Photo: CYBELLE CODISH
We're just two months and change into 2011, yet we've completely lost interest in all things fitness, despite all those New Year's resolutions. Plus, swimsuit season still feels too far off to pose an immediate threat. But when we heard about a new studio scheduled, at press time, to open in late February in Newton, our interest was piqued. Pure Barre (1300 Centre Street, Newton, 617.332.7873), which enjoys a cult following on the West Coast and in scattered markets across the US, is opening its first Boston-area outpost. The studio promises a long, lean ballet dancer's body without all the nuisances of rhythm, balance, grace, and, you know, that whole anorexia thing. Is it just another fitness trend that'll coax us into its clutches for a well-intentioned month or two? Or does the movement's slow, sustained growth suggest something more than that?
After all, ballet-inspired workouts are nothing new in this neck of the woods - Equinox has been running a "Barre Burn" class since last June, and Exhale has built its fitness cred upon its proprietary "Core Fusion" series. But we were intrigued by the idea that the demand for a barre-based class just might be strong enough to support a whole studio. We chatted with Rachel Roberts, owner of the new Newton franchise, to get her thoughts on the origins and development of the trend.
Photo: CYBELLE CODISH
Roberts sees the moment as sparked by a sense of boredom with traditional do-it-yourself gym visits and your average one-off fitness classes that only engage select parts of the body. But it's the allure of the dancer's physique and the results-driven nature of the program that truly set Pure Barre apart. "The dancer's body is totally idolized in this culture," she explains. "It's long and lean, and this is why they get it. Sure, there's genetics, but barre-based classes can really elongate all of your muscles. People were starting to have those results and started talking about it." Roberts describes the system as "intelligent exercise" in which you target and isolate muscles with small isometric movements, using the barre for balance as necessary. And the results are real: the program promises a noticeable difference in 10 classes - but give it just three, Roberts says. "Of course, everyone's body responds differently, but everyone's body responds. It's really different than any exercise that most of us do in our daily lives."
There's also a sense of accessibility with Pure Barre that's lacking in traditional dance classes, at least outside of the six- to 14-year-old bracket. "[Pure Barre is] not a dance class, by any means," says Roberts. "You don't need to dance, you don't need to know how to dance, you don't need to have rhythm. It's taking principles of dance that work towards fitness." Like a large percentage of her target audience, Roberts is a former high school and college athlete who struggled to find a fitness routine she could fall in love with in her post-grad professional life.
Each 55-minute Pure Barre class consists of a warm-up; targeted thigh, butt, arm, and ab work, both on the floor and at the barre; and a cool-down - though movement is constant throughout the session for an added element of cardio. Set to an upbeat soundtrack of house and Top 40, each class is, on paper, the same, though choreography does vary from session to session to keep things interesting. ("All of the classes get to every muscle group," attests Roberts. "It's just how.") Don't expect leotards and tutus here: attire skews yoga-esque, with most clients rocking workout tanks and leggings, plus studio-provided grippy socks for added stability. And Pure Barre instructors come from a variety of fitness, cheer, and dance backgrounds; all go through a rigorous certification process that requires constant continuing education.
Sound like something you could get into? Visit PureBarre.com for class schedules and additional details on pricing and the like. For those willing to give it a shot, Roberts and co. are also offering newbies a month of unlimited visits for just $100 - a great trial run that allows for enough time to see those results everyone's been talking about. No pirouettes required.