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Passing the Barre


Photography by
Inese Westcott

Barre classes take place in a studio and incorporate fundamental ballet positions into a fun, effective workout to pump up your posterior. Bellevue Club instructor Nancy Black explains that the class uses first position, plié and relevé—basic ballet moves—with an easy-to-follow, modern twist that makes it accessible to everyone. 

A typical class begins with a 10-minute warm-up session—usually some cardio to get your blood pumping. Then it moves to a 10 to 15-minute arm workout. This brief arm workout can involve light weights, exercise bands or your own body weight to strengthen and tone arms and core.

Next, the class moves to the barre for the rest of the hour-long session. One of the benefits exclusive to Barre exercises is the focus on deep stabilizing muscles in the glutes, external rotators, core and legs. This improves balance from the inside out and exercises these often-neglected muscles. The class concludes with a quick abdominal workout on mats. 

As a whole, the class requires mind-body connection. “There are a lot of Pilates components to it, including concentration, control, precision, flow, centering and breath,” Black explains. “So you’re focusing on all of that at the same time. It’s very mindful.”

Participants often note increased muscular endurance, flexibility, muscle tone, balance and cardiovascular health. Instructors lead their classes differently, but with a plethora of activities to select, these benefits are universal for barre classes. Even those without full ability to exercise due to injury, or even pregnancy, can join. Black elucidates that most exercises are modifiable to accommodate physical constraints. 


Barre 101

If you take a class, you’ll probably hear the following terms:


The French term meaning to fold. In the case of Barre, it refers to the knees, encouraging a squat-like action with the legs while the toes are turned out. 


Meaning to raise, a relevé is a lifting of the heels, fully engaging the legs.


A slight tilt of the pelvis to remove the arch of the back and fully engage the abdominals and thighs.

First Position

A fundamental posture, first position is when the heels are together and the feet are turned out as wide as possible.

Second position

Similar to first position, second position is a stance in which the toes are pointed out and heels turned in. However, the feet are about six inches apart.


Barre-based workouts 

The Bellevue Club offers a few variations of barre-based classes, including Booty Barre, Booty Barre Sculpt, BBarreless and Barre Tighten and Tone. To see specific times and instructors, check a current GPX schedule.  

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