At the new Barre3 studio in Georgetown, students learn to rely on the ballet barre as a prop that’ll keep them from falling over when doing yoga poses or other exercises.
There are three main things you need to know about Barre3. It’s a ballet-inspired fitness program. Madonna does it. And, now that the first Washington location has opened, so can you.
What It Is: Developed by Sadie Lincoln, who runs the Barre3 empire from her flagship studios in Portland, Ore., the program fuses Pilates, yoga and ballet barre exercises. That description probably sounds familiar if you’ve taken any of the other barre fitness classes in town, but Lincoln’s method has a few distinguishing features. Most notably, students are never directed to tuck their pelvises during movements. “You don’t live here,” says Jill Warren, who owns the new Georgetown location, while demonstrating how unnatural it is to hold a tucked position. “Everything in Barre3 is about finding balance in the front body and back body.”
To see another Barre3 signature, just look down. Georgetown’s two studio spaces — one that maxes out at 21 students and a cozier room that’s designed for groups of 10 or fewer — both have cork flooring. The material’s more cushiony than hard wood and not as slippery.
Moves: Although the Barre3 repertoire is varied enough to ensure that every class is different, regulars will get accustomed to the sequence. “It’s always work, stretch, work, stretch,” says studio manager/instructor Leeanne Cress.
And plenty of that stretching will look familiar to yogis. “We call it sneaky yoga,” Warren says. “We think of the ballet barre as a prop, like a yoga block.” So grabbing the barre with both hands, keeping your torso horizontal to the ground and lifting a leg is “Warrior 3,” but it’s much easier to hold the position than it would be on a mat. You can also do tons more chaturanga push-ups when leaning on the barre.
As with most barre fitness classes, you can expect to sculpt your legs and “seat” (barre-speak for butt) with tons of pulsing plies. You’ll also lift light dumbbells (1 to 3 pounds) for high reps to target your arms. The most intense section is the core work, which lasts 15 to 18 minutes and borrows heavily from Pilates.
Workout: Because 39-year-old Tara Cooksey has arthritis, she’s often wary about how exercise will affect her joints. “Lifting weights is too rough for me,” she says. But at her first Barre3 class last week, she managed to get her muscles working without her body complaining — although several times, Cooksey felt the shaking that barre workouts are known for, especially when she was seated, leaning back on a squishy ball and twisting to target her obliques.
It’s a tough but doable routine, no matter your fitness level, Warren says. “My mom is in her late 70s, and she can be in the same class as a competitive triathlete,” she says. As students become more advanced, they can go deeper into the movements and up the weights to stay challenged.
Crowd: Women tend to want to live out their ballet dreams more than men do. (Not that you need to have any tutu experience to follow along.) During the day, many of the ladies packing the studio are moms. So to cater to busy parents, Barre3 also offers child care ($5 per session) in a nook off of the lounge. That’s an amenity that’s tough to find even at large gyms in Washington. “We wanted to make it accessible and welcoming,” Warren says.
In the coming months, she hopes to build the community by reaching out to running and cycling groups using the Capital Crescent Trail, which ends practically outside her front door at the Georgetown Waterfront Park. Maybe they could use some sneaky yoga — or at least a shower.
Barre3, 1000 Wisconsin Ave. NW; introductory special is three classes for $45; 202-450-3905.