The original barre class returns to London

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Sure, you’ve done barre: a thrust here, a leg lift there. It’s painful and it’s effective – but it’s not as authentic or multifaceted as the original barre workout. The good news is now you can experience the real thing. DOSE writer Charlotte finds out more…

Ever heard of Lotte Berk? She was a German Jewish contemporary dancer who, with the help of an orthopaedist, created the original barre workout. Back in the 60s it was revelatory, and focused on helping women achieve the body and poise of a dancer. More than just a dance workout, Lotte’s original barre aimed to radically improve sexual pleasure and supporting spinal health, which barre classes today have forgotten. But it’s back.

New studio Discobarre in Dalston has been founded by Sophie Ritchie, who has trained under Lotte’s daughter Esther Fairfax. Sophie is the only person teaching the original method in London.

“The original method is so beautiful and so unique and different to all other offerings today. Also, I believe we are in a time where women are finally owning their femininity. We don’t need to compete with men and this is true to exercise. I’m not saying women shouldn’t want to hit the gym hard, but for me bringing Lotte back now fits in nicely with women realising they can be feminine and strong,” Sophie says.

The Lotte Berk Technique class at Discobarre consists of precise movements that are all performed in a subtle pelvic tilt. “Movements are very small, deeply targeting little muscles that help you develop core strength and tone flesh. Being in the tilt decreases the range of movement, therefore targets deeply,” Sophie goes on. “Barre should be small and isolated. The ab work needs to be performed in the tilt, at least a section of it.”

If you come to class, you can expect “an intense, highly targeted barre series focusing on front/back/side and inside of legs. And bottoms. Then the mother of all core sections which takes up the majority of the class”.

Plus, a whole section of the class is dedicated to the pelvic floor and moves including ‘The Sex’, ‘Naughty Bottoms’ and ‘The Prostitute’, specifically designed to encourage you to be a ‘greater lover’. Intrigued? “Lotte was a bit of a free love revolutionary and a great advocate of women enjoying a really healthy sex life and for them to experience as much pleasure from it for as long as possible (she had many lovers up until her 70s and claimed to experience no symptoms of the menopause). A series of exercises she called ‘The Sex’ were designed to strengthen all the necessary muscles needed for a woman to enjoy herself whilst riding her lover: extremely strong quads, inner thighs, glutes and mobility in the hip,” Sophie explains.

When it comes to the pelvic floor, “you are encouraged to engage every bit of you, from your clitoris to your anus. Gaining control of these parts of you definitely makes you more in control of your own sexual pleasure as well as the obvious tightening of the vagina,” Sophie says. “Working in the pelvic tilt means there is always a slight pressure on your vaginal wall, so you may feel slightly more aroused than normal. All this and feeling more mobile in all areas of your body from your hips and spine and shoulders, plus a definite cinched in waist gives you confidence to be the best lover you can be. To enjoy your love making how we were intended to – with free abandon!”

It’s not gimmicky and it’s not all about sex, though. The Lottie Berk technique is also seriously focused on spinal health, making it a good option for those with back issues. “The regime was devised with the help of an orthopaedist when Lotte retired from dance and was experiencing problems with her spine. From the beginning warm-up, your spine is stretched in every direction and the stretches from side to side are so deep. A lot of attention is also paid to the shoulders,” Sophie continues. Plus, she adds, “the abdominal floor work is performed in a pelvic tilt, which again, protects the spine, never putting additional pressure on it as you lift your head and shoulders off the ground. Your spine is protected by a supremely strong abdominal wall.”

Improved sex, strong abs, better posture – it sounds a lot from one class, but if it was good enough for Lotte Berk, we think it’s worth a go. See you in Dalston.

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