Barre by the beach: this idyllic ballet retreat in the Maldives will calm the mind, body and soul and offers a different type of wellness break.
It’s been 15 years since I was last in ballet shoes and a leotard. I started ballet as soon as I could walk; getting my love of the dance from my mother, who is celebrating 40 years of running her own ballet school. She’s also the person who taught me everything I know. At eight years old I was accepted to join the Royal Ballet Associates – a programme which offers training to young dancers before they are old enough to apply for full-time training at the Royal Ballet School – where I was both a junior and senior until I decided that a career as a ballerina wasn’t what I wanted to pursue. Fast forward to today – 15 years later with a career in fashion – I jumped at the chance to put on my ballet shoes and go back to my roots, but in a much more tranquil setting than the usual dance studio.
The Avani+ Fares Maldives Resort beckoned me for a long weekend of sun, where I experienced the Baa Atoll Ballet Retreat taught by Royal Ballet Graduate and teacher Karis Scarlette. Wellness takes centre stage at the resort, offering guests the chance to embrace a healthy lifestyle through dining, spa treatments and access to a dedicated wellness team while embarking on a journey of pure relaxation.The Art of Classical Ballet marked the first in a series of innovative retreats planned at Avani+ Fares, each of which go well beyond the notion that retreats are centred around gym workouts and strict meal plans.
Stretching at sunrise, breath work overlooking the beach and ballet classes mirroring the fluidity of the marine life in the ocean made for an escape like no other.
WHAT TO PACK
Set on Fares, a natural tropical island that was uninhabited until the resort opened in April this year, and surrounded by the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve‘s deep blue hues and pristine white sand beaches, Avani’s serene setting saturates you as soon as your feet touch the sandy shores. This dreamy getaway is modern in its design with a welcoming understated luxury – a common thread throughout all Avani hotels. You’ll find a large infinity pool, a dive school, a dream-like spa, tennis courts and a decked-out gym all within walking distance of the villas, but staff-driven buggies are available at your beck and call. The private-island hotel is accessible via a direct flight from London to Malé, followed by a breathtaking 40-minute seaplane.
There’s a choice of overwater and beachside villas, both bringing palettes of soothing colours and natural textures to this indoor-outdoor lifestyle that soothes the soul. The beach villas – where I settled in for the weekend – open directly onto white sands, jungle foliage and private pools, all just steps away from crystal clear beach waters. Wake up to the sound of soothing rain (a common occurrence during the rainy season of March – November), or start your morning on the sun-lit terrace soaking up the picturesque sanctuary with a near silence in the air, the sound of crashing waves and buzzing wildlife aside.
The Food + Drink
By day, plant yourself on a poolside lounger or relax in an indoor-outdoor dining space, with panoramic views of tropical waters. As evening falls, Tribe beach bar is where you need to plant yourself for a laid-back sunset cocktail before heading to Charcoal restaurant for dinner, a sophisticated dining spot with exceptional food; the bread and garlic bulb is ideal to ease you into dinner, and the grilled leeks were a hit amongst both carnivores and herbivores. The hotel is brilliant at catering to dietary requirements, going above and beyond to ensure guests are well looked after.
Breakfast is served at Ocean Terrace, the main all-day dining restaurant with ocean views. Live cooking and buffet stations offer healthy options – from fresh juices and smoothies to egg-white omelettes and pancakes. And head to Skipjack for lunch, a poolside restaurant with chilled beats and light bites including salads, sandwiches, Buddha bowls and woodfire pizzas. A series of remote islands, the Maldives can struggle to source novel ingredients for dishes but, at Avani, every dish is fresh, thanks to the resort’s small on-site farm which grows and sources organic produce and locally caught catch of the day.
The Retreats and To-Do List
As the first in a series of wellness retreats, Baa Atoll’s Ballet Retreat was an astounding first which will be back between 11 – 24 November 2024. My ballet retreat included one-to-one sessions, and focussed on posture, foot work and port de bras (arm work).
Downtime is of course essential. If you can pry yourself away from the sun-loungers during your stay, book a Land of the Reef snorkelling session around the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. This spectacular coral reef is home to baby reef sharks and a kaleidoscope of fish – a magical swimming experience surrounded by marine life and the marvellous underwater world of the island. Adrenaline junkies can jet ski and kite surf and, and for those wanting to keep their feet on the ground, the hotel’s full-sized tennis courts are a tropical location for game, set and match.
Priding themselves on mind, body and soul, the spa is the main event here, and it’s haven of stunning facilities that offer restorative wellness. Encapsulating the true meaning of relaxation, the Avani Spa is quietly luxurious, surrounded by nature, foliage and palms, bringing the outside in to its surrounds. I had the Tutu Tension Release Massage to soothe aching muscles – part of the Ballet Retreat package – but there’s an extensive menu of massages, facials, body treatments and wellness offerings that provide total rejuvenation. Be sure to make time for a full body pampering.
The Little Extras
Visit the on-site boutique Drift by Island Bazaar, a concept store which originated in the Maldives capital, Malé, to support local artisans and brands in 2015. Founders Fathimath Salah and Hassan Rameez have brought a carefully-curated selection of homeware, wellness, fashion and gifts from Maldivian brands to the resort – the first outside of its Malé flagship. These are beautiful, quality goods that you’ll treasure.
As I pirouetted out of paradise and back to London, I left my heart behind on the Baa Atoll. With the exceptional staff that made the trip so memorable as well as the opportunity to put on my ballet shoes once more, Avani Maldives really did raise the barre.
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