There are a lot of contemporary variations of Barre classes, but most all styles you’ll find today have their roots in Lotte Berk Method. But who was Lotte Berk, and what’s the story there?
Lotte Berk was born in Cologne, Germany in 1913 and trained in ballet and modern dance in her youth. By the age of 18, she was dancing professionally, and she performed with prominent German companies up until the 1930s when the rise of Nazism forced her to flee the country with her husband and young daughter. The family settled in England, but while she tried to pick up her dance career, she found her contemporary style was not appreciated by the British at that time. She found work as an artist’s model, but ultimately knew she would have to make a career change. With the help of an osteopath, she developed an exercise method based on her dance training that combined principles of ballet with rehabilitative therapy. The method focuses on isolating specific muscle groups and combines both strength and flexibility training. In 1959, the 46-year-old Berk opened the Manchester Street Studio for Exercise, a studio that was exclusively for women. And while you might imagine a ladies exercise studio in England at that time to be somewhat prim and proper, a few of the original exercises in the method had some decidedly improper names, such as “the Prostitute”, “the Peeing Dog” and “the French Lavatory.” In 1971, her student Lydia Bach brought the method to the United States, and the rest is Barre history.
If you’ve been curious about Barre, just try it! One of the best things about a MINT membership that includes classes is that you can jump into a studio-quality Barre class without paying any additional fees. And while all of our Barre classes at MINT are appropriate for all levels and welcome both women and men (yes, guys can do Barre too!), we’ll be offering a new Barre Basics class designed for beginners to get a full 50-minute Barre experience in a small-class environment. These will be offered on Sundays in September at 1:30 PM at MINT Dupont, and attendance will be capped at 8 participants, so make sure to sign up in advance!