end your leg. And stretch. Now up an
inch. And down an inch. Up an inch.
Down an inch.” If the words sound
mystifying now, there’s a good chance
they may be familiar soon: These are
some of the directives given in barre classes, the
wildly popular, deceptively difficult exercises that
employ a ballet barre, a mat, workout music and
little else. In the past 15 years, those seeking the
poise, strength and long lines of a dancer’s body have
attended the classes in droves, and hundreds of barre
studios have opened around the world.
But these workouts are more than just a passing
fitness fancy. The phenomenon began more than half
a century ago with Lotte Berk, a modern ballet dancer
who fled Nazi Germany for England in the late 1930s.
After retiring from dance, she developed and began
teaching a series of strengthening exercises adapted
from her ballet training. By the early 1960s, Berk—a
progenitor to today’s celebrity trainers—had gathered
a loyal cadre of A-list followers in London.
Expansion of the practice began when Lydia Bach,
an enterprising disciple of Berk’s, acquired global
rights to the exercises. In 1970 Bach opened a studio
in New York, and the Lotte Berk Method was born. It
was a runaway success, counting scores of celebrities
How the barre method took
the fitness world by storm—
and where it’s headed now.
BY CRISTINA MUELLER
Barre workouts channel
the key movements
of ballet to unlock
the secrets of a dancer’s