CLASS FEE: $26. AVERAGE BURN: 500 calories. COST PER CALORIE: 5¢. (Photograph by JJ Miller)


By Melissa Malamut

At a size four, I was the chubbiest girl in the room, far outnumbered by tall, rail-thin women with long, lean torsos. If this is what barre will do for me, I thought, I am in.

The women—and it’s mostly women—who say they’re “obsessed” with barre tend to look a certain way, and that way is damn good. Which, of course, is probably why they get so infatuated with the workout, and how Greater Boston alone can support a dozen studios that offer nothing else. Most barre classes are based on a method created by the late Lotte Berk, a professional dancer who first combined dance conditioning, orthopedic back exercises, and Hatha yoga into a 60-minute workout that forms the basis for all modern barre classes. Newer brands also add Pilates and isometrics to the mix. The point is to help tone and lengthen muscles, to sculpt a dancer’s body.

The class started with a warm-up—awkward leg kicks, more band geek than Baryshnikov—followed by simple arm exercises. At first, I scoffed at the 2-pound weights. But a few minutes in, beads of sweat were dripping from my elbows. From my elbows. Actual work at the barre along the outer walls takes up about half of the average hourlong class, and I was jazzed for it. For years, such unlikely suspects as football players and boxers have admitted to taking ballet in order to improve their flexibility, balance, and focus. I could use all three of those things. But then came the onslaught of pliés, tucks, and leg lifts. We stood on our tiptoes. We pulsed higher. We rotated our hips in ways I did not think anatomically possible. My legs shook uncontrollably, which the instructor assured me was completely normal. As I looked around the room, it was clear I wasn’t the only one.

Look, a barre class won’t make you a professional dancer, but it will help you get limbered up, develop poise and stamina, and, in the process, tap into your own inner grace.

Pure Barre,

Do You…Row?

Barre is all about lengthening and strengthening, especially the glutes and lower back, which can retract from long periods of sitting.

Ultimate Accessory

Just like barefoot, but not as free.

Nike Studio Wrap Pack footwear system, $110,

What You’ll Get

Abs, posture, waist, arms.

How You’ll Pay

Knees: Tears from overuse and misalignment.

Hamstrings: Tears from overextension and overuse.

Check out more of our winter fitness package, “Stronger, Faster, Dirtier.”