Carrying on the Legacy of Lotte Berk, Queen of Barre

Carrying on the Legacy of Lotte Berk, Queen of Barre

I am committed to making sure the classes we offer you at Barre & Soul are simply the best in the world. For the past decade I've learned from some of the foremost innovators who preceded me in teaching barre and yoga in the US. 

In our barre classes, I’ve worked to fuse all the collective wisdom of the American barre industry, with my own passion for empowerment, social equality and a mindful approach to fitness - to create what has become a phenomenal community of Barre & Soul studios.

This year, I decided it was time to dive deeper – and go straight to the source of where barre was born. Lotte Berk was a ballerina who fled Nazi Germany in the 1940s and then developed an unprecedented method of conditioning and strength training in the UK that was as much a social and community building experience as it was a fitness regimen. Its popularity grew throughout her life, and Lotte mentored her daughter Esther Fairfax in the details, style and philosophy at the heart of what we now call “the Lotte Berk technique”.

Learn more about the most elite barre teacher training here.

Esther Fairfax has now been teaching her mother's method for 54 years. She lives a few hours outside of London and is in her early eighties. She is strong, vibrant and dedicated to carrying on her mother’s legacy. She continues to teach those interested in practicing the purest form of barre.

This summer, I had the honor of traveling to England, alongside our own Crissy Trayner, to spend time with Esther and become certified in the “Pure Lotte” technique, creating a direct connection from Barre & Soul to the source of where the barre phenomenon began.

The workout Esther presented was one of the most challenging I’ve experienced anywhere. I could see clear connections to the movements we teach at Barre & Soul. It was the essence of barre – no props, mats or weights. Just the elegance of precise form and movement - and body weight used as resistance to develop a lean, strong, flexible, agile body.

The trip was enlightening, as I understood more clearly than ever the differences between Barre & Soul and Lotte Berk’s original method.

Carrying on the Legacy of Lotte Berk, Queen of Barre

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Some elements that distinguish Barre & Soul were born from my personal passions – for example, a focus on mindfulness and feminist empowerment as much as physical training, postures and elements from the yoga tradition, and some are standard practice in US barre classes, like the use of light weights, and the fusion of calisthenics like push-ups and planks that invite another layer of full-body strengthening.

Barre & Soul will continue to offer our distinctive method that you have come to know and love! But my time with Esther Fairfax opened my mind to the importance of learning about roots, and continuing a legacy, and we look forward to sharing with you some of what we have learned.

We will be training more of our Barre & Soul instructors in the “Pure Lotte” technique, to help preserve the beautiful, powerful method Esther Fairfax’s mother began. I believe Pure Lotte deserves to carry on even in a world that is obsessed with innovation and change. I see it as a personal and professional duty to keep the legacy alive, and I can't wait to share this timeless method with you in our upcoming Pure Lotte workshops!

See you at the barre!
Andrea :)

Want to try a Pure Lotte class? Join our email list to find out when and where the next workshop will be held here!

The Most Unexpected Gift I got from Teacher Training

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Not so many years ago, I was a struggling single mom - I had no credit, no college degree, no job, and no money. I’d by lying if I said I didn’t feel hopeless on a regular basis, comparing my life to what I saw around me.

Each day, after my 7-year old son caught the bus to school outside of our tiny apartment, I would push my 1-year old daughter’s stroller down the sidewalks of a town that seemed picture-perfect, and full of picture-perfect people on their way to important meetings, coffee dates and social engagements that filled their comfortable lives.

I walked to a studio where I was trying something new – with excitement, but so, SO fearfully. I was training to be a barre teacher. I loved barre classes, I knew that. But I wasn’t a "good" teacher trainee. I fumbled over my words and feared the sound of my own voice. I was undoubtedly my own worst critic, at a time when the last thing I needed was self-criticism holding me back.

“Practice getting your words out,” my trainer would say. “Count aloud when you’re alone in the car to get used to it.” But even then, with no one around to hear me, the second I opened my mouth, a voice inside my head would insist: Just shut up, just shut up, just shut up!

