City Living: Barreworks

Recently, a few of us were invited to try out the brand-new ballet inspired workout at Barreworks, which just opened down the street from our office at Queen and Bathurst (625 Queen St. W.). We were thrilled to be invited – not only do we enjoy keeping fit, but we also love trying any new type of workout. Variety is the spice of life, after all. Plus we posted about ballet style workouts way back when, so are pumped there’s a new dedicated spot in Toronto. 

We were a bit nervous about trying it, since none of us are dancers. We were worried about not being coordinated enough to execute tricky moves, or graceful enough to stand at the barre without falling over (seriously). Our worries were all for naught – as soon as we stepped into the beautiful, high-ceilinged space, we were made to feel completely at ease. 

Can’t do this? Not to worry! You’ll still feel welcome & have a lovely workout.

We were given a quick tour of the various studios and WOW! If working out in a pretty setting is integral to your commitment to an exercise routine, then this has got to be one of the best spots in the city. Cool, neutral tones, warm wooden floors and lots of mirrors and windows take you away from the hustle and bustle of Queen Street. 

Our teacher, the very energetic Paulina, introduced herself to us and explained her background in dance, including classical ballet training and modern dance experience, and her current quest to become a personal trainer. She has some enviable muscle definition and is definitely an inspirational instructor. 

Get gams like these.

Paulina told us that we’d be doing the mixed level class, which is perfect for beginners and people of all fitness levels. It’s an hour-long class, but they also offer a speedy 40 minute version and in both versions, you can increase or decrease the difficulty pretty easily. We were all pretty stoked – a 40 minute workout class that’s literally a 2 minute walk from our office? Just about perfect. 

Each students uses two weighted balls, a resistance band and a small exercise mat, and takes position at the barre in front of a long wall of mirrors. Paulina put on some fun dance music and took us through a dance-inspired warm-up. At first, we were all like, “oh yeah, we can do this. No problem”. Then the real work began, and the sweat started dripping down our faces. 

Tools to help tone and strengthen your way to a dancer-esque body.

The workout is a really accessible combination of yoga, Pilates, dance, body weight and other fitness class moves – think lunges, squats, leg lifts, bicep curls with weighted balls, etc. The lovely thing about Barreworks is that you’re always moving, your heart is pounding, and you exercise your entire body in steps. The emphasis is always on standing tall, staying square and in line, and focusing on small, tight, controlled movements. 

This move seriously burns your legs and shoulders.

By the end of it, everyone in the class felt tired and sore, but in an endorphins-pumping sort of way. We bounced down the three flights of stairs, feeling like a million bucks. It was a fun, non-intimidating workout that flew by – which is the best kind. We’ve already booked our next classes (easy to do online or by calling the studio). Now to choose between YogaBarre, SpinBarre and the Express class…

Barreworks is open now. Monthly memberships start at $199 for unlimited classes, while drop-in classes are $21 and packages start at $95 for five classes. If you’re new, you can try your first class for just $10. More info here.

Fave Five: Moments from the Toronto production of Bring It On: The Musical

When the invite landed in our inbox, we couldn’t have been more thrilled – two tickets to the opening night of Bring It On, the musical that Mirvish recently debuted in Toronto. We were huge BIO fans in high school, with the first film starring Kirsten Dunst instantly becoming a classic, joining our other teen faves like Clueless and Dirty Dancing. Rewatching it now that we’re older and wiser only confirmed our love for the movie (and also caused us to wonder how they got away with some of the lines that are a little more…risque and non-PC. But that’s another post). 

Photo: Craig Schwartz.

Overall, the musical was awesome. We were a bit surprised to discover that it doesn’t really follow the plot of the original film, but in the end, it was as good thing. No one would be able to really do justice to KDunst’s character, anyway. 

Here are our five favourite moments from the play. If these don’t convince you to go and see it, we don’t know what will. 

1. Bridget: Played by Ryann Redmond, she is far and away the best character in the play. So. Many. Funny. Moments. She’s the foil to the ultra-put-together and popular Campbell (KDunst’s Torrence counterpart in the play, played by Taylor Louderman), and has some pretty hilarious lines. One of the best is not a line at all, but rather the way she waves her parrot wing in a sad flap after being told she’s not good enough to be on the squad, and has to continue playing the mascot. She also delivers some solid life lessons to Campbell about fitting in, and girl knows how to shake her booty. 

Bridget steals the show (and Twig’s heart!).

