Disco Barre, the lovechild of disco and barre, is a concept founded by Sophie Ritchie, a pilates and barre teacher with a love of dance. I went along to the new Disco Barre studio at The Factory in Dalston, to try it out.
Disco Barre, it turns out, doesn’t involve cheesy music or legwarmers. Instead, think iconic disco, with heady steady beats and late nights filled with serious dancing. And by serious, there’s not a funky chicken in sight. Although there IS a disco ball. Hurrah!
The music is good. It has to be, to distract you from the ‘burn’ you feel throughout the class. And just like the music, the pace doesn’t stop. Before you know it, Sophie has taken you from the warm-up to the barre, to the floor – this is a well executed tactic to stop your brain realising what’s going on. Whether we were on demi-pointe at the barre pulsing out a plie or lying on our backs working our core, the movements are small and precise and specifically target certain muscles. Muscles you never knew you had, hidden away in your buttocks, suddenly make themselves known as you pulse and point and stretch them. Sophie is a wonderful sadist who will get you moving like you’ve never moved before. And by moving, I mean barely moving at all for a very long time. On each leg. In a thousand different ways.
This is a class where you can get lost in yourself, focusing on the movement and trying to ignore the steadily building burn. I honestly think at one point, I’d had one leg in the air (it steadily sagged as the class went on) for about ten minutes! I wouldn’t say I’m competitive, but, as I faced myself in the mirror at the barre, I told myself I was going to keep that goddamn leg in the air for longer than the person next to me.
What I loved about this class was the precision. Sophie is everywhere at once, giving instructions, encouragement and manually tweaking your posture and technique. There were about eight people in the studio and each person felt like they were being looked after. It’s also a fantastic class for those who don’t like the sweatiness of HIIT, but still want to feel like they’ve worked out. I’m writing this a few hours after the class and I already know the Epsom salts and magnesium spray are going to be much needed. I don’t know many fitness classes which are low impact, target the whole body, provide challenge, and are as much fun.
When I had a brief chat with Sophie after the class, she mentioned that when she was younger, she loved to dance until the early hours. Whilst life now may not involve so many late nights, Disco Barre is her way of continuing to bring that dance vibe and energy into her and other people’s lives.
Disco Barre doesn’t mess around. It’s a swift-paced class which ramps up the intensity a few minutes after you begin, without leaving you exhausted. Sophie will push you, and when you feel like you’ve got no more to give, she’ll push you again, smiling all the while; she wants you to get the most out of the class, yet supports you throughout. There’s absolutely no dance or barre experience required for these sessions as there’s no ‘routine’, only clear instructions and hands-on adjustments if you need it. Even though it was tough, my body and mind loved it!
Who’s it for: Beat-loving Londoners who want to stretch, strengthen and tone.
How much: An introductory session is £15, with class packs and monthly / annual membership available
Where: Unit 5, The Factory, Dalston, London E8 2DA