It's not unusual to be intimidated by public speaking, I'm sure you've heard before that most people fear it more than death! Maybe it's something you'd like to get more comfortable with too. For me, it was especially hard because my life was at rock bottom.

Learn more about our Barre & Soul® Method Barre Teacher Training here.

To say I felt unworthy doesn’t even begin to explain it. It felt like every cell in my body was made of unworthiness. Who was I to teach these women anything about fitness, or well-being? I was still working on getting back to my pre-baby body, going through a long and wretched divorce, feeling unaccomplished no matter what angle I looked at my life from.

What did I have to teach these wealthy, successful, happy women, who seemed to have J.Crew catalog families and perfect marriages? How could they take me seriously when I was a failure at marriage, could barely support my children, relied on assistance to buy groceries, and on the Salvation Army for my kids' Christmas gifts in that terrible first year of my divorce. I wanted so badly to create major change in my life and be an example of better things – inspiring even – for my kids and for myself.

Determined to overcome my circumstances, I took baby steps forward. I used the word “confidence” in my computer passwords, hoping to invoke blessings and begin to establish a sort of mantra to move towards embodying this quality. I craved confidence like a dry field craves a drenching rain.

Find your voice and become a barre teacher! Find how here.

I had to type the word each time I checked my (tiny) bank balance, an incantation of power even in the face of my nearly empty account. Little by little, hour by hour, month by month, I did find my voice. I collected scraps of confidence in the moments when I could at last do a set of push-ups on straight legs - when I could teach a class to a few friends without losing my nerve - when I won a small victory in family court and started receiving the support I needed.

“Where do you get your confidence?” people often ask me now. "You seem so sure of yourself."

When I reflect on this, I call to mind the countless hard-won increments, gathered over many years.

There were no shortcuts. No celestial signs. No surprise inheritance or lottery ticket came to my rescue. And I certainly didn’t wake up one day and start a thriving business with multiple locations.

I simply persevered. Kept on. Pushup by pushup, password by password. I did one mildly terrifying thing at a time. I forced myself to keep practicing my teaching. I watched my classes improve, little by little. And one day, when I opened my mouth to speak, it was no longer scary. Soon, it was even fun.

The look of fear and shame in my eyes was replaced by shyness at first, then finally by passion and enthusiasm. Believe it or not I ACTUALLY LOOK FORWARD to public speaking opportunities these days. Teaching barre and yoga classes gave me the opportunity to embody the quality I had so longed for. By facing my fears and showing up again and again, in time, I found my confidence.

Wondering if you can do it? YOU CAN. Your barre teacher training journey starts here.

Introducing: the Barre & Soul® Collection

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Hi! Andrea here! I’m so excited to finally unveil something I've been working on all year - Barre & Soul®'s own clothing collection! The first drop has arrived in our studios and I can't wait for you to check it out. This apparel collection is made in small batches in Los Angeles with ethically sourced/recycled materials, and it's designed by us, for you!

I have personally overseen every detail of the line’s creation from collaboration with our designer (a former top designer for brands like Nastygal, Revolve clothing, and more!), to choosing the materials, to selecting a production house here in the USA, and travelling to LA several times to visit the factory and participate in fittings and design meetings.

The launch of our new collection is something I am proud of not only because of the impeccable details and high quality of the product, but for the values it represents.

Our apparel line is not just for working out in a stylish, ethically sourced way – it will make YOU feel badass and beautiful wherever the day takes you.

The line is inspired by you our community, classic rock, the Feminist movement of the 60 and 70s, with a nod to the grace of ballerinas like Lotte Berk, the original creator of barre. It is a collection with grace and grit. 

I know that Barre & Soul®'s students are busy people. You've got jobs to do, kids to raise, degrees to earn, and workouts to fit in! I wanted this line to look just as good coming to and from class as it feels during your workout.

Here are a few of the pieces you can look forward to.

