Bad to the Barre Is Diversifying the City’s Fitness Scene

Jess Perkins' barre classes welcome students of all shapes, sizes, and colors.

Bad to the Barre

Photo courtesy of Bad to the Barre

Jess Perkins was tired of feeling invisible in her barre classes.

Perkins, who is African American and wears a size 10, says she was consistently the “fattest person in the class,” as well as the only woman of color. The same was true when she went through teacher training. Finally, she got fed up.

“Being an African American woman myself, I know for a fact that we tend to shy away from classes where we’re not represented. On the whole, we tend to shy away from ‘white women’ classes,” Perkins says. “When I started doing barre, I was like, ‘I’m going to change it.'”

To do so, she recently began teaching classes at the Green Room, in Somerville, under the brand name Bad to the Barre. Perkins’ classes are steadfastly welcoming and accessible, and she makes a point of recruiting women of color and those larger than a size two. Perkins, who has a background in Zumba, adds that she’ll soon re-do her marketing materials—which are currently plastered with photos of “these really, really fit blonde women with ponytails”—to better reflect her mission.

It’s also important, Perkins says, to bring personality and humor to a fitness method that’s often taken way too seriously.

“I want a smile on your face. I really want it to be fun,” Perkins says. “I take breaks in between [exercises]. We laugh. I never laugh in barre [at other studios].”

Right now, Perkins teaches three classes per week, and caps each one at 14 students to ensure individualized attention. She’s also getting certified in Pound, a percussion-inspired cardio class, and plans to start teaching those classes just down the street from the Green Room.

Regardless of the class she’s teaching, though, Perkins says the same vision applies.

“Fitness comes in all shapes, sizes, and colors, and we need to address that,” she says. “That’s my mission.”

Bad to the Barre classes are offered Wednesdays at 7:15 a.m. and Saturdays at 8 and 9 a.m. at the Green Room, 62 Bow St., Somerville. Pound will be offered on Thursdays at 6:30 p.m. at 16 Bow St., Somerville. Find more information at