It's Art And Abs With The Museum Workout : Shots - Health News Seeing a great work of art might quicken your pulse, but the Metropolitan Museum of Art is hoping you'll break a sweat, too. A dance company is offering literally breathtaking tours of the museum.

Raise Your (He)art Rate With A Workout At The Met

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The Great Hall at New York City's Metropolitan Museum of Art has a way of humbling people and hushing you to prepare for some quiet contemplation. For the next few weeks, though, through March 9, it's also the starting point for the museum workout, part performance, part workout, part tour. It turns the museum's best-known exhibit spaces into a gym. WNYC's Sean Rameswaram spent a very unorthodox morning at the Met for us.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Hi, everyone. Thank you so much for being with us.

SEAN RAMESWARAM, BYLINE: Fifteen of us are inside the Met before it opens. We're lined up behind two tour guide dancers. One's wearing a yellow cocktail dress. The other's wearing a red one, and they're both in sneakers. A guy standing nearby has a laptop and a Bluetooth speaker. And then he pushes play.


RAMESWARAM: Now we're power walking and punching the air to disco, and the workout has begun.

I am lightly, daintily jogging through the Metropolitan Museum of Art at 9 in the morning. There's a lot of light. There's a lot of antiquity...

...And a lot of stink-eye.

Museum security looks like they've never seen anything like this.

MONICA BILL BARNES: We were approached by the Metropolitan Museum to make a dance.

RAMESWARAM: Like, on stage in a performance space.

BARNES: And we counter-offered and asked to make a led tour that's a workout.

RAMESWARAM: That's Monica Bill Barnes. She was the dancer in the yellow dress. Her dance company wanted to get people moving in the Met. And jumping jacks and yoga poses seemed a lot easier than teaching amateurs a complicated dance routine.

BARNES: It's one of the most expansive spaces in New York City. And to be able to move through all the different galleries and the rooms and the spaces that they've created felt like such an incredible opportunity.


ELTON JOHN AND KIKI DEE: (Singing) Knock on my door...

RAMESWARAM: Now we're aggressively walking through a hall of busts - lots of heads, some headless.

This is the fastest tour of a museum you'll ever take. Most of the workout is spent jogging past priceless important artwork. But we do slow down a few times, like when we approach a portrait of a beautiful, pale woman in a long, black gown. It's John Singer Sargent's "Madame X," and we're doing squats in front of her to "Easy Like Sunday Morning" (ph).


THE COMMODORES: (Singing) Easy, ah...

RAMESWARAM: When I told Monica Bill Barnes that I cracked up in that moment, she totally absolved me.

BARNES: We're sort of purposefully combining things that you don't naturally put together.

RAMESWARAM: She said laughter's part of what they're going for.

BARNES: There's something that I feel like happens when you can laugh at yourself, when you can laugh at a situation that literally sort of lightens the mood but also opens you up to experience things differently.

RAMESWARAM: Maybe a little too differently at first. It took Monica Bill Barnes & Company over two years to get the Met on board with this sort of subversive idea.

BARNES: It's really - how many inches are you from that work?


BARNES: That's where we had to do a lot of good, careful conversations.

RAMESWARAM: The patience and planning really paid off - like, to the point where I caught a few museum guards dancing along with us. Four weeks of the workout sold out immediately. And it turns out, a little music and movement really can make you see things differently.


ELTON JOHN AND KIKI DEE: (Singing) Don't go breaking my heart. I won't go breaking your heart.

RAMESWARAM: (Singing) I won't go breaking your heart.

For NPR News, I'm Sean Rameswaram.

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