We went to a Pure Barre class on Saturday because I was curious about its website’s biologically-impossible and fanciful promises, e.g. “You will stretch, to elongate the muscles while they are warm and malleable. This leads to long, lean muscles!”
PB seemed like the foil to CrossFit – rather than loading a bar with weight and using your whole body to hurl it into the air, you grab a ballet barre and do teensy isometric movements designed to help you “defy gravity.” Sign my ass up! Here is $15 for some special non-slip socks.
When we walked into the studio, I realized that I had never seen so many unhappy 37-year-old straight Caucasian females in Lululemon gear in one place in my entire life. And I lived in downtown Toronto for three years.
No one spoke to each other. If you are a diehard Pure Barre-issima whose studio is full of joie de vivre I am glad for you, but these ladies had nothing to say. Of course I can’t get inside anyone else’s head, but the weight of experience told me that they were working within a grim psychogenic framework; possessed by an entrenched belief that parts of their bodies were unacceptable. They were there for a specific, elusive goal: to get smaller; to burn away all fleshly inessential. I noticed a lot of “fire,” “torching,” and “melting” imagery in the instruction. Much emphasis on the fold between butt and thigh (a thing for which the Germans probably have a word*); a distaste for “bulk,” and the aforementioned “long, lean muscles.”
I am five feet, two inches tall. The only way to achieve long, lean muscles is to be born with them, or to discover a new gene-altering DNA-recombination technique. The belief that we can change the length of our muscles is an unfortunate side effect of scientific illiteracy, slimed along by diet/fitness corporate shit plus patriarchal beauty mandates which have been thoroughly deconstructed but still hang over our heads and we know why.
Anyway, I wasn’t very good at PB. I like moving everything, so it was hard to lie in my stomach and raise my right toes infinitesimally off the floor 58 times as the instructor metronomed “Up an inch/down an inch/up an inch/down an inch.” Maybe it really works after awhile – you have to do anything for at least a month if you want to see a difference – but at $20 a pop, I’ll never know.
That said, I did like the barre itself. It’s fun to hang onto things real hard and not have them explode free in a shower of cement and drywall flakes, you know? We got into a groove where we’d all do little plies, straighten up, then bend over at once, and when I looked behind me to check the form, I was greeted with an amazing line of buttcracks winking at me through sheer Lululemon leggings. Plies, straighten, bend, asscracks; plies, straighten, bend, asscracks. This sounds like circuit training. It sort of was!
At one point, we were supposed to pick up a pair of 1 lb hand weights but I couldn’t do it without feeling ridiculous so I minced balletically over to the weight cubbies (weight cubbies!) and selected a pair of 5s. All the ladies noticed and said “oooOOOOooo.” How much fun it would be to bring some heavy lifters to a barre class? Like the fitness Tower of Babel!
I’m not sore from the workout. I was hoping to be. I like a little lactic-acid burn along with my joint safety, so maybe we should combine PB and Crossfit. Screams and whispering, interlaced: “Up an inch/down an inch/up an inch – NOW RUN! EIGHT HUNDRED METERS UP AND BACK, 15 PULLUPS, 10 SNATCHES AND A BEAR CRAWL! HIT THE FLOOR! annnnd up an inch/down an inch, RUN! RUN!”
The last 10 minutes of the class (abs) were a fabulously weird finisher, because the instructor got up reeeeal close to me and whispered in my ear, “Tiny movement. Go tinier. Tinier.” Only she was miked, so the soundtrack to my not-cured-but-controlled body-dysmorphic nightmares echoed throughout the room for everyone and their asscrack to hear.
Afterwards, we went to Whole Foods for kale smoothies and then to a UFC boxing class, where we hit the bags for an hour.
We were much happier there.
*A friend just told me that, amongst rock n’roll types, this fold is known as the “giddy-up.”
*UPDATE: Try this one if you like barre. The lower body workout is a blaster and she only says “burn the fat” like, twice.