It’s a new concept which mixes Pilates and yoga with ballet at the barre. JEN MILLS goes along to a class to find out more about BarreConcept.

MANY little girls tell their teachers that when they grow up they want to be a ballet dancer.

Whether the ambition stops at pliés in the playground or goes as far as lessons after school, it's an easy dream to catch hold of.

Now a group of women in Newport are trying it out for real with a new trend sweeping the UK: BarreConcept.

It's an exercise class with a difference mixing up Pilates and yoga with ballet at the barre.

A new studio on Stow Hill,which had its grand opening this month, is the first to offer the class in Wales.

Diana Hopkins, 42, a former senior manager and instructor with Newport's council gyms, has been doing up the premises for months in anticipation of the big reveal and although there are a few finishing touches yet to be made, the gym is attracting scores of women to the classes.

It has a modest exterior, looking from the outside like a residential house, but inside it opens into a large bodybuilding type gym at the back and a serene yoga space upstairs complete with Buddha, lots of light and mirrors and a mountain of pink and purple exercise balls in one corner.

It seems a more natural place to do yoga than other gyms where practitioners may be rubbing up against someone else's foot beneath a glaring striplight.

Plenty of people agree, as she already has a willing troop ready to don tutus.

Actually, no tutus are necessary – although they probably wouldn’t be frowned upon – as all you need is a t-shirt and pair of jogging bottoms.

The women at the class I went along to were a range of ages and shapes with Diana assuring me the classes are suitable even for those without much flexibility.

I tried out the class, and we built up to the barre gradually with stretches.

Even so, it was a bit of a shock to swing my leg up and over to around hip height then try to grab hold of my toe (ending up somewhere mid shin).

For those who can’t quite make the leap, Diana has floor based stretches people can do so there’s no pressure to pull a muscle in pursuit of the perfect pirouette.

Although the gym has only just officially opened, BarreConcept guinea pigs have been helping Diana test out the class since December.

She said: “Seeing how much everyone has come on in just a couple of classes is brilliant.”

Mother-of-four Claire Hutchison, 36, from Newport, is a champion bodybuilder and finds the mix of yoga and ballet compliments her training. She said: “I didn’t know what to expect at first – I just always wanted to be a ballet dancer. It looks really graceful and strong and I’ll definitely be coming back.

One of the few women at the class to have actually tried ballet before, Victoria Sully, 31, from Maindee, said it was good to remind herself of moves she learned as a child.

She said: “I think this is a good chance for everyone that was the wrong height or weight for ballet to get the opportunity to stand by the barre and have a go and not worry about it”

She said terms like demi-plié used in the class were familiar: “It’s all coming back to me.”

Energetic Diana teaches dozens of classes a week and says her mission is to make the gym feel like a family, with everyone known by name.

She wants to focus on the mental as well as the physical side of yoga, the reasoning behind the studio’s name Perfect Balance. Working in a demanding job as well as raising a son left Diana feeling she was struggling with her equilibrium.

Running her own gym she hopes to find that balance and bring it to others who attend as well. There will be 50 classes throughout the week including Booty Camp (a version of legs, bums and tums), Pilates and Yoga including a class just for men.

“I have the nicest customers here,” she said. “The big thing we want to focus on is creating a family. We don’t issue membership cards because we know everyone by name."

Diana is confident BarreConcept will soon become as popular as Zumba or Pilates, other workouts which have grown their fanbases massively in recent years.

“Soon everyone will be talking about barre workshops,” she said. “I’ve already seen t-shirts with slogans like ‘See you at the barre’ – give it six months and it will be big.”

A specialist in Pilates, she said she does her best to help everyone individually to correct their posture without singling anyone out in particular.

Emma Fitzmaurice, 34, from Maindee, already plans to be a regular attendee. She said: “I’ve been coming here since it opened and I love it. I play softball and I’m very sporty – I like to mix it up.

"It’s really good to have the opportunity to have something different, particularly which involves stretching. With the barre, stretches can be much deeper and I’m actually getting close to being able to do the splits now.”

For more information on the classes visit