouts have been a lifesaver for many, but there's another studio that's upping the ante with its glamorous edge. Kalon Movement, a digital fitness studio, features dance and cardio barre workouts, created and taught by real-life French showgirls who've performed at famed establishments like the Moulin Rouge, Lido de Paris, and the Crazy Horse.

Kalon features classes ranging from five to 45 minutes created specifically for small spaces. No fancy equipment is required — just a raised surface you can hold onto in lieu of a ballet bar, like a chair or the kitchen counter, a yoga mat for floor exercises, and maybe some weights (but in a pinch, cans of soup will do). Oh, and feel free to break out a good pair of heels if you want to learn how to walk the walk of a showgirl.

“We wanted to share with the public accessible ways to sculpt your body like a dancer and to create an ambiance that was fun, dynamic, and non-judgmental,” says co-founder Sophie Fourçans-Dibdin to TZR. “The cabaret and the showgirl world seem so mysterious and inaccessible from the outside, but when you take classes with these girls and get to know them, it’s a great community.”

Founders Emma Rigby and Sophie Fourçans-DibdinCourtesy of Kalon Movement

There is a large selection of classes that will help you channel your inner dancer, including Kalon's signature cardio barre method, which was developed by co-founder and Moulin Rouge dancer Emma Rigby. The class works muscles isometrically to lengthen and sculpt through low-impact repetition. “Cardio barre is split up into two parts. The first is very similar to a warmup you’d actually do before the show. You warm up the major muscles and joints using a more dance-inspired method, then it’s combined with choreography,” says Rigby. “It’s very accessible to everybody so you don’t have to be a dancer, but you can work out like one, learn a little dance, and it makes you feel sexy and glamorous.”

While the session might feel a bit intense, the rewards include leaner muscles, improved posture, and a stronger core. Other classes include showgirl dance and choreography classes, how to walk in heels, ballet yoga, Pilates, and more. So, there's literally a little something glam for everyone, even the non-dancers. “It's a more elegant, graceful way of working out,” says Fourçans-Dibdin.

In true French cabaret fashion, Team K, as the instructors are affectionately known, are typically dressed for class in body-hugging leggings with visible seams running down the back (a nod to traditional fishnets), matching sports-style bras, and — of course — bold red lips. “It’s very reminiscent of our showgirl backgrounds because we have this fil rouge element where all the girls look put-together with their hair done and their red lips, which is a signature showgirl look,” explains Fourçans-Dibdin.

Courtesy of Kalon Movement

Living My French Showgirl Fantasy

Full disclosure: I regularly attended Kalon classes in Paris before the pandemic, and I’ve remained loyal to them throughout this long period of isolation. I found comfort in bringing a bit of my old Parisian lifestyle into my new normal. I am by no means a seasoned dancer but Kalon classes have allowed me to live my best showgirl fantasy in the comfort of my living room. There is no judgement as I stumble through the choreography, which ranges from walking in sync with the music to a short routine in heels. And, for a brief moment I believe I’m dancing in a French cabaret, which has been a lifelong dream of mine.

Some days I only manage a 15-minute workout in-between Zoom calls, but these small moments I have to myself have gotten me out of a fitness rut. Kalon’s cardio barre classes have introduced me to a new way of moving, even though the endless repetition, pulsing, and planking are really hard. My flexibility has also been improving in minute increments — I still don’t have my splits back — but these small victories keep from feeling defeated.

Achieving A Showgirl Body

Keep Core, Back, & Chest Strong

For many, being hunched over laptops for hours on end can make staying limber during lockdown a challenge. “Having a strong upper back, chest, and core is important to hold your posture,” says Rigby. “If you have a bit of a weak chest, you can look a bit concave.” To get the strong and toned physiques typical of French dancer, Rigby says you need to have a well-balanced workout that combines classes that work on building your muscular strength with barre for overall conditioning.

Kalon offers posture, Pilates, and spine-strengthening classes, but the studio's Flexibility series, which is a program spanning seven days, focuses on — that's right— flexibility, proper alignment, and strength. The program aims to help you tone and improve how you move your body. “Repetition is key and that’s how we get stronger and develop more flexibility. That’s how you improve,” says Rigby.

Courtesy of Kalon Movement

Develop Strong Ankles & Feet

“Walking in heels requires strong ankles and feet,” says Rigby, who danced two shows a day, six days a week before the pandemic. She teaches a specific class on the app targeting feet, ankles, and thighs. Rigby demonstrates how to strengthen the arches of the feet and working the foot's flexibility by extending the leg and pointing the toes then bringing it back to its original position. Rigby says to keep the weight on the big toe for better balance and remember to stretch out the feet and the back of the calves by standing on the edge of a raised surface, such as a hardcover book, and letting the heels fall down.

Posture Is Everything

“If you know how to stand up lengthened, it can make your shape look more defined,” says Rigby. Workouts that improve the chest, back, and core can result in better posture but it’s also as simple as standing straight and focusing on the upper body (in your day-to-day movement). Shoulders should be relaxed, necks elongated, and abs engaged so you feel light on your feet when walking. Try to imagine a string coming out of your head and pulling it up so there’s a sense of weightlessness. When in doubt, follow Fourcans-Dibdin's instructions and do as the showgirls do: “Strong legs, hold yourself confidently, long neck, and [keep your] shoulders down."

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