She fled the Nazis, cavorted with the rich and famous and is credited as being the original creator of what we know today as Barre-based exercise methods.
Lotte Berk was a German Jewish dancer who—with her British husband—lived in London in the late 1930s. Soon after, a back injury led her to devise a series of dance-based exercises effective for rehabilitation, toning, strengthening and keeping off kilos.
In today’s world, what she devised has morphed into various Barre-based methods popular the world over, but none more so on a global scale than Xtend Barre®. So how and why has Berk’s original vision survived so long?
The Lotte Berk Studio
In 1959, inspired by her rehab experience, she opened The Lotte Berk Studio in her basement. Word got around that it helped with creating or sustaining the body beautiful, and she was known as the body sculptor of some pretty famous women—Brooke Shields, Joan Collins and Brit Ekland, to name a few.
As for the method’s now global popularity, how did the Bar (Berk spelled it with one ‘r’) concept spread to the US and lead—eventually—to such methods as Xtend Barre®? The Berk Method was similar to how Pilates morphed and spread around the same time.
One of Berk’s students, Lydia Bach, was so impressed with the technique that she bought the rights to Lotte’s name and in 1971 opened The Lotte Berk Method exercise studio in Manhattan.
Ten years later, two US-based sisters, Burr Leonard and Mimi Fleischman, fell in love with the Lotte Berk Method class and ended up buying a license to operate Lotte Berk Method studios elsewhere. At the end of their 10-year license term, they founded The Bar Method in 2001.
During the same period, other former Lotte Berk Method teachers began to develop their own versions of the technique. Over time, the departure of original teachers from the scene caused the Lotte Berk Method itself to fold in 2005, but the key bar concept and class design was so effective that it continued to evolve into the licensed brands we know today.
Enter Xtend Barre®
In the early 2000s, Andrea Rogers, a professional dancer, was certified as a classical Pilates instructor. She soon realised cross training for better client results was beneficial, so she incorporated dance elements and music into Pilates sessions, challenging coordination, rhythm and cardiovascular fitness. Through this approach, clients gained energy, enjoyed elements of dance, and importantly, had fun.
In 2011, Andrea released Xtend Barre® Lean & Chiseled and it took off. Over several years, Xtend Barre® rapidly expanded across the US, and internationally, opening studios in France, Australia, Hong Kong, Singapore, New Zealand and more.
3 Killer barre moves
Want to get a taste of Xtend Barre at home? Here are three killer moves from the Xtend Barre® method for a total body workout:
Fold Over With Leg Lift
Place hands on the back of a chair and step away, just a few steps. Lift one leg waist-height (or as close to) and then bend it slowly at the knee. Rise up on to toes on that same leg and then relevé up and down, small pulses. If you have a Barre ball, place that between your thigh and knee and squeeze with each pulse down.
Pliés at the Barre
Start with first or second position (ballet). Feet are a little wider than shoulder distance. Raise both heels then bend and rise at the knee with one hand on the barre (or a chair). Rotate the thighs out, as this is for quads and outer butt muscles. Pulse within range or try for the challenge zone, but not too low and not too high.
Great for upper body! Forearm planks are basically for shoulders utilising the abs. Get into plank position—body straight, forearms on the ground shoulder distance apart, neck straight and flat and eyes looking straight down. Then, do release rocks, back and forward. If you have a ball, place your feet carefully on top of it to enhance the challenge.
Do all of these for three repetitions of eight as often as you like without losing good form; you will feel and see the difference.
Heather Thomas Shalabi is the co-founder and Director of Flex Studio Hong Kong, with locations in Central and One Island South.