Walking into a Bar Method studio is a bit like walking into a luxury spa. Sunlight pours in through the windows as visitors are greeted left and right by bright, smiling faces. The airy locker room is stocked with delicately rolled, crisp white towels that students can bring along to class. The bathroom features a stone-tiled shower, and lush potted plants lurk around every corner.
The studio space is, again, shockingly serene. Traditional blonde ballet barres line the walls; one side is thoroughly mirrored, while sunlight floods through the windows on the opposing wall. The floor is swathed in a squishy carpet designed to make floor work more comfortable and to protect your joints from impact—no socks, no service.
The Portland Bar Method studio is located squarely within the Pearl District, near popular spin classes and yoga studios like BurnCycle and YoYo Yogi. It’s been such a hit that owner Denise Burchard is opening Lake Oswego studio on March 20—this time with a partner, Beth Thomas. They're in good company; there are more than 12 barre-based exercise techniques around town, including Barre3, Pure Barre, Xtend Barre, and Mod Physique.
First, a bit of backstory: In the late 1930s, German dancer Lotte Berk fled the Nazis and moved to New York City, where she founded the first ever barre-based exercise technique called the Lotte Berk Method. Future Bar Method founder Burr Leonard took Berk’s classes, fell in love with the concept, and became an instructor. She opened several Lotte Berk studios in Connecticut before launching the Bar Method in 2001.
Leonard sought to create a new exercise technique that would give her students lean, toned, and healthy bodies—like the Berk method—but with low to no-impact movements specifically designed in tandem with physical therapists. The result is a one-hour, non-impact, total body workout that begins with a free weight warm-up before moving on to isometric leg and abdominal work at the barre and on mats. The Bar Method notes that every class includes active stretching to elongate targeted muscles without putting stress on joints. It’s meant to be accessible to any age group, and the Portland studio claims to have clients well into their seventies and beyond.
In class, students use equipment to help target key muscle groups, like a small exercise ball placed between your thighs that prompts you to engage your core, or a strap used to actively stretch your muscles and allegedly ease soreness. Each student receives personal attention from the instructors as part what Burchard and Thomas call “a celebration of each person’s individual journey.” So while the class is challenging, the instructors are attentive and encouraging—and the catchy dance music they play almost drowns out the pain.
A Bar Method class is certainly a full-body workout—your limbs may or may not feel like they are made of Jell-O the following day—but it’s worth a try if you’re seeking a fresh, individualized alternative to the traditional exercise class. For new clients, the studio offers 30 days of unlimited classes for $99. The Lake Oswego studio opens March 20.
The Bar Method
15780 Boones Ferry Road
Lake Oswego, OR 97035