2. The moment when La Cienega (Gregory Haney), a fierce and funny transvestite, calls Campbell out on her bullshit comment that La Cienega wouldn’t understand what it’s like to not fit in. Seriously. The audience laughed so hard, as it was a very funny moment, but it was also a really strong point in the production for one of the main messages to hit home – fitting in vs. being yourself.

One of the best characters of the play: La Cienega. 
Photo: Craig Schwartz.

3. The AMAZING tumbling that happens: The athleticism of some of the performers was quite remarkable. We could literally hear the audience draw in their collective breath during some of the highest tosses in the air or particularly tricky-looking backflips or other… gymnastic-y moves. Plus there were some solid break dancers and hip-hoppers. There’s some serious talent on that stage, which makes the show that much more enjoyable, and the characters that much more believable.

Skilled, skilled dancers at Jackson High.
Photo: Joan Marcus.

4. Campbell’s leprechaun dance: The girls at Jackson High (the school in the “hood” that Campbell gets transferred to) make Campbell put on a leprechaun mascot outfit and perform at a dance-off of sorts that they’re having. It’s really, really funny to see a massive leprechaun head dancing around on stage. Trust. Plus, Taylor Louderman is actually very skilled at dancing in that ridiculous costume. 

A glimpse of the leprechaun suit.
Image source.

5. How fun it is. Sometimes it’s really nice to see a production purely for entertainment value, which this one has in spades. Yes, theatre should sometimes be deep and meaningful and thought-provoking. And we love those productions just as much. But honestly, seeing this with a good friend who appreciates easy humour with a glass of wine in your hand (yes, you can drink during plays at the Ed Mirvish Theatre!) is a really good night out. 

Sequins and dance? Pretty much a guaranteed good time.
Photo: Joan Marcus.

Honourable mention: The use of Google maps/street view. Because it was neat, it worked, and makes the show relevant to both younger and older audiences. Plus, we’d never seen that device used in a play before and we’re suckers for a clever gimmick.

Bring It On: The Musical is playing until at Ed Mirvish Theatre (244 Victoria St) until Sunday, June 3, 2012. Performances run Tuesday to Saturday 8 p.m., Wednesday, Saturday & Sunday 2 p.m. 
Ticket prices range from $35 to $130 depending on the performance. Rush seats are available for $25.
Tickets are available online, in person, or by calling the box office at 416-872-1212.

Media, Darling: Deirdre Kelly

Deirdre Kelly has been a staff writer with The Globe and Mail since 1985. Her first book, Paris Times Eight (Greystone Books/Douglas & McIntyre), a memoir using eight trips to Paris over a 30-year period to map a coming-of-age story, was published last year and is now a national best-seller. More info about the book can be found on her website.
How can someone grab your attention with a pitch?
That’s an obvious question, but I’m afraid I will give something of a slippery response: I often come up with my own ideas. That’s the nature of my job; I have to be aware of trends, what’s being talked and written about, and generally follow my gut. I have good instincts after more than 25 years at The Globe and Mail (yes, I am that old) and can spot a story 10 miles off, if not a year before it really becomes news elsewhere, and well before a publicist tells me that they have something new to tell me.
PRs don’t tend to pitch trend stories, which, by necessity, would involve a variety of sources and points of view beyond their own client. I have always striven to think and write outside a press release. I dislike very much the idea that a journalist is merely an adjunct to someone’s publicity or marketing department.
That said, I have some regular features that need to be filed weekly, and am open to enterprising publicists who are reading those features. These include two new columns I write for the Saturday Style section: In the Mix and My Favourite Room. There have been a few instances where a PR has sent an email with the subject heading “In the Mix”, and then suggested a drink and/or bar for me to profile. Do I open this email as soon as I see it? Hell, yes! Said PR, by showing such winning initiative, instantly has my attention! I am THRILLED beyond words that they’ve taken notice of the column and have come up with a candidate that might suit my purposes. The same goes for My Favourite Room, though I must say sometimes the candidates aren’t hugely noteworthy, or worse, they ain’t got style. These are pitches based on having a client they want to push my way, and it’s not always the right fit. But, hey, I’ll never fault anyone for trying.
So, to answer your question: the ideal pitch would be conceived as a story with a unique angle and broad reach, an idea ultimately promoting the creation of an article saying something not said before.
What do you find most useful when dealing with public relations professionals?
Speed and a certain degree of intelligence go a long way in my books. I work for a daily newspaper. The deadlines come screaming at me, every day. If I need something, I usually needed it yesterday, and it really helps when a PR basically drops everything and hustles to get me what I ask for. I am completely aware of how tyrannical that sounds, and believe me, I do apologize whenever the demand appears brusque and last minute. But I can’t help it. I really can’t. The newspaper is a ferociously hungry beast; it devours copy by the second.
As for the requirement of intelligence, what I mean is the ability to think while running ragged on your feet trying to confirm a fact, find a source or a quote for my story. I’ve had instances when a seasoned PR has known to refuse a quote if it doesn’t fit the needs of the story, and cajoled the subject to come up with something better. That’s the sign of a pro, and after the dust has settled, boy, do I remember that person. Next time, if they’re the ones pleading for me to do something for them, I will do everything in my power to repay the favour.

