In the last 10 years, barre has gone from being a virtually unknown fitness concept, to one of the fastest emerging methods in the industry. The Lotte Berk Technique which had it’s hey-day in the 60s & 70s is the mother of all modern barre workouts. It garnered a following from Dame Joan Collins, Bond girl Britt Ekland, Maureen Lipman, Edna O’Brien and Prue Leith.
Vicki Anstey, Founder of Barreworks trained at the Lotte Berk Studio in 2007 and identified the potential for London barre to go mainstream as it had done in the States some ten years beforehand.
I just felt quite passionately that more people needed to know about this transformative technique. We were in a recession, people thought I was mad, or that it was some kind of fad and would last 5 minutes
Barreworks celebrated its 10 year anniversary earlier this year and following the closure of the Lotte Berk Studio, it is now the longest standing barre studio in the UK. Of course many others have followed suit and barre is rivalling the popularity of pilates and yoga – but with a distinct edge all of its own.
Barreworks has an accredited Instructor Training Programme and course dates are sold out months in advance. If the number of studios has doubled in the last 2 years, the number of freelance instructors has tripled or quadrupled, as more and more fitness professionals discover the benefits and unique characteristics of barre and find demand for it. This year even saw the first ever UK Barre Summit.
So what is it about barre that sets it apart?
The concept of wellness is so widespread and the need for more and more complex solutions for everything from loneliness to optimal performance means that Londoners are constantly re-shaping what it means to be well.
We want a more holistic approach to our fitness. Adrenaline-fuelled workouts are being replaced by self-care sessions that aid mobility, fascial release, sexual wellness and sleep. We are and want to be better educated and we’re looking for seamless health & fitness solutions that cater to ever need, mood and rate of recovery. Barre fits into that space perfectly. With a focus on the body’s stabilising muscles, joints, ligaments and tendons, barre is the glue that holds bodies together. And there really isn’t anything else that does this, whilst also challenging the bigger, more powerful muscles, promoting balance, flexibility AND perfect posture.
Men are increasingly enjoying the benefits of barre too. Hitting their 40’s with a sudden loss of mobility and flexibility that limits their performance on the bike or on the field, they crave guided rehabilitation and corrective stretching – and discover a good few muscles they didn’t even know they had. Barre is now being used in professional sport and Barreworks has an Elite Athlete programme, designed to work alongside their existing training on de-load or recovery days without causing any over-training effects. It can also be used in Prehab to help avoid injuries or minimise injury recurrence. Even for Olympic teams, it has been found to enhance performance and create a more robust system from which to build strength and power.
The well-known boutique model that barre pioneered is ubiquitous with the wellness industry since it first disrupted the market with premium aesthetics and bespoke services. That need for community (or a Tribe, as Barreworks calls it) is still at the centre of people’s hierarchy of needs. So as the bigger networks of studios expand, the more individuals seem to crave independent Studios that have their own unique style and can offer a rich variety of classes, rather than a formulaic, predictable timetable. And furthermore, barre is known for its inclusivity. Barre attracts people of ALL ages, ALL levels of ability and experience. It can be modified to make even the toughest, most complex sequence achievable by anyone. With self-care and nurturing featuring far higher on the agenda than the likes of the ‘Armageddon Workout’ or the ‘Filthy 50” these days, barre appeals to people who want to be challenged in a far more intelligent way than some kind of unbridled beasting.
People who want to learn about their bodies and movement. And those who want to get a mental workout as well as a physical one. Barre requires a fair amount of neuromuscular control (the brain ‘talking’ to the body). It cannot be done mindlessly – which appeals to anyone dealing with a stressful job, mental health issues or any other of life’s pressures. One hour of barre is an hour of pure distraction. And aside from the incredible physical effects, that’s what makes it so addictive.