What exactly is BARRE and where did it come from?

“It is true that everything worthwhile in life is worth working hard for, and surely it is worth a little hard work to achieve a super shapely body that works well, a body full of vitality that makes you feel happy to be alive.” -Lottie Berk


If you have ever attended a barre class, you may have a vague idea that ballet is an influence because there is a) a barre (not always), b) ballet vocabulary is used and c) ballet movements are repeated throughout.


You may have used small weights, a pilates magic circle, a squishy ball, ankle weights, and even gliders. Today, there are many styles of barre, many formats. Some even step away from a basic principle of barre: Low impact, yet high intensity” and may include cardio movements that tend to veer in an opposite direction of barre’s original intent, taking the client to “bigger” movements than barre prescribes.


In any case, what most people do not know is barre’s true origins.


The story goes like this:

Around the late 50’s, a German-born modern dancer by the name of Lottie Berk suffered a back injury. As part of her rehab plan, her osteopath recommended a series of small range of motion movements to a high amount of repetitions and using small weights.


Lottie was so impressed with the results, she began to incorporate the practice in her daily life and in time, gave birth to the method that has evolved into what we call today BARRE. The method involved ballet movements, yoga, and the rehab exercises. She named it the “Lottie Berk Technique”.


The method was marketed as a way for non-dancer women to develop the long, lean “dancer’s body” by enhancing muscular and skeletal strength, balance, and flexibility. Lottie’s method was low-impact, yet high intensity. She wanted women to have fun and gain confidence. This was the age of women’s liberation and Lottie’s avant-garde personal lifestyle certainly added to the uniqueness of the workout. She was in an open marriage and was known to carry our intimate, romantic relationships with both men and women.


Lottie opened a studio in London that exploded in popularity and soon enough had the top celebrities of the time, such as Joan Collins and Barbara Streisand, attending regularly. Lottie’s emphasis in using the method as a way for women to improve their sex lives and personal liberation becomes evident when we look at some of the names of the poses/exercises:

“The Prostitute”, “The Sex Position”, “The Naughty Bottoms”, “The Lovemaking Position”, etc… She is famously known to have often said, in the middle of class, “If you can’t tuck, you can’t f—k”.


Today, Lottie’s daughter, Esther Fairfax, still teaches out of her mother’s original London studio.



She hopes to regain the rights to her mother’s name and to the system she created and popularized. Lottie sold her rights without fair legal representation to an American business woman in the early 70’s. The systems we know as Pop Physique, Physique 57, Pure Barre, etc… come from this original transaction. Lottie died in anonymity and without access to the fortune her creation helped build.


We are so lucky to be able to learn and enjoy such a fun, safe, and effective way to get strong. What do you say BARRE MAMACITAS? Who’s ready for a London Barre Retreat where we take class here and check out the local culture and views? Boys welcome too. It’s ok that your muscles shake. You’ll get used to it, if you ever come back:) 🙂 🙂


Come join us as we tuck our way into an abundant knew year full of personal power, adventure, and joy.


Nina R.