Walk into one of Portland’s two new Pure Barre locations and you’ll see a studio full of people standing at a ballet bar, seemingly still. The instructor rhythmically delivers a progression of moves to the beat of bass-driven music booming overhead while the students, faces bathed in concentration, perform the muscle-isolating micro-movements that make up the majority of the Pure Barre technique.
But while their movements may be small compared to other barre studios, the results are not. “We have always said that if you can hold on to a ballet barre, then you can do Pure Barre,” said Pearl District owner Ally Coucke. “But it offers a more athletic approach to barre. It’s fast-paced and musically-driven—we have professional athletes that take Pure Barre because they like the intensity.”
So what sets it apart? At Pure Barre, the key move is the “tuck,” which involves engaging your bum muscles while pulling your lower abs in to roll your pelvis underneath you. Coucke says to picture yourself with a cow tail that hangs straight down, put your hands on your hips and try to swing the tail underneath you between your legs, that’s the general idea of the tuck.
While other barre studios tell you to keep your hips tucked under during the entire workout, Pure Barre uses the tuck as an active, repetitive call-out that instructors layer onto whatever leg-quaking position you’re already in, setting your buns and abs on fire. “Eventually you start to feel stronger, sit up taller—your back pain starts to go away,” said Coucke. “It’s your core; everything builds from there.”
Located next to Bridgeport Brewing in the Pearl District, Pure Barre Pearl has an industrial vibe that Coucke designed to ensure everyone was comfortable in her studio. That feeling is driven by her “all are welcome” attitude that encourages everyone to try Pure Barre. “We’ve created a welcoming environment to break that mentality that this is only for young women or already fit women,” she said. “We have men taking class, we have all ages—there’s no stigma here. Pure Barre can be humbling, even for the most fit people. ”
Coucke first fell in love with Pure Barre after quitting an soul-sucking office job in Colorado. The day she quit she took her first Pure Barre class and kept going back every day. Her passion for Pure Barre lead her to pursue instructor training, which in turn created the opportunity to open her own studio anywhere she wanted. She chose Portland.
Cross the Willamette to the east side of town and you’ll find Pure Barre Lloyd District, the first Pure Barre studio in Portland, owned by former Seattlite Stephanie Richen. “When my husband got a job offer here, I found out that there wasn't a Pure Barre; I was really bummed,” recalls Richen. “I took classes from Barre3, Bar Method, and Xtendbarre, and while what they offer is great, it just didn't fulfill me like Pure Barre, so I quit school and decided that this was something I really wanted to be apart of.”
Richen describes her location as “rustic Portland,” with many of the decorations and furnishing made right here in town. Like the Pearl District location, Stephanie’s main goal is to create an inviting atmosphere where people can challenge themselves. “We invite any and all people—any age, any size. Everyone has a goal when they come into our studio; our team is here to support your goal,” she said. “Progress not perfection. That's what my studio is all about.”
Pure Barre is the largest barre business in the nation, and while each location is individually owned, the core-focused technique is the same. Classes are designed to lift and tone your arms, core, seat and thighs, but as Lloyd owner Stephanie Richen promises, “You’ll never take the same class twice. Our classes are different from anything you will ever take here in Portland.”
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