  • Full-length leggings
    Black, perfect compression, high-waisted, full-length, delightfully flattering and supportive

  • Capri leggings
    Leopard print, recycled materials, brushed soft handfeel

  • Satin "Rebel Rebel" Bomber Jacket
    leopard print lining, gold on black

  • Feminist AF Cropped muscle tank
    100% cotton, breathable fabric absorbs moisture, vintage wash

  • Barre & Soul® Cropped muscle tank
    100% cotton, breathable fabric absorbs moisture, vintage wash

  • High-Low Black Resting Barre Face muscle tank
    100% cotton, breathable fabric absorbs moisture, vintage wash

  • High- Low white ‘Barre Butts’ muscle tank
    100% cotton, breathable fabric absorbs moisture, vintage wash

  • Strappy sports bra
    leopard print, recycled material, lined, brushed soft handfeel

  • And more!

I hope you love it!

:) Andrea

Forget Bikini Season, Do it for You!

I was as low as could be in my life when I first made a commitment to my mind/body fitness practice. This brought physical strength and stamina, along with a revolution in my confidence and beliefs about the goals I could achieve.

I was a single parent, struggling to work through financial strain, domestic violence and emotional abuse. At vulnerable moments, the last thing anyone needs is a message that we’re not enough.

Everyone has vulnerabilities that can be addressed in healthy, empowering ways through fitness. When I turned to barre and yoga in search of a little peace of mind, what I got was a meaningful breakthrough – it changed my life, gave me the power to “own it all” and, eventually, the vision to launch Barre & Soul. I want everyone who walks through the doors of our studios to have the same opportunity for personal growth and empowerment.

Women need to know we have the capability to shed emotional and physical burdens - rather than focusing on a few stupid pounds.

When fitness programs emphasize ‘bikini season’ and ‘shaping up for summer,’ this implies women’s bodies aren’t really their own. Assuming women somehow owe it to society to look a certain way positions us as objects for consumption.

Do it for your 100-old self

Do you envision living an active and adventurous life after retirement? Start building physical, mental and emotional strength and stamina into your routine now!

Do it for you, not to fit someone else’s definition of what’s “hot.”

Women are already under tremendous pressure to fit the mold - from career, to social and domestic life, to unrealistic beauty standards. This is all impossibly high-maintenance if we choose to subscribe to it, and it leaves us with less freedom and leisure time to devote to real self-improvement and development compared with men. So don’t buy in!

Don’t get me wrong — I appreciate my toned muscles and seeing my body physically transform had a huge effect on my belief about what I could accomplish. But that’s just the surface. We need to get real about how much we have to gain from making a commitment to our health and fitness, and stop reducing it to a silly notion like bikini-season.

Calling all Runners: Why Yoga Is Just What You Need!

This week, as I reflect on the inspiration the Boston Marathon brings to our community – I’m writing to send a high-five to every runner out there – for your stamina, grit, determination and strength. These are qualities we deeply value and work hard to cultivate at Barre & Soul. Huge congratulations those who ran the Boston Marathon. It takes super-human levels of stamina and endurance to take on a race of this level, and we know you’re feeling it big-time post-race.

We want to reach out to you personally, from another dimension of the fitness universe, and invite you over to learn more. Bring your bib number and your driver’s license to any of our studios for a complementary class in April.

We’ve just been recognized in Boston Magazine as one of the best places to explore a yoga practice in greater Boston, and we want to extend an invitation for you to join us here.

Yoga is often misunderstood as an exclusively meditative, passive approach to self-care and fitness. Yes, there is a mindfulness element, and yes there is the benefit of self-acceptance, meeting your body each day wherever it is on your mat. But there is so much more to learn and benefit from - for runners in particular.

Many runners cite greater flexibility as the primary reason for beginning a yoga practice. This makes sense, because yoga stretches the muscles that are tight, which in turn increases the range of motion in related joints.

Studies have also shown that yoga combats stress, accelerates weight loss, reduces pain, helps people stay consistent with their fitness routine, and even improves running times. The strength and flexibility runners develop on the mat--particularly in the core, quads, hamstrings, and hip flexors--can help them run more efficiently and avoid injury.

What’s more - holding challenging yoga poses builds tenacity and mind-body connection that translates in your runs. And it teaches you to deepen the connection with your breath –a skill that you can leverage to enhance your running as well.

