The growing cadre of workouts at the ballet barre—often referred to by the shorthand “barre workouts”—recently got a major new player with the Spring opening of the Bar Method in SoHo’s solar plexus (Spring and West Broadway).
For the uninitiated, popular NYC bar workouts include Physique 57, Core Fusion, the Nalini Method, the Body, and Fluidity. They all share the same common ancestor, Lotte Berk, a German dancer who fled the Nazis in the 1930s and settled in London where she combined ballet bar routines with rehabilitative therapy to create an exercise system.
Now they all share the same customer—women (and a few men) looking for improved flexibility and a toned, taut body, but who can happily do without the spirituality of yoga.
Into this seemly saturated market, the three co-owners, Amy Duffey, Kristin Kelleher, and Timothy Kelleher (Kristin’s husband), have opened a Colosseum-sized studio just a few blocks from Physique 57, the current market leader. Imagine Jean Georges opening a restaurant next to Daniel Boulud and you get the idea.
But the Bar Method ended up in Physique 57’s back yard quite by accident. “We looked at over 100 spaces all over the city,” explains Kristin Kelleher. “We wanted three column-free studios with window high ceilings. Not being New Yorkers, we didn’t realize what a ridiculous requirement that was.”
Despite the number of big-deal barre workout studios in New York, the owners of the Bar Method’s NYC franchise don’t seem a bit worried about market saturation. “A lot of New Yorkers have experienced the Bar Method in other cities and were waiting for one to come to New York City,”says Duffey. “We moved into a market with a lot of pent up demand.” Indeed the Bar Method’s luxurious and huge new home seems built to accommodate a stampede. The 8,000-square-foot space houses three studios, a lounge for socializing, and spacious locker rooms. This kind of real estate translates into a serious price tag. A single class is $35, but luxe digs aside, this is the going rate for bar-style workouts. A single class of Core Fusion is also $35 and, ditto, at Physique 57. Why these workouts, which don’t require any more equipment than a yoga class, cost nearly $20 more is a topic for another post.
At a recent weekday lunchtime class taught by Duffey, the studio was impressively full with a mixture of beginners and advanced students. As someone who’s spent many years studying Pilates, I appreciated how subtle the Bar Method exercises were. The few times that something didn’t feel uber-challenging, I knew it was because I wasn’t doing the exercise correctly. The squat plies had my quads on fire, and the floorwork for the core was relentless, particularly the pretzels (which counteract the eating of the aforementioned). I would have liked more upper body work, and a drop more cardio would have been nice too.
But the workout seems to be working for Duffey. She looks like a ripped ballerina and told me she does the Bar Method 5-6 times a week, but doesn’t do cardio or skip doughy carbs. Ditto for Kristin Kelleher. The Bar Method’s promise is to quite literally change the shape of your body by “carving away the fat” using super-targeted exercises. With a pitch like that, this is a barre that New York City women apparently are glad to saddle up to. —Alexia Brue
The Bar Method, 155 Spring Street, Second Floor, 212-431-5720, soho.barmethod.com