In June, I had the pleasure of attending a BAR METHOD class taught by the inspiring and passionate Burr Leonard, the creator and founder of THE BAR METHOD. I am so impressed by this 64- year- old woman and her accomplishments.
Ten years ago, at the age 54, Burr Leonard embarked on a new venture and opened up her first THE BAR METHOD studio in San Francisco, California. Now studios are not only popping up all over the U.S., but they are also expected to open in London and Sydney. There are two located in Colorado - one in Cherry Creek and one in Boulder. I have attended three classes and I am hooked. It is a great workout!
I sat down with Burr in the Cherry Creek studio after a very hard hour- long class. She is calm in her demeanor while still being passionate and excited about showing the world the benefits of leading an active lifestyle. At 64 years old, Burr is incredibly in shape and has more energy than some twenty somethings. If she doesn't convince you to go and try this new workout trend, I don't know what will.
This is how one's dream of becoming a ballet dancer lead to the workout craze of the decade.
When and how did you create the Bar Method?
I started as a student of the Lotte Burke Method, in 1981 in New York City, where their studio was and became an addict for 10 years. Iím a dance nut and loved to take ballet classes as an amateur. I found that with the Lotte Burke Method under my belt, I could take dance classes in New York and do pretty well at them with all the strength and flexibility and balance and alignment [Bar Method] gave me. I developed it as a serious hobby and 3- 5 days a week, I [took] dance, and steps, ballet, jazz and my Lotte Burke Method classes. That did give me kind of a background in dance. I married in 1990, in my 40ís, and my husband convinced me to open a Lotte Burke studio. I resisted, but he talked me into it. So, we bought a Lotte Burke Method license and we opened four studios in southern Connecticut over 10 years. It was my husbandís and my ambition to have just one studio (it was a huge place) and we were going to have this studio and just live happily ever after. It didnít work out that way. People came to us, from all over the country, begging us to franchise. ďPlease, please we canít live without it.Ē So we started to do that and itís exploded. And itís all over the place.
What are the benefits of Bar Method?
What we do thatís different is, rather than ďaerobicizingĒ the class, weíve made it more methodical and added a different kind of flow, teaching the students to understand their bodies and to develop better coordination and better balance. So they not only get the bodies of dancers but they also get the grace, the straightness and coordination of a dancer