Barre, a fusion of pilates, yoga and ballet, is "sweeping across the world," according to Carolyn Stuart, co-owner of New England company C2 Pilates, which will soon be offering the exercise.
And now, the studio is bringing it to Avon as it gets ready to open its C2 Barreroom.
C2 Pilates, which CC Martin founded in 1999 in Boston, opened in the Avon building last year. It will house one of the few barre studios in the state. The studio is offering a sneak peek week from March 14 to 18 in Avon before launching the formal program March 20.
Barre gets its name from the French word for the waist-level handrail that ballet dancers use. A ballet barre will be mounted to a mirror-covered wall in the C2 Pilates studio to help class members balance.
“People love those ballet moves. We all want to be a ballerina,” said Stuart, who has a physical therapy background. “We do a lot of relevés, pliés, and those are great for toning your thighs. We incorporate the Pilates because it’s all pulling it into the core. Dynamic yoga moves help stretch and release the muscle, so you feel like you’re more balanced. We try to hit all the different ranges of motion.”
Barre is most suited for agile teens and adults, from people with little to no dance background to experienced dancers, Stuart said. Madonna takes barre, according to the StarTribune, of Minneapolis, MN. Kelly Ripa does Physique 57, which is similar to barre, according to Stuart. Even guys go to barre classes in Boston and L.A., she said, particularly men who want to do core strengthening without having to “sling big weights around.”
Avon C2 studio General Manager Catherine Fair, who has a wealth of dance experience, will teach the barre classes at C2. She trained with the Royal Academy of Dance in College Park, MD as a young adult and also studied Vaganova and Cecchetti dance methods, of Russia and Italy, respectively. She previously was executive director of the Amherst Ballet, where she also taught and choreographed.
“[Barre is] another form of exercise where you feel you’re really good in your body,” Stuart said. “You feel like anybody at any level can do it because it’s always a modification in terms of not always going up on the toes, not as high, or placing the heals down, bending their knees in their range, but we like to consider it very safe because you’re applying your Pilates connection with it.”
Former German ballerina Lotte Berk designed the earliest form of the ballet-influenced exercise in London while on the mend from a car accident, according to healinglifestyles.com. She opened a barre studio there in 1959, the website states. Lydia Bach, one of her students, brought barre to New York in 1971, according to www.livestrong.com.
“What we’ve included is some more functional training with it to make sure people are safe with it, not in their joints,” Stuart said. “It’s a combination of some isometric contractions, where you’re really burning out the muscle and then you do bigger moves to release it. You really focus a lot on the thighs, the butt lifting, the abdominals, the toning of the arms, but in a way that you feel you’ve really worked them and that you’ve really toned and tightened your muscles, but you’re not hurting yourself.”
Like Zumba, barre is choreographed to music, Fair said, but it is more controlled to target certain muscle groups. The Black Eyed Peas, T-Pain, J-Lo, Coldplay, hip hop and slower pop songs represent the range of music played during the workouts.
“The music inspires you to help you think about something else, breathe, and keep a rhythm. It’s almost a pleasant distraction.” Fair said, “The movement was designed to enhance and draw from the qualities of the music.”
Pilates, which is a component of barre, can teach dancers to correct their movement through posture, said Fair, who also teaches Stott Pilates at the Avon studio. Dancers commonly overextend joints and the lumbar spine, or “over-rotate” without being conscious of their core, she said, which can lead to injuries.
Barre promotes body awareness, Stuart said. Students learn “the restrictions of their own body” and how to “self-correct,” she said. One motion that Fair might feel in her knees, Stuart may not, for example. The constant “working and stretching” can also build flexibility, Stuart said.
“As you’re reaching, you’re taught to learn how to stop where you feel it in the muscle versus you’re going into your joint, or you’re pulling one out to sacrifice the other,” Stuart said. “It’s constantly cueing to remind them to stay in the muscle and then you’ll find that the co-activation of opposing muscles will help you lengthen.”
One of Stuart’s instructors lost two pants sizes teaching barre classes.
“It reminds me a lot of the calisthenics we used to do lying down, but it’s standing,” Stuart said.
On March 14, people who attend the 5 p.m. Open House class will be offered a complimentary glass of wine afterward. The Thursday, March 15 class starts at 6:30 p.m. If you’re up for barre on St. Patrick’s Day, it starts at 10 a.m.
For more information about C2’s new barre classes and to sign up, contact Catherine Fair at Catherine@c2pilates.com or 1-800-401-8349. For more information about C2 Pilates visit www.c2pilates.com. The Healthtrax facility is located at 100 Simsbury Road in Avon.
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