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It’s the “pretty girl” workout, a friend recently told me, with nearly every woman in class covered in Lululemon, no sweatpants in sight.But the moves of the workout itself belie this prim ethos.In the decades that followed, she would help train nearly all of the women who’d go on to open today’s biggest barre franchises, from Exhale and Physique 57 to Pure Barre and Bar Method.By the time Burr Leonard became a certified instructor in 1990, barre had gone from subversive to staid.
“I know if, during training, I had been told to behave like a prostitute at any point, I would probably have never become an instructor,” one New York City barre teacher who has taught at two different studios told me.
She talked about her love affairs while she taught.
She named her exercises “The Prostitute” and “Naughty Bottoms.” One move was simply called “The Sex.” Perhaps most famously, she is rumored to have told clients, “If you can’t tuck, you can’t fuck.” And her clients loved her for it. In the 1960s, the modern fitness industry was still in its infancy and the few regimens that existed prioritized finding and pleasing a husband, explains historian Shelly Mc Kenzie, author of the book .
Berk, a German-Jewish dancer who fled the Nazis for London after they forbade her from performing, originally invented the workout that would become “barre” to recover from a back injury.
Over time, she found that her special combination of ballet moves, yoga, and rehabilitative exercises helped her not only to heal and hold onto her dancer’s figure, but also to get more pleasure from sex. As her daughter, Esther Fairfax, told me in a phone interview: “Sex came into everything she did.
It’s not just the men that want sex.’” Then, about a decade after the studio first opened, a plucky Midwestern globetrotter named Lydia Bach found her way to Berk’s studio.