A real breakthrough in embracing Yoga for many runners happens when they learn that fast-twitch muscle fibers can contract ten times faster than slow-twitch fibers. This is the kind of muscle that runners really want to develop to train for speed.

The difference in which muscle fibers you build comes not from your training speed, but your training intensity. If you do an isometric exercise that involves holding a half-full cup of water out at arm's length for four hours a day, you’ll develop lots of slow-twitch muscle because the intensity over time is low.

If, instead, you tried to do a shoulder raise on that same arm at maximal intensity for a fraction of the time, like seven to twelve seconds, you fatigue fast-twitch muscle fibers (all muscle fibers, in fact) much faster. Intensity is key to your speed training, not the speed of the movement itself. This is where a great Yoga practice can transform your running game, and your fitness overall – thanks to the isometric element.

It may seem counterintuitive, but isometric exercises involving very challenging but static holds involving body weight (a foundational element of both Yoga and Barre) can be better than plyometric (like exploding into a movement, like big jumps or clapping push ups) for speed.

Isometric exercises for speed also use a minimum of impact force, and keep the body safe from injury. Great news for runners, and everyone else!

History Has Its Eyes on Us

Oceans of Pink

Pink hats, handmade signs, the sun straining through an overcast sky, and the collective buzz, excitement and hope of women united. These are some of the images and feelings from my experience at the Women’s March on Washington that I will never forget. This historic event changed my life and, for many citizens of the world, redefined the relationship between our beliefs and the actions we are willing to take to support them.

As we made our way through D.C.’s brownstone-lined neighborhoods, I felt an underlying nervousness considering some of the worst case scenarios that could potentially occur. We passed the steps of the capitol building en route to the march rendezvous point and people poured in on all sides. My friends and I stood and soaked in the sight of the gathering crowds, and anxiety began to melt into gratitude. Grandmothers in wheelchairs, moms and children and a surprising number of men marched along with us - with no sense of patriarchy or self-sacrifice, but as true equals and allies.

Fear evaporated when I looked around and let my heart be filled with love for the diverse ocean of fellow Americans coming together, to support each other with compassion, to bear witness and to unapologetically raise their voices for freedom, equality, and respect for all. There are no words for the power of the experience - shoulder-to-shoulder in a crowd larger than I had ever seen or even imagined, standing united for their values and love of humanity. 

History has its eyes on you

"History has its eyes on you" read one sign, carried by a man passing by. I stopped him for a photo and he beamed with joy and pride in this message. This is why we marched. 

"Misogyny is not normal" read another sign. How interesting the relief it was to have this basic value expressed so clearly, publicly and affirmatively. We trekked our way through the thick crowd to a spot where we were able to stand on a low wall and view the jumbotron showing the stage from which the presenters were speaking. The messages weren’t new, but they were powerful in their simplicity. Cheers of support erupted through the enormous crowd – “Women’s rights are human rights.” “Black lives matter.” “We will never give up.” It is amazing, the power in hearing your deepest truths declared aloud, no matter how many times you’ve thought them before.

My eyes filled with tears over and over again as I looked in all directions at the size of the crowd we were part of. I welled up with emotion (and still do) – not because I was inconsolable that my candidate wasn’t victorious in a presidential race, but because, by being part of this event, I know I am contributing to a permanent legacy. I am part of history. My human family was gathered around me in solidarity for the equality issues I’ve been blogging and speaking about for so many years, often wondering how many others out there cared as deeply as me.

We didn’t find out until returning from the march for the evening that similar events were happening all around the world. Over 5 Million people marched world wide – over 1 Million in Washington DC! There are no words to express how it felt to see and know we're not alone. It was clear on this day that feminism isn't an extreme agenda driven by fanatics. The feminist values I’ve been fighting for all these years are about equality, social justice and progressing into a brighter future for all humanity.

We will not “get over it”

For those that might not understand where we’re coming from – for me, the march wasn’t a complaint or part of an angry political agenda. It wasn’t about an inability to cope with change, a lack of adaptability or acceptance of reality. It was a fulfillment of my duty as an American and a human who believes certain inalienable rights and core values that I hold dear to my heart do matter.

