Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Raising the barre

New workout craze mixes elements of ballet training with yoga and Pilates moves

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2Her sweaty students -- who are well into their hour-long exercise class -- oblige and put down the Pilates rings they were working with. With the music pounding over the speaker, they lie on mats and hold three-pound ball weights in each hand before they launch into scissor kicks, using small, rapid leg motions that have them gasping for breath.

"Grab a sip of water here if you'd like," urges Senderewich, whose students grab their water bottles.

Two wooden rails line each side of the room, one spanning the whole length of the room and the other ending about halfway across.

But there isn't a ballet slipper or tutu in sight at the session, a class inspired by ballet training, but which also tosses Pilates and yoga moves into the mix.

The hybrid fitness session is called a barre class (pronounced "bar") and it's named for the ballet barre dancers use when training.

Barre classes have been popping up in major cities around North America over the past year or two. Madonna, television personality Kelly Ripa and supermodel Helena Christensen -- all New Yorkers -- are reported fans of the ballet-inspired fitness craze that promises followers long, lean muscles.

Moksha Yoga on Waverley Street is the first to bring the barre method to Winnipeg, says owner Ryann Doucette, who currently lives in Minneapolis, where she has opened up a third Moksha studio.

Moksha's signature is "hot" yoga, performed in a room heated to about 37 C.

The barre room at Moksha Yoga is room temperature, however.

Barre classes are something Doucette has had her eye on for a while.

"It's a hot new thing that's going on everywhere else and no one is doing it in Winnipeg yet," says Doucette, noting barre classes emphasize small, controlled isometric movements that may look easy but offer a tough workout using props such as Pilates rings, weighted balls and resistance tubing.

Joel Benedictson, 18, had never heard of barre classes before his friend asked him to join her for the free class.

"It wasn't what I expected, that's for sure. I went in there expecting something on the easy side but it was a really intense workout," says the Sturgeon Heights Collegiate graduate and former football player who was the only guy in the class.

"I didn't even bring a towel because I didn't think I was going to sweat. But I left there and I was drenched. I got a really good burn from some of the leg exercises and the core (work).

"It's a little embarrassing being the only guy in the class and not being able to keep up with everyone."

His friend, Christine Ormiston, 25, felt the same way.

"My sister is a personal trainer. She messaged me and was like, 'Sign up for this class. It's free. It's new,'" says the slender brunette, whose kicks were among the highest in the class. "It was challenging. I feel really good now. I was sweating like crazy."

Jennifer Gottwald, 38, found the barre workout different than her typical hot yoga class. "This kind of opens you up more to have some fun. I like the change of pace."

During the barre session of the class, the students lightly hold onto the barre while the instructor asks her students to back into a curtsey before quickly lunging forward and kicking one leg out.

Most of the people in the class looked as if they were familiar with yoga terminology and didn't have trouble following the yoga-inspired moves.

Senderewich notes that even yoga novices and people with tight, inflexible muscles would benefit from a barre class, since moves can be modified based on the individual's ability. Throughout the class, Senderewich walks up and down the middle of the class, helping students align their bodies correctly if they need assistance.

"We're pushing you, but only to your limit," she says. "And we repeat it. So if you don't get it the first time, you'll get it the second time or the third time."

The class is a dream come true for Monica Rietvelt, a financial adviser.

A year or two ago, she watched a barre-style class in Southern California, wishing she had the courage to try it.

"It looked super tough. It was a 90-minute class and the room was partially heated. The instructor was a former triathlete. She kind of scared me, so I just watched it through the window," says Rietvelt, who has dropped three dress sizes since taking up yoga a few years ago.

When the Winnipeg mother of two found out one of her favourite yoga studios was offering barre here, she decided it was time to "stir things up a bit."

She has no regrets.

"I feel fantastic. I'm probably more energized than I feel after yoga," says Rietvelt, who found maintaining her posture was the toughest part of the class.

As for her childhood dreams of becoming a ballerina, she says today they were, in a way, realized.

"I really didn't think I had the right body type for that... I've never been a small person.

But this (class) makes you feel like you're kind of lighter."

Moksha Yoga on Waverley Street will offer barre classes starting in January. For more information, log onto


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Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 24, 2012 D1

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