Sex—The Origins of Barre?
What comes to mind when we talk about Barre, which has become known as a fitness phenomenon?
I’ve always had a deep appreciation for the benefits of this exercise routine, especially the physical and mental benefits it’s renowned to provide participants with—it’s a low-impact workout that supports the joints, strengthens muscles, improves core strength and posture, and mindfulness. I personally experienced these benefits and couldn’t be happier that today I get to share my passion for fitness and unique approach to Barre Fitness with clients from all over—an added benefit of offering online classes is that there are no limitations to where and when classes can be taken; you can be halfway around the world and still decide to join me for a Barre Fitness, Piloxing SSP or Piloxing Barre class.
Today, when we talk about Barre Fitness, we think of a fun and challenging exercise routine that strengthens muscles while giving a leaner toned look. Let’s rewind the clock and talk about the origins of Barre and the woman who started it all. It was in 1959, when the Barre Method was first developed by Lotte Berk, and it was targeted to women and to empowering their sexual personas. Barre was created and taught at a time where feminism was taking on a new wave and revolutionizing what sex meant for women. A topic that Berk, living a lifestyle that promoted sexual freedom, took to heart, and preached in her classes—for her it was all about exercising and a better sex life. Although being pinned controversial, Barre was welcomed in society and filled a void. For example, Berk’s classes and her sex life were intertwined as she was open about her personal experiences and named exercises in a unique fashion, one was referred to as “The Prostitute”, “Naughty Bottoms” and “The Sex”. Naming her exercises in such a manner removed the ambiguity of how she was using exercise to advance what she apparently called “the state of sex”.
So, who was this woman? Lotte Berk was a German dancer who lived in England. She was known for having created a transformative system, which meant looking at Barre from a holistic approach—accounting for the mind, body, and soul. Berk was empowering women to get strong and fit all while helping them make sex more enjoyable. What’s unique about Berk’s creation of the Barre Method, was that it was an exercise regimen created by a woman for women. She was witty and took pride in teaching women to assert themselves and to discover their bodies. She was removing taboo surrounding women expressing their needs and wants.
At its core, Barre hasn’t changed much from 1959, except the sexual benefits aren’t talked about and Barre Fitness has also become popular for men and athletes who are recovering from injury or looking to supplement their demanding workout needs. Let’s be realistic, even today we can all benefit from knowing our bodies better and from feeling empowered through movement. For instance, Berk’s daughter reflecting on her mother’s approach to Barre had said, “I think it was without a doubt [empowering]. I think it liberated women to feel they could be sex symbols, they could be sensual, they could have power within themselves.” In essence, Berk was building their confidence and competence for sex through the practice of certain moves and exercise; it was no longer about just pleasing men and their wants, but about helping women learn how to please themselves and to be comfortable with acknowledging their sexual needs and wants. At the time, it was revolutionary for women to be sexual, and Barre was part of women’s sexual liberation. More so, the aspect of power within being exposed through Barre remains true today as Barre Fitness creates an environment for people to be themselves.
Understanding the evolution of Barre shines light onto its popularity and the physical and mental benefits it still brings to its participants today. Even at its origins, Barre was a great choice of exercise to strengthen the body, develop balance and flexibility, but Berk’s unapologetic take on movement and empowerment was legendary as it was uncommon for the time, but nonetheless effective in pushing for sexual liberation. Berk believed that women who regularly took barre would have better sex because they were comfortable in their bodies. Based on recounted stories, she is famous for telling her clients, “If you can’t tuck, you can’t f**k”. Her honesty and approach were refreshing, and clients turned to her for it.
Still today, Barre has a way of getting people out of their shell, and with regular classes they ultimately get stronger, more flexible, and learn how to move their body in a way that’s comfortable for them. Looking back, Berk created Barre so she could keep exercising while she was recovering from a back injury, which alludes to the power that Barre exercises have to be shaped to the needs of each individual.
In more detail, Berk injured her back when working with a client and during her recovery was seeing an osteopath to learn how to exercise while protecting her back. The full body strengthening exercises she received from the osteopath combined with her own trainings as a dancer led her to create Barre. Berk had a profound knowledge of movement which is how she was able to take elements from Strength training, Pilates, Dance and Yoga to come up with a new method—Barre.
Lotte Berk was living in England when she created Barre so how did it become so famous around the world? Simply put, maybe without knowing the full implications or impacts of this decision, Berk sold the rights to her name. Years later this prevented her from signing a book deal with her name or even naming her studios after herself; overall, she had created a popular and transformative exercise regimen that she was never able to properly promote or have associated to her. Consequently, it was one of Lotte’s devotees who bought the franchising rights and opened a studio in New York City. This brought Barre to America and quickly enough it received a lot of attention. Using Lotte Berk’s approach of Barre as a combination of “ballet, yoga, orthopedic exercise and sex”, this devotee gained lots of media attention and support.
Still, Lotte Berk is associated with the creation of Barre as a method of exercise and for its role in spreading sexual positivity at the time, but since arriving in America, Barre has spread all over the world and evolved in how it is taught. Barre Fitness is definitely an experience in itself, it goes beyond fitness as participants benefit from the guidance of their trainer who makes each class exciting and challenging. Any avid Barre student will share how the shake and burn experienced during class is incomparable to other exercise classes. More so, Barre has this elegance to it that gets you standing taller without even realizing it.
Today, we might be less blunt about all the benefits of Barre Fitness, but Berk was on to something and those who take a Barre class know that in little time, with consistency, you start to feel stronger and empowered, it’s such a great boost for mental health, it develops grit, and it also leads to great body awareness.
Confidence can’t be sold, but an exercise regime like Barre Fitness will certainly help get you there. Especially, when you find a community like Barre Fit Warriors, where we uplift each other.
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