Is it ballet? Do I have to be a dancer to do it? Will everyone be wearing those little wrap skirts and make me feel like an elephant? Or is it actually the kind of bar that serves tequila shots?
We speak to Rockell Williamson-Rudder, an Aussie who danced on the US version of Dancing With the Stars for many years, then brought Xtend Barre to Australia. Rocky dispels the (seemingly many) myths floating around about the classes destined to give you "Black Swan booty".
Myth 1: It's all about ballet
Wrong. Besides the class' foundations being based on ballet language, as in, there is a barre in the room, traditionally used in a ballet class, and your feet are in first position (or second, or third or relevae) through the class, there is nothing to do with ballet at all in the class. You won't be expected to do leaps or twirls or plies… okay, maybe plies. Maybe plies with jumps even.
"They're so good for your bottom," says Williamson-Rudder, "You look around and who has the best bodies? Most commonly, dancers. We don't expect you to do a routine, but the moves are based in dance to elongate the muscles and sculpt the body."
But no tricky choreo and definitely no "just do this combination in front of everyone even though you've never done a dance class in your life." So don't worry if you're un-co. You definitely don't have to be a dancer to do barre.
Myth 2: There's no cardio
I wasn't expecting to sweat so much, let's put it that way. I'm actually out of breath for the majority of the classes, if you go to a good class (ie. not in a gym - at an actual barre studio). Sure, going for an hour's stair run or doing interval sprints might be more intense cardio, but you do 50 squat jumps followed by 50 plie kicks and tell me you're not working hard enough.
"We do fast movements that get the heart rate going and lots of repetition," says Williamson-Rudder, "It's not a walk in the park."
The circuit classes are even more cardio - where you go quickly from movement to movement. It's non-stop and you'll be drenched in sweat.
Myth 3: You need big weights to make big differences
Ahem. Try holding both arms out at shoulder height with one kilogram weights in each hand. Make tiny circles with your hands for one minute in each direction. See how much your arms hurt. Keep doing other arm work with weights at a height for a good while longer. Wait til you feel like arms want to drop off.
"A lot of people think you need heavy weights but that's actually not the case," says Williamson-Rudder, "It's about the type of movement you're doing. We target all the areas women usually find sagging and hit them, hard."
Myth 4: You won't lose weight
The myth of weight loss goes like this: you have to work out like CRAZY with a super high intensity to lose weight. That's just not true. Exercise regularly. Eat well. The weight will shift no matter what movement you are doing. If you do activities you enjoy, things that you're more likely to go back to, that's when you'll see the difference in your body - because you're doing it regularly. Barre is actually quite difficult, but on a scale with interval training at one end and barre at the other, I know what I'd rather be doing. Or just work it into your routine so you have interval training/cardio as well as a few barre classes. It hurts in different places and you WILL feel it.
I have a home subscription to Barre Body's online classes which are great, but it is better to get to an actual class as well if you can. I can vouch for Barre Body, Xtend Barre, The Yoga Bar and I'm sure there are loads of other studios that give good barre too. I also find it helpful for niggling injuries. Barre strengthens muscles and gives great posture so you're less likely to reinjure yourself while strengthening at the same time.
This article was first published on the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.