Ballet-dancer-turned-entrepreneur Mary Helen Bowers made a name for herself as a ballerina in the New York City Ballet - and for training Natalie Portman for her role in "Black Swan".
Now, with more than a handful of A-list clients under her belt, she has also set her sights on conquering the online fitness world with her signature Ballet Beautiful workout; combining a range of barre and dance techniques to strengthen, lengthen and improve posture. Try just one 'swan-arm' filled class and you'll not only feel the burn, but you'll want everything she's wearing, too.
So, who better to interview this month - as we launch our capsule collection of ballet-themed pieces - than Mary herself. She tells us how she got started, why it's never too late to begin, and shares a special discount for hush customers looking to sign up to her classes...
How did you get into ballet initially, and what was it that gave you your 'big break'?
I started with ballet classes when I was about eight years old. A friend from my neighbourhood was taking them and I wanted to join her. My initial break was when I was selected to attend the School of American Ballet in NYC and then later when I was asked to join New York City Ballet when I was only 16.
What inspired you to start Ballet Beautiful?
After 13 years of living out my dream on stage with the New York City Ballet, I had come to a point where I realised I was ready to retire and make a change. I wanted to share my love of dance and the world of ballet with others in a healthy, everyday format that would inspire people to move their bodies to get strong and fit. It started, first, with me sharing this workout with friends and then very slowly, one client at a time, building this sort of movement around a programme that's helped bring ballet into people's lives.
Do you believe it’s possible for anyone to start ballet dancing, at any age?
Absolutely - we have clients of all ages. Classical ballet is perceived as being untouchable for the average person and that is something that I wanted to change. There is not an age limit on doing things that you love. You are never too old to get started.
You famously trained Natalie Portman for her role in Black Swan, but what did you think about the film itself. Was it an accurate representation of the ballet industry?
I love the film. It's a feature film and a horror movie, not a documentary. The director, Darren Aronofsky is an incredible storyteller. I think he did a fantastic job capturing the dark side of ballet.
At any stage did you ever dream of having a different career?
No, I always wanted to be a ballerina.
What advice would you give to someone starting out a career in dance?
If you love it, it is worth the work and pain. Stay focused and chase your dream.
At hush we value female friendships - what qualities do all your friends share?
We support each other's dreams and goals and their for each other without judgements, regardless of consequences or crazy demands. I learned along the way that a friend is not a friend if they are not supportive of you working towards or achieving your dreams. Life is filled with ups and downs and a true friend is by your side no matter what.
What keeps you motivated and energised?
Ballet is one of the most physical art forms, and so taking care of yourself and your body is hugely important. Getting enough rest, eating well and working out gives you energy to carry through.
What are you reading/watching or listening to at the moment?
I'm halfway through reading a book called News of the World currently.
How do you unwind at the end of the day?
I love a hot bath with Epsom salts.
Finally, what's your favourite workout move from Ballet Beautiful?
I adore our Swan Arms - it's a terrific exercise for building beautiful posture, toning and strengthening the back and core. Oh, and our One Leg Bridge! As well as improving posture, for most people, these exercises are going to lift, tighten and elongate - generally it's your best butt and legs ever!
Ballet Beautiful are offering hush customers the chance to get two weeks free in their first month of signing up for the Custom Workout (as recommended by Mary). Simply use the code BBHUSH17 at the checkout when purchasing.
Please note: The Custom Workout subscription will auto-renew at the regular price after 30 days.
Atalana Tunic, Oxford Silk Cami, Washed Joggers, Marina Metallic Skirt, Twist Skaters, Big Love Jumper.
Shop the full new collection here, and check out Mary's Instagram @balletbeautiful for fitness (and wardrobe) inspiration!