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Back to the Barre and Why Did We Ever Leave It?

Patch's fitness columnist Dr. Andrea Metzker looks at the one of the hottest new fitness trends.

A new fitness concept is taking form in Belmont Shore and Seal Beach, and it is being received with open arms by exercise enthusiasts. And even those that didn’t previously like fitness are now seeing the benefits of the use of this apparatus.

It’s the ballet barre.

Ballet has been around for longer than any of the other fitness classes, but the return of the barre is hot, and, I think, for good reason.

The new craze is a mixture of ballet, yoga and Pilates and is a concept created by Lotte Berk, a German dancer in the late 1930s. After injuring her back, she got the idea of combining her ballet barre routines with her rehabilitative therapy to form an exercise system. She first brought the method to London in 1959 where she opened The Lotte Berk Studio in her West End basement. There, she sculpted the bodies of her students, among them actresses Brooke Shields, Joan Collins and Brit Ekland.

The Lotte Berk method was created 30 years ago but is enjoying a re-birth and many studios have spin-offs including: Pure Barre, Barre Method and Pop Physique.

I participated in barre classes in Seal Beach’s new Pop Physique studio as well as Naples’ Executive Fitness and spoke to the owners about the creation and success of their classes.

Meghan Crowe is the owner of Pop Physique at 347 Main St. in Seal Beach http://www.popphysique.com/home.html .

Patch: I am intrigued about how your members rave about these classes. I barely stepped my foot in the door, and several of them started telling me how it absolutely changed their body and that it was the most phenomenal class ever.

Meghan Crowe: I hear that all of the time, and I feel like I have the evidence to prove it is true. A lot of people that didn’t like any other kind of exercise come to this class and love it. People say again and again how they didn’t know they had those muscles that they worked and how it transformed their body.

P:  I had that feeling, too. I have to admit there was one move where I thought, “I cannot lift my leg in that position because I simply don’t know how to access that muscle.”

MC: You will use muscles in this class that you never use in your daily life.

P: So what is the class? The name Pop Physique does not explain it.

MC: It is a system based on small controlled movements that isolate muscle groups. Most of the instructors are dancers or former dancers. I was a dancer and I teach or take the class six days a week. I just don’t feel right without it.

P: Has the studio been successful and what is the age range of people that attend class?

MC: It has been very successful. At popular times, we sell out the class and once I had to turn five people away. You can sign up in advance and reserve your spot on the computer so that doesn’t have to happen, but people forget sometimes. I don’t like to have more than 22 people in class.

The age range is from teenagers through 70s. Anyone can take the class.

Next, I took two classes at Executive Fitness, 5708 E. Second St. in Naples and spoke to the co-owner, Lisa Kammel. http://www.executivefitness.com/

P: How did you come up with the barre class?

LK: Our lead instructor Shani Rogers, a dancer all her life, brought the class to us. She had taken classes out of the area, and we found the need to incorporate and started the class 16 months ago.

P: Can anyone come and try the class?

LK: Yes, our gym functions two ways. You can show up for personal training or schedule and reserve a spot; the same with classes. You can come in one time for a month or more. There is no membership so you pay for what you are using. It is best to call up to get the class schedule. We currently have two barre-based classes, but we frequently add classes to our schedule. I do strength circuit training and a lot of different workouts, but I find the barre class is not as hard core and I feel very feminine and uplifted from taking the class. I am not a dancer, but it feels good emulating one.

P: What is the age range of people who take the class?

LK: People from their 20s to their 60s take the class and even some teens. We can accommodate anyone if we know in advance.

I really enjoyed taking these classes and will definitely be back for more. The idea of yoga, Pilates and barre is one that I think will be a lasting one. The classes I took from the three instructors varied and I would recommend taking several to see which is your favorite.  It is definitely an overall strength workout with some flexibility and balance training as well. The ballet barre is excellent for posture, and these classes give you that individual attention like a group personal training class.

After each class, I felt like I was walking more upright and could imagine being toned in muscles that have been hiding for awhile. Everyone really can do this at their own pace, and it was created with that intention. I would definitely recommend a barre-type class for healing from injuries or preventing them by gaining strength and not overworking the joints.

john garey August 08, 2011 at 01:13 PM
Hi Dr. Metzer! Thanks so much for the article. I'd love to invite you to take our JG Barre Pilates or JG Barre Equipment Class at John Garey Fitness and Pilates at the Marketplace in Long Beach, CA. It was developed by Heather Lawson, Ballet Dancer and STOTT PILATES Instructor Trainer. We offer 12 classes per week. I hope you can stop by. You can call (562) 598-8585 or sign up on-line at johngareyfitness.com. Hope to see you soon. John Garey
Nancy Woo August 09, 2011 at 07:19 AM
This sounds perfect. I'd never heard of this sort of workout before, but I cannot function properly without my yoga, and Pilates is great, too (and I have harbored a secret desire for ballet for years - must've been a dancer in a past life) so this sounds like something I've got to try. Thanks for spreading the word!

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