What is the biggest mistake PR professionals make?
Getting way too personal over a story. I’ve had this happen to me more times than I care to remember. This happened even recently over a style story I wrote, where the PR sent me a poison pen email, chastising me for not putting her client, whom I gave lots of ink, in the top graph. Wow. Talk about burning your bridges. Blatant hostility from PR people is more common than you might think. But I tended to experience it more often during my 15 years as The Globe and Mail’s dance critic. I was basically licensed to state my opinion in print, and sometimes that opinion wasn’t always complimentary about the production at hand.
Some publicists would hate me for stating my mind and punish me by making it difficult for me to access talent for future stories and deny me access to their events. I was once even refused review tickets to a show, and had to buy them on my credit card. Did the PR really think I wouldn’t review them, anyway? I’d love to name names. Unfortunately, there are quite a few. 
I guess my message is to develop a thick skin, and know that the world is made more interesting by having difference of opinion in it (or just differences, period).

My pet peeve
Besides having my name continually misspelled and mispronounced, (for the record I say my name DEAR-DREE, but I’ve had every variation, including Derrière, my all-time favourite). My biggest pet peeve is when publicists haven’t done their research and haven’t a clue as to what I do or have done at the paper. When I became a fashion reporter in 2000, after being an award-winning critic in the arts department for over a decade, I had a number of rather callow PR’s call and congratulate me on my recent hire. They would ask me where I was before, and when I said, “Here all along you dork,” (no, I didn’t, but I wanted to), there would be a strained silence on the other end. But beside having fun with them, those PRs taught me humility.
In this business, you really are as good as your last byline, and if people didn’t read the arts pages and were only fixated on dresses, then, really, who was I to call them on it? Journalists can be too often full of themselves, and I think it’s good to be reminded that you aren’t the queen bee when deadline rolls around. At the end of the day, it’s about teamwork and being respectful while getting the job done well.
What also bothers me is a PR who carpet-bombs the newspaper with the same request for a story/interview, and not let all of us know that more than one of us is poised to show up at the same event. That’s just bad form.

Any other thoughts you’d like to add?
Some of my best friends are publicists. Really. I say this in case I’ve come across as too holier-than-thou. But it’s true. I feel I owe much of my career to hard-working, self-sacrificing, smart, funny, endearing, one-of-a-kind (I’m thinking here of the incomparable Gino Empry, rest his soul) publicists who have helped me develop my stories done well, and deliver them on time. I love you all!
Here’s a story to share:
As a fledgling journo, a true wannabe penning weekly dance reviews for The Varsity, the student newspaper at the University of Toronto where I was an undergraduate, I arrived one evening to Toronto Dance Theatre to review a program showcasing the choreography of company founders, Patricia Beatty, David Earle and Peter Randazzo (ah, those were the days). At the entrance were three clippings of reviews of the previous week’s performances. 
One was from The Toronto Star, one from The Globe and Mail and the other was from The Varsity, with my byline on it. I stopped dead in my tracks. This was the first time I was receiving public validation for my efforts as an aspiring arts critic, which showed me I truly was on the right career path and that the community I was writing about cared about what I had to say. It was because of a publicist who was willing to give me my due despite my tender years. His name is Stephen Johnson, and he has my everlasting gratitude.

