Selfie stations in the powder room, Swedish teen rappers on the soundtrack, instructors clad in tanks proclaiming “Barre Game on Fleek,” and neon signs reading “J’Adore Barre“—clearly, Pop Physique is not your mother’s barre studio.
And in a few weeks, New Yorkers will have the chance to experience this oh-so-hip barre workout on the regular, as its Los Angeles-based founders prepare to open their first New York City location in Manhattan’s NoMad District.
“We’ve been getting [New York studio] requests for years,” says co-founder Jennifer Williams, a former ballerina who, along with husband Deric, opened the first Pop Physique in LA’s Silver Lake neighborhood in 2008, with consciously cheeky branding that feels a lifetime away from pointe shoes and perfect buns. Think bright ’80s leotards, shirred-back American Apparel panties, mugs that say “Barre Whore,” and a best-selling DVD called “Cardio Butt School.”
More reading: The Barre Primer
After perfecting the art of long-distance studio management with a pair of outposts in San Francisco, says Williams, “we now feel like we’re ready to do New York.” Master teacher trainer Melissa Jalali, who recently relocated from LA, will run the new location, while Williams scored an apartment in the city so she can spend ample time here—she’ll even be teaching classes during the studio’s first few weeks.
Pop Physique NoMad is set to debut the first week of October, and will have two classrooms in a 1920s building reimagined with black-and-white graphic flooring, natural light, and chic neon signage. (Williams isn’t giving up the address until the studio’s ready for primetime.)
The stylish, sweaty method
But don’t expect a workout that’s all style and no sweat—the NYC instructors have been trained to amp up the workout for the city’s “very serious” clientele. “New Yorkers want to work hard,” Williams says knowingly. Her method uses weights, core and flexibility work on the floor, thigh- and glute-work with balls at the barre, and some larger full-range of motion moves that verge on cardio. “We’re always trying to bring more dance into [the choreography], and I think those tweaks will make the New York experience really challenging,” Williams adds.
There other elements, too, that’ll help Pop Physique to stand out on the super-saturated barre scene. “We speak to a younger demographic than our competitors—cool, stylish, urban women,” says Williams, whose LA classes draw a mix of teenage girls, recent college grads, and creatives in their 30s and 40s. Prices also tend to be lower ($25 for a single class in LA, though regional prices vary).
And the classes feel as art-directed as they do athletic. “The artistic aspect is super-unique to Pop Physique,” says Stephanie Farrell, an LA-based master trainer. “There’s a lot orchestrated behind the scenes—the way the music is integrated into the class, the way the volume and lights go up and down, the way we talk to people… it’s like a performance. At other barre studios, that part is not addressed at all. The [Lotte Berk-inspired] technique exists in a lot of different brands, so to set ourselves apart, our experience has to satisfy clients in a bigger way than just burning calories.”
Adds Williams: “It’s not so ‘fitness-y’; we attract a lot of people that don’t typically like to work out.”
More reading: 5 reasons why 2015 is the year of the barre
And judging by the brand’s rapid growth this year alone—all self-financed with some “partnerships”—this approach is paying off. Within the next three weeks, three new Pop Physique studios will open in LA (in Downtown, Venice Beach, and Pasadena), explains Williams, who’ll preside over 22 locations after this current growth spurt, and has plans to expand further in San Francisco, Manhattan, and into Brooklyn.
When asked how far the pulsing-plié-ing trend can go, William is barre bullish. “I don’t see barre as a trend—it’s been around since the ‘50s and has proven itself as a workout,” she says. “But we’re always evaluating what people want to do in one space, so you could have Pop Spin one day, you could have Pop Yoga… it’s very possible to turn this into a bigger thing.” We’ll relevé to that. —Erin Magner
For more information, visit www.popphysique.com
(Photos: Pop Physique)