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Barreworks Works
"I try to keep up, crumpling, insect-like, from one position to the next"

Photos courtesy of Barreworks

The doldrums of November have taken hold, and the only thing that can possibly motivate me is a swift kick in the ass. I decide to check out Barreworks (625 Queen St. West) to facilitate this.

Barreworks is located in a bright, high-ceilinged building of whitewashed brick, muted tones and hardwood floors. The immaculate 3rd floor studio offers free towel service and a filtered water bottle refill station; confirming their commitment to environmental sustainability. It’s like a high-end dance academy without the requisite snottiness.

The affable owner, Paul Bonder, greets me at the entrance. For the last 25 years, Bonder struggled with recurring back issues. Swimming, yoga and pilates helped to alleviate some of this, but when he discovered some barre-based classes while on vacation with his wife, “we were intrigued… I was in between careers with a desire to be involved in health, fitness and wellness.” Prior to Barreworks, he had owned a natural/organic & specialty foods distribution company for 20 years.

Working with his brother-in-law, Kenny Pearl (who danced with Martha Graham Dance Company and around the world with Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater), and Leni Calosing, a certified Gyrotonic and Gyrokenesis instructor, Bonder developed the program over the course of a year.

Though similar to a dance class, no previous dance experience is required. “We also emphasize the aerobic aspect and do many more repetitions than in most dance classes,” says Bonder. “Using the ballet barre, we combine body sculpting, core conditioning, cardio training and deep stretching with an emphasis on posture and alignment.”

Idiotically, I forgot to bring water. It’s been so long since I’ve been to an exercise class basic hydration has become a muddled foreign concept.  The chili I just ate for dinner is also beginning to pose a concern. Nonetheless, I am keen to start whittling my pudgy body into a sylphlike vision of fitness.

Our instructor, Micaiah, bounds energetically into the room, sweeping up the floor from the previous class and greeting everyone individually.  Women in tank tops and leggings chat easily and stretch, intuitively gathering equipment – weighted balls, inflated balls and resistance bands. I grasp the barre, ignore my gurgling stomach and try to look serene.

“Ready?” Micaiah asks rhetorically, her teeth gleaming. She plunges into a series of dynamic stretches, swinging the weighted balls in smooth arcs. It’s deceptively hard. I try to keep up, crumpling, insect-like, from one position to the next. We squeeze the inflatable ball between our knees, hold the barre and sink into a series of deep, punishing squats. Spontaneous inner thigh combustion is a very real possibility.

We plié, attitude and lunge ourselves into a full sweat. I glance at the clock;  a mere 10 minutes have passed! Micaiah is highly attentive to each of the dozen or so people in the class. My execution is far from graceful, and she offers mercifully quiet correction when I flail too far out of alignment.

As Katy Perry’s Firework blares out of the crystalline sound system, the chili situation seems to be pushing itself to the fore. “Keep it together, Thompson!” I hiss inwardly.

After another bout of pushups, Micaiah cheerily informs us its time to get “back to work!” My usual ‘work’ usually involves typing at my computer, eating leftovers in my pyjamas – an appealing alternative at this point. There is no idling at Barreworks.

The program is a mix of ballet moves, circuit training and core work. We clamber from our feet to our backs, making large ‘pot-stirring’ motions around ourselves with the weighted ball. The more seasoned participants are completing these movements with brisk precision. A glance into the mirror confirms that my movements emulate that of a whale beaching itself. We spring up again for a final cardio flogging – bounding across the floor like cossack basketball players on meth. Finally the cool down, where Beyoncé croons about seeing my ‘halo’ as my butt looms large in the mirror.

I am exhausted, dehydrated yet exhilarated. I actually feel great. I congratulate myself on not sharting my pants.

In addition to their signature mixed barre classes, they also offer Spinbarre (which includes a spinning component), bAAAre (a reduced cardio/non impact workout designed for maximum sculpting and chiseling of targeted areas) and YogaBarre. Paul notes that the biggest difference between their signature class and a Bar Method class (popularized in the States) is “the flow and emphasis on the aerobic aspect with cardio interval training”.

Clients attending have seen positive results – fast. If you’re curious, you can take an introductory class for 10 bucks.

Sweat Level – 4/5, slightly agonizing, but worth it.

Visit Barreworks for more info.


Tiffy Thompson is a writer and illustrator for the Toronto Standard. Follow her on Twitter at @tiffyjthompson. 

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