Raising the Barre One writer explores a brand-new Roland Park studio.


In the past year, I’ve heard lots of buzz about barre classes, which combine Pilates, dance and yoga in an energizing workout. I thought I’d be a pro—as a dancer, I spend at least 2 hours of class each week at the barre working on my feet, balance and extensions.  But after a session at the new PureBarre studio in Roland Park,  I quickly learned that Pure Barre is nothing like ballet.

Before I went to class, I had to tackle the problem of attire. What do people wear to barre class? Certainly not a leotard and tights, or a slick bun and pointe shoes with wood shanks that are somehow meant for human feet. I asked my fellow dance majors after class, and only one had taken a barre class.

“It’s crazy hard!” she warned me, and told me to wear gym clothing. Problem solved.

Armed with off-the-rack LuluLemon leggings and the necessary sports bra-tank top combo, I marched through the brand-new doors of Pure Barre at the Rotunda. Surrounded by Starbucks, Cinebistro and MOM’s Organic Market, Pure Barre is in a prime spot for Hopkins students and Hampdenites alike, and I could see fitness-adventurers like myself stopping by MOM’s for a healthful snack post-class or heading to Starbucks for a replenishing green tea to soothe my shaking legs.

When I arrived, Nicholette Dunleavy and her husband Michael Dunleavy welcomed me with a friendly smile and showed me around the studio, the newest of three studios owned by the couple. The walls are covered in colorful Pure Barre attire available to purchase, and the smallish space is home to cubbies, bathrooms and the studio.

The studio itself fits a class of 30 comfortably. It has mirrors on one side, barres on every wall, and encouraging pictures of women at the barre looking both enthusiastic and athletic. My fellow classmates were mom-daughter duos, college students and women of all ages. Everyone was wearing an outfit like mine. (I was glad I did my research!)

Nicholette instructed us with a headset and energizing music as we began an intensive 15-minute warm up that made my arms burn and my abs tingle. We alternated between strengthening and stretching to make sure our muscles stayed active and engaged the entire time, eventually adding weights and elastic resistance bands that made everything even harder. I take Pilates weekly and like to think I have a strong core, but my abs were crying out by the time we were halfway done with the warm up.

Surprisingly, we didn’t touch the barre until we had done a solid half an hour of cardio, arms, legs and abs in the studio’s center. When we finally began the actual barre-exercises, I recognized some of the general concepts of a ballet barre, but these were much more focused on strengthening specific muscle groups rather than looking pretty. (In ballet, aesthetic is everything. In barre, it seems that the focus is fitness and strengthening.)

At the barre, we did “tucks,” which we initiated from the pelvis, and lots of pulses that made the exercise reach deep, inner muscles. My legs were shaking the entire time we were at the barre, which Nicholette assured me meant that I was doing it right.

When the hour was up, my cheeks were bright red and my entire body felt fatigued, but I felt accomplished. I successfully made it through my first barre class, which they say is always the hardest. After I filled out an evaluation form (Pure Barre is always looking for ways to improve), I was greeted by the studio’s adorable grey and black marbled pug. He seemed especially excited to see me and nuzzled right up to my side. I’m choosing to believe that it was because he could see how hard I worked…and not just because I had trail mix in my pocket.

A single class at Pure Barre is $25. Classes are offered every day of the week starting as early as 5:30am, and ending with evening classes. The classes are not based on level or experience, but multiple instructors teach to add variety. A full schedule is available on their website, and classes are available to purchase online. Pure Barre is now open at 711 W. 40th Street, Suite 158. purebarre.com/md-rolandpark/.

Image courtesy of the Pure Barre Roland Park Facebook.

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