Whether you are a dancer or not, you have probably heard people raving about the effectiveness of barre workouts in recent years. Even just since 2010, barre classes have grown exponentially in popularity, and continue to expand further throughout the United States and around the world. By 2015, Pure Barre alone had nearly 300 studios open across the country.
A Form of Physical Exercise
Barre is a form of physical exercise that incorporates the use of a ballet barre, and classes are usually conducted in gyms or specialty studios. The workout implements elements of ballet, yoga, and Pilates. It focuses on movements that engage small muscles, as well as on form and elegance. Students of barre will work through core-engaging classical dance movements in a class. “At the barre” is where you start in a typical ballet class, and you use the form and technique practiced with the barre’s support as a guide when you come to the center of the dance floor. The barre is where you build strength, and where you learn to be familiar with your body. Now, exercises done at the barre have been made into a full class for fitness by copying movements that dancers use in their daily training. Barre tends to attract students who are looking to sculpt long, lean muscles, similar to those of a ballerina.
Barre was created in 1959 by LotteBerk, a German-Jewish ballerina who had fled from the Nazis to London when they forbade her from performing. Berk had injured her back, and got the idea to combine her regular ballet barreroutines with her rehabilitative therapy to form an exercise system. According to Lotte-Berk.com, she had a “natural and naughty wit, straight-talk and no-nonsense attitude [that] won her many admirers.” She first opened The LotteBerk Studio in her basement, and trained dancers and non-dancers alike, even some high-profile celebrities like Joan Collins and Barbra Streisand. Berk introduced the pelvic-tilt exercise as her trademark “tuck” that is now popular in many different workout varieties. She apparently referred to it as “the love-making position,” and was not shy about sharing her experiences in love and lust in her classes. Berk’s daughter, Esther Fairfax, says of her mother’s method,
It liberated women to show them, ‘I can be sexy, as well
Such was a radical notion at the time. One of Berk’s American students, Lydia Bach, became hooked on barre, and brought it back to the United States. She bought the rights to the franchise, and opened the LotteBerk Method studio in New York City in 1971, which remained in operation until 2005. Some of the elite clientele who frequented the LotteBerk Method included Julia Roberts, Caroline Kennedy, Bianca Jagger, Melanie Griffith, and Brooke Shields. Many of the instructors at the NYC studio went on to found some of the major chains that provide the barre classes we know of today, including Tanya Becker and JenniferVaughanMaanavi of Physique 57, Burr Leonard of The Bar Method, and Fred DeVito and LisHalfpapp of Exhale. Berk’s and Bach’s former students- and instructors-turned-entrepreneurs have seen outstanding success by carrying on the original barre method that they came to love and gain extraordinary physical results from, and even adding personal touches to it. By 2015, The Bar Method had over 80 locations for classes in the United States. Pop Physique tends to appeal to a younger, urban, hipster demographic. It was founded in 2008 by another LotteBerk Method student, Jennifer Williams, and was originally based in Los Angeles, but now has locations in San Francisco and New York City, as well. Long-time barre aficionado Niki Rein runs the London-based Barrecore method. In 2010, the release of the film Black Swan with Natalie Portman also boosted the popularity of barre workouts.
Barre Classes Include
Through the use of a ballet barre, barre classes incorporate pliés, relevés, and sauté jumps used in traditional ballet dance to lengthen and strengthen muscles and to burn calories. The most popular ballet-inspired workouts bring together moves from ballet, yoga, and Pilates-style classes. If you’re looking for it, you will find that some barre classes exist specifically to target certain muscle groups, such as the abs, thighs, or glutes. Some classes may utilize small balls, resistance bands, or light hand weights for an additional muscle burn.
What You Should Expect?
Barre students should expect a blend of cardio, strength training, flexibility, balance, and core conditioning for a total body workout. Classes often move at a slower pace in order to isolate individual muscle groups at a time. Though there is a particular focus on the lower body, which is achieved through holding certain positions and lots of pulsing, other target areas of the body include the core, arms, legs, and back. Remember, your back is part of your core!
Individuals With Health Conditions Should Not Give It A Miss
Barre can even be a perfect solution for individuals with health conditions. Because the nature of barre classes is low-impact, barre goes easy on the joints, and can be an excellent choice for those who struggle with arthritis. It also helps to focus on proper alignment of the body. Getting everything back in line is beneficial for rehabilitating injuries. Instructors can help students to modify moves in class, if needed, as well as demonstrate good form.
Barre can also be a perfect choice for women going through a pregnancy. They can continue to work out safely, burning calories and keeping muscles strong and flexible, but without adding even more stress to their bodies. Modifications can be applied as a pregnancy moves along, and it is recommended to avoid moves that cause feelings of unsteadiness. The benefits of integrating a barre workout into a fitness routine are almost endless. Students of barre will experience improved strength, flexibility, endurance, as well as better posture, balance, and stability. Movements done in barre classes tend to reach muscles of the body that are often neglected in everyday life and by other forms of exercise, so there will certainly be increased muscle definition, pelvic floor strength,and stamina, not to mention weight loss and reduced stress. Students will find that they develop better control of their body, and even a particular aesthetic by participating in barre classes regularly. According to WebMD, Dr. Michael Smith says,
Barre fitness is ideal if you’re just getting into exercise. The classes will improve your balance, build strength, make you more flexible, burn calories, and improve stability through a stronger core
As you work through classes, becoming more comfortable with the method, bring up the intensity by adding weights, deeper holds, and more challenging pulses. More advanced barre classes are prevalent for those who have more experience and are looking for a new challenge. Both men and women will find barre to be challenging, as the moves tend to be a lot harder than they look and can help anyone take their fitness to the next level. Prospective students should research classes offered at gyms or studios in their local area. Barre is a good workout for beginners, whether they have never danced before or are just starting out on a fitness journey. Many resources for ballet-inspired workouts can also be found online or on DVD so that barre can be done at home.
You May Be Interested In:
Anyone interested in making barre a regular part of their fitness routine may find that it is worth investing in light hand weights, resistance bands, or small, inflated balls of their own. There are even varieties of ballet barres available to be used at home, or students can choose to substitute a countertop, table, or a sturdy chair in lieu of a personal, in-home barre. Though LotteBerk’s original basement studio in the West End is no more, her daughter, Esther, has taught daily classes and certified instructors out of her Berkshire, United Kingdom studio for over 47 years.
She has remained faithful to her mother’s technique as it was originally designed, and her students continue to get amazing results. Lydia Bach’s New York City studio is also gone, as the Lenox Hill brownstone is now the site of luxury apartments and some high-end retail, but barre classes are still easily found these days. Pure Barre, XtendBarre, Barrecore, Balletone, and Barre Blend through Beachbody are just a few of the methods through which barre enthusiasts can get their fix. All are based either directly or indirectly upon the techniques that LotteBerk herself taught and championed