Sometimes I think about if I could have become a dancer if I started dance classes early enough. By the time I really thought about it, I was at least in middle school and no longer flexible enough to be trained — since most really good dancers start off young and have years to practice their technique and poise. Well, that’s what I thought, anyways. But then I realized that there are still ways to practice those poised moves now, even if I didn’t when I was little! That’s really where “barre” comes into play. Never heard of it? That’s okay, I’ll tell you what I’ve happily learned:
Barre is a French word that means bar, so don’t be intimidated 🙂 It’s also just pronounced “bar”, as in the American granola bar.
Anybody! Since barre is low-impact and exercises can easily be accommodated for individuals of any fitness and flexibility level, absolutely anybody can participate in barre. It’s a good option for those that wished to be ballerinas as kids, those that are looking to be stronger but not bulky, or those that are looking for a graceful, posture-building fitness activity. You don’t need any prior experience at all!
Barre is a modern dance-based workout where participants use modified dance conditioning techniques to build strength, flexibility, and balance. It’s not really a surprise, then that barre uses the ballet barre — that long, wall-mounted handrail — as part of routines. No fancy shoes are needed, although mats and very light weights might be used.
As for more specifics on what a barre workout actually includes, there’s a lot teeny pulsing movements (think calf raises). There’s also a lot of holding difficult to balance positions — for example, versions of pliés, which are kind of like partial squats. These moves are meant to tone muscles without overextending them, while making you feel sophisticated at the same time!
Where + When:
Since barre is a popular activity and the Los Angeles area is all about that, you can be that there are a ton of studios and classes near you. Your local gym might offer workouts, or there are also private instructors. Call or search online for programs that work for your schedule!
Oh my! Where to start with all of the perks of barre? It wouldn’t be recommended if it wasn’t fun and fitness-y, but specifically barre is known for how it helps develop toned, lean muscles. Since barre was originally developed by an injured ballerina, it’s accommodating to those with injuries and is in many ways restorative, helping to realign posture and gently improve flexibility and mobility. It’s a strengthening but elegant activity that also improves your sense of wellness and calm (not unlike yoga!)
The nature of barre, with the small contracted movements, is that it works many little muscle groups at the same time. In holding positions, there’s a component of endurance as well – meaning that you may tremble a little as you try to hold that stretch, but then you know you’re really working! These types of exercises are one of the reasons why barre definitely shows results – most people feel a change in their bodies in three weeks to three months.
Now that you know what barre is, go out there and practice to your heart’s content!
Pictures by: Quinn D.