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A Beginners Guide to Barre | Everything you need to know about Barre and Ballet Fitness

Updated: Sep 10, 2021

You’re at a party and overhear someone talking to a group of friends. “My legs were shaking like a baby deer trying to walk for the first time.” Intrigued, you interrupt and ask what they’re talking about.

“Barre!” they all chime in unison - insert blank expression. One lady begins to lower into some plies and pulses in the middle of the room, whilst another sings Barre’s praises as if she is trying to sell you the latest pair of designer leggings on Farfetch.

As Barre Instructors we’re always receiving that same blank expression when someone asks us what we do, we’re here to break down what this transformative method of exercise is all about.

A Brief History

Barre has been in existence for over 60 years, invented by German-born dancer Lieselotte "Lotte" Berk. A severe spinal injury left Lotte unable to dance professionally, and it was during her recovery, she developed a series of exercises based on her ballet training and incorporating much of the rehabilitative work she had done throughout her career.

The Nitty Gritty

Barre uses the ballet barre as a basis for exercises designed to sculpt and tone muscles, increase strength and teach correct body placement, incorporating a series of dynamic and static movements, isometric holds, core strengthening techniques and orthopaedic stretching. The barre provides support to enable small, precise movements, acts as a resistance aid for certain exercises and as a reference point to ensure the correct position is held whilst performing the exercises. Making small, repetitive, controlled movements precisely targets specific (stabilising) muscles and builds leaner (long and strong) muscle mass.

The principle of opposition (derived from ballet) is widely used in barre. It involves lengthening whilst strengthening muscle groups and focusing on energy lines through the body. These energy lines come from a strong centre (core) and the methodology is to engage opposing parts of the body to perform more controlled movements.

The workouts aim to load muscles to the point of fatigue whilst stretching the opposing muscle. Muscles cannot actively relax; they can only lengthen with gravity, external force, or the opposing muscle group's contraction. The balance between muscle length and strength is essential and barre is uniquely placed to promote this perfect balance. Often, practises such as yoga focus solely on flexibility, whereas weight lifting (for example) will promote strength gains but neglect flexibility.

Alignment and posture are fundamental in barre and teaching correct alignment is always our priority. Positioning is particularly important around the hips and pelvis, to ensure core strengthening and avoid strain on the lower spine.

Our Method

The Barre Collective Method (previously The Barreworks Method) has its roots in the Lotte Berk Exercise Technique. Our founder Vicki Anstey was trained in the Lotte Berk Technique and taught at the Lotte Berk Studio in London. The original techniques have been developed, updated and intensified, incorporating advancements in physiotherapy practices and influenced by strong links with the barre scene in New York. Vicki trained to an advanced level with Exhale Studios Teacher Training Programme led by Barre pioneers Elisabeth Halfpapp and Fred Devito.

Do I need to be a dancer?

Vicki also trained in the New York City Ballet Workout Method before its discontinuation in 2011. As a non-dancer, Vicki tailored this already very accessible dancer's training regime into classes suitable for any level of ability and level of dance experience. They enhance grace, build considerable strength and promote flexibility.

How do I get started?

If you have never tried Barre, give one of our Barre Collective On-Demand or Live workouts a try and be reassured that you are learning from the best in the industry. With lessons starting from as little as £5, you’ll be shaking like a baby deer in no time.

Our classes are easy to perform from home and will help you develop strength, better balance and flexibility with nothing other than a high-back chair or countertop and your own body weight. We do love to incorporate the use of additional props in our workouts, but we can adapt everything to a ‘pure’ barre workout that requires only the use of your own body’s resistance if you don’t have any equipment.

We have just launched our 6-Weeks Beginners Barre Programme starting on Wednesday 5th May, 2021. New beginnings can be hard and we are here to support you every step of the way. Full details about the programme can be found here.

Start your journey and book your first class here.

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