Fashion-able: Inspired by Black Swan

Directed by Darren Arnofsky, Black Swan is a psychological thriller set in New York City’s dance scene. While the film tells an exhilarating story of dancer rivalry, it’s really the fashion that takes centre stage. All 40-plus couture ballet costumes were designed in signature sinister Rodarte style.
For those of you who don’t have the Mulleavy sisters on speed dial, we’ll bring you prima ballerina style inspiration. This flick has inspired us to reach for delicate, pretty neutrals, lace, corsets and fluffy skirts. Toss in a current fresh, neutral face and simple ballerina bun, and you’ll be mistaken for one of the corps de ballet. Whether you are looking to seriously splurge or score a save, we have the right Black Swan fashion option for you.
The Ballerina Dress

Serious Splurge: Dazzle the crowd in Marchesa’s One-Shoulder Feather Skirt Embroidered Mini-Dress ($6,600). This show-stopping nude corset dress is covered in gauzy black rose lace, and has a full, fluttering feather skirt with floaty net tulle. Glam it up in this one-shoulder dress, and steal the show from the opening number to the final curtain call. 
Score a Save: Dancer or not, Rare’s Opulence Corset Ballet Net Dress ($176) will have you looking every bit a graceful ballerina. The black-boned corset top (with underwire cups) meets layers of nude ruffles and fastens with a back zip closure. For a look that is all ballet chic, pirouette away in this tutu dress, available at ASOS.
The Corset
Serious Splurge: Wear Rosamosario’s ($605) nude corset with black lace overlay for a look that is both strikingly different and daringly Gothic. Trimmed in black satin with a sweetheart neckline, the Rosamosario corset has internal boning and padded cups. Lace up the rose satin bow back for a fitted feminine silhouette.
Score a Save: Hit the ballet barre in Bebe’s Silk Corset Bustier ($89), decorated with delicate lace embroidery. This satin-lined corset with a sweetheart neckline in blushing bride has supportive boning and an adjustable back. For a complete ballerina look, tie the corset bustier with a slightly padded bust, and knot your hair in a messy dancer bun.

The Ballet Flat
Serious Splurge: Miu Miu’s Embellished Velvet Ballerina Flats ($403) are decorated with Swarovski crystals and a chic black bow. Shine as you dance the night away in these sparkly elastic-back ballerina flats. 
Score a Save: Slip on Versus’s Oversize Gem Embellished Pumps ($34) with a delicate bow and giant jewels. Sparkle with every step in these ballet flats, available in Topshop stores and online. Wear these flats and you’ll be Swan Lake-ready. 

Rants and Raves: Open Offices

This is a special Rants AND Raves post. Working in an open office environment has some major advantages and can create some minor issues. Overall, working elbow to elbow with your coworkers is fun and makes for some big laughs and brilliant brainstorming sessions.

Here are some ups and downs about open concept offices that we’ve experienced. We bet they’ll sound familiar to everyone else with this groovy office design.

  • Saying hi to everyone at once first thing in the morning, then discussing the various outfits sported by the team before getting down to work.
  • Furry little friends brightening our day. Our office mascots, Angel and Brooklyn, can visit everyone in the open layout for a lil’ scratch behind the ears.
  • Team brainstorms and problem-solving, in an instant.
  • Spontaneous dance parties that erupt when we’re stressed.
  • Being able to sneakily roll your eyes at someone across the room, without anyone else noticing.

  • Not being able to sneak in five minutes late without anyone noticing.
  • Hearing the same Katy Perry song on the local radio station 15 times a day.
  • Smelling the spicy chili that someone ate for lunch, for the rest of the afternoon.
  • Five publicists on five phone calls with five important clients = noisy.
Solutions to the above:

  • Don’t be late! Open concept or not, it’s not a good impression to make with your boss or team, or a great way to start your day.
  • Personalize your tunes for the day with an online, build-it-yourself radio station. We like Grooveshark and The Hype Machine.  Use earphones.
  • Bring spicy chili for everyone! That way, no one can complain about the lingering odour (they’ll be too busy trying to keep awake after their delicious hot lunch). Or, invest in some yummy smelling candles to light after lunch is finished.
  • We’ve worked out an office dog schedule – more low-key days (like Friday) have Angel and Brooklyn, while high-stress days are dog-free (like during TIFF).
  • Installing sound barriers between stations helps with phone call noise. Also, we’ve found that discussing schedules can help. Knowing that your coworker is on an important call at 1p.m. can mean that you schedule yours for later that afternoon.

Open offices mean that you must be much more considerate of your fellow desk jockeys. The upside? A work environment that’s a lot more fun for everyone!

What are your recommendations for a smooth and easy open office work environment?