Health December 16, 2015
Belly Up to the Barre
Barre Workouts Build Strength and Flexibility

Jen Galpin, a barre instructor at Pure Body Pilates in Hailey, lightly laid her hand on the beam of a portable barre, using it for balance as she sank down, turned her knees out and rose up on her toes. A few seconds later, she straightened her legs and moved her feet together, turning them sideways, one in front of another. “Oooh. Feel the burn,” she said, as four women behind her followed suit. 

Galpin and her classmates were not training for “The Nutcracker Suite.” Instead, they were fusing ballet moves with movements from Pilates and yoga, toning and sculpting their bodies as music from ACDC set the beat.

Christina Arpp teaches a barre class in at Studio Move in Ketchum, Idaho. Photo: Tessa Sheehan

“I’ve found it’s a real fun way to target smaller muscle groups, like the really deep rotator muscles in the back of the hip joint that you might not access with other forms of exercise,” said Alysha Oclassen, who owns Pure Body Pilates. “And it lengthens the muscles, whereas other forms of exercise usually contract and shorten muscles.”

Barre is a spinoff of a method introduced by German dancer Lotte Berk in the 1940s. Berk built upon the isometrics and muscle-building exercises her physical therapists used with her after she injured her back in a car accident. She figured she could combine such small repetitive movements that would isolate and engage the muscles with barre warm-ups to help dancers achieve sinewy physiques without risking injury from vigorous exercises involving running and jumping.

Celebrities like Drew Barrymore, Madonna and Kelly Ripa began bellying up to the barre several years ago. And today there is no shortage of barre classes in the Wood River Valley, with adherents performing at barres at the Wood River YMCA, Zenergy, Studio Move, Pure Body Pilates, Resilient Body Pilates  and GATHER Yoga & Studio.

Christina Arpp teaches a barre class in at Studio Move in Ketchum, Idaho. Photo: Tessa SheehanChristina Arpp teaches a barre class in at Studio Move in Ketchum, Idaho. Photo: Tessa Sheehan

While graceful, barre is clearly challenging, even torturous, as adherents strengthen, then lengthen. Sweat beads formed on Victoria Yee’s forehead as Galpin led her through the workout. And everyone’s thighs began to quake.

“Everyone quivers. And it’s a wonderful feeling because you’re working your muscles to exhaustion, stretching them out long,” said Studio Move owner Debra Drake, who often has her students stand on unstable bases, such as 2-inch-thick foam squares to engage the muscles even more. “And the fact that you can rev up your metabolism and get a good cardio workout while standing in place makes it good for older people and baby boomers who might have joint issues.”

Christina Arpp teaches a barre class in at Studio Move in Ketchum, Idaho. Photo: Tessa SheehanChristina Arpp teaches a barre class in at Studio Move in Ketchum, Idaho. Photo: Tessa Sheehan

Barre needs few props beyond the barre.

“Anyone can benefit from a ballet barre class, but it is not for the faint of heart—you will work hard!” said Hilarie Neely, director of Footlight Dance Centre.

Barre is good for those making the transition to skiing or mountain biking as it gets the legs “super strong,” added Galpin.

Christina Arpp teaches a barre class in at Studio Move in Ketchum, Idaho. Photo: Tessa Sheehan

Dori Davenport likes how it lengthens her muscles and leads to a taller spine. And Peggy Bates, a longtime dance instructor with LineDancZen, said it has improved her stamina for dancing. “I do it religiously—twice a week,” she said. “My body has changed. My balance has improved, and my endurance is better. I don’t feel the burn in my legs like I used to. And, while my posture has always been good, I’m putting my shoulders back even more now.”

Donna D’Adamo, who teaches barre at Resilient Body Pilates, has noticed similar results. “I love that the body gets stronger and more flexible. And I love that I can focus on my body during barre in ways that I can’t always do when doing other types of exercise,” she said. “I decided it’s something I can do until I’m 90, so it must be good for others, too.”

Christina Arpp teaches a barre class in at Studio Move in Ketchum, Idaho. Photo: Tessa Sheehan


WINTER BARRE CLASSES

If you're interested in getting involved in barre classes in the Valley, check out the schedules below!

Christina Arpp teaches a barre class in at Studio Move in Ketchum, Idaho. Photo: Tessa Sheehan

Monday

9:00 am @ Resilient Body Pilates
12:00 pm @ GATHER Yoga & Studio
12:15 pm @ YMCA
12:30 pm @ Resilient Body Pilates

Tuesday

8:00 am @ Zenergy
9:00 am @ Studio Move
5:30 pm @ GATHER Yoga & Studio
6:00 pm @ Resilient Body Pilates

Wednesday

9:30 am @ Pure Body Pilates

Thursday

12:00 pm @ GATHER Yoga & Studio
6:00 pm @ Resilient Body Pilates

Friday

8:00 am @ Zenergy
9:00 am @ Resilient Body Pilates
9:00 am @ Studio Move
9:30 am @ Pure Body Pilates
11:00 am @ YMCA
12:00 pm @ GATHER Yoga & Studio

Sunday

10:00 am @ Zenergy

 

*Times subject to change–check websites for details. 

 

This article appears in the Winter 2015-2016 Issue of Sun Valley Magazine.