Just as suffragists fighting for women’s right to vote didn’t get over it, and civil rights leaders struggling relentlessly for desegregation didn’t get over it – we will not “get over” the issues that were central to that event.

I see it as our duty as members of the human race to work for equality. If you haven't been assaulted, or discriminated against for the color of your skin, your religion, your sexuality or your gender – then you’re fortunate, and I am glad you haven’t suffered in this way. I believe that whether or not you’ve been personally affected by these injustices, it’s all of our responsibility to make sure nobody else has to go through them.

If you were part of the Women’s March - even if only in spirit - don't let anyone minimize it. This is the dawning of a new era of alert minds, compassionate perspectives and global action.

On Inauguration Day

Prior to the march, driving from Boston to Washington D.C. with a car full of friends (including Barre & Soul's Chief Amazement Officer, Crissy and our Yoga Teacher Training Director, Carrie), we felt a somber occasion was unfolding. At the same time, we talked about how grateful we remained - for America and all the freedoms and opportunities we have here. Carrie had just returned from a volunteer medical trip to a country decimated by disaster and lacking infrastructure and the supports we enjoy and too often take for granted in the US.

She reflected on the reality there - lack of roads, safety, clean water, and essential medical care for many citizens. Following the Women’s March, I’m more aware than ever of how great America IS today. And how crucial it is that we stay vigilant about the elements of greatness that matter most to us – equality, safety, freedom, diversity, and opportunity for all.

Within American culture, and in spite of a highly evolved system of government and justice, many women still can't achieve their highest potential. We have come a long, long way, but we can’t allow ourselves to forget what propelled our progress.

Don’t stop striving. Appreciate the things others before us have fought hard for. Keep raising your voice for equality and for the freedoms that for so many have not yet been realized.

Thank you to everyone who has joined this movement. We may not see the the end of this fight in our lifetimes. Keep fighting anyway.  

Last Call for St. Croix!

Imagine your feet in warm beach sand while you overlook shimmering blue waters and the sun is kissing your shoulders. You’re sitting in peace and feeling immensely content as the salty ocean air passes over your face. You close your eyes, take a deep breath and as you exhale you are able to release all the things weighing on you. You are in reflection mode, reset mode, and able to focus because you’ve given yourself the opportunity to break away from the monotony of daily life.

This is the experience you can expect if you choose to join us in St. Croix for our Barre & Soul Retreat. It’s five days to relax, reboot and get re-centered. If this sounds like something you need in your life, you can sign up here - we would love to have you!

Imagine a Private Jungle Bungalow built for two!

Private Jungle Bungalow
$2200 for 2 people ($1100 per person)
Space is very limited. These are almost gone!
*Prices include all accommodations, meals, airport transfer, barre & yoga classes, and optional excursions. Airfare not included.

Don't find yourself wondering why you hesitated on this one! Sign up now.

 

Hear Barre & Soul Founder on the NicoleAntoinette.com Podcast

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Nicole sits down with interesting, inspirational, and refreshingly imperfect people to have unfiltered conversations about what’s really going on in our lives. You know, all that juicy behind-the-scenes stuff, like fears, secret dreams, guilty pleasures, and more.

Listen to the awesome podcast here.

Review: Barre & Soul Harvard Square

Blogger Alexandra Elizabeth, a Single Mom's Journey, reviews our Harvard Square studio.

In the midst of the constant bustle of Harvard Square lies an oasis for those that need an outlet where they can relax, rejuvenate and train hard. I was excited to have Barre & Soul join Harvard Square as there aren’t many barre studios on this side of town and travelling into Boston for a fitness class just doesn’t work with my schedule.

Read more here.

What’s for Breakfast? Three Health Pros Share Their Morning Meal

What’s for Breakfast? Three Health Pros Share Their Morning Meal

Andrea Lucas

Claim to fame: Lucas owns Barre & Soul, a barre and yoga studio with five locations in Massachusetts and New Hampshire.

What she ate: Sesame sprouted grain toast with avocado, sea salt, spinach, and a fried egg.

Why she chose it: “This breakfast has a great balance of protein, fat, and carbohydrates to provide plenty of energy for morning workouts and keep me full until lunch.”