A first timer’s guide to… Barre
For those not familiar, barre takes the warm-up moves that dancers have been doing for decades to strengthen and tone, modifies them a little for the masses (though the bar to hold on to is still there) and turns them into 40-50 minute workouts, with the emphasis very much on work.
There are plenty of places to try a barre class out in London – BARREtoned, Barrecore and Barreworks to name but three. There are boutique gyms offering sessions, too. I tried a Whipped Barre class at Ethos in Spitalfields, now known as Soma (School of Mindbody Athletics), which, at £20 for 40 minutes, ain’t cheap.
First impression – big respect to dancers. This is tough. Second – am I going to feel like I rode a horse tomorrow? (Answer, more like a bull). Third – there are far more women here than men. I wasn’t the only guy – there were two of us – but usually, the other chap told me, he’s on his own.
ELLEN AND HELL
Barre can be a slow, repetitive and strengthening class or it can be a high-tempo, high-energy cardio session. I was lucky to stumble into a cardio session taught by a lovely Irish dancer called Ellen, who took no prisoners.
As I struggled on, Ellen smiled encouragingly, occasionally giving me adjustments to make it tougher. She was keen to tell me that barre works parts of the body other exercise overlooks, so not to be surprised if it hurts the next day. And the three after that.
I thought I was being smart taking a spot at the back of the room until it was time for everyone to turn around and face the rear wall.
You will be glad to know, I’m basically a dancer now. Well, I mastered ‘first position’ (that’s standing with your heels together and your feet facing outwards). I can now squat while pointing my toes, jump while pointing my toes and curtsy while losing all dignity – although regular readers will note that my dignity went a long time ago. If you’re not too attached to yours, give a barre class a try. You have nothing to lose but your thighs.
Read more: A first timer’s guide to alternative dance (at 5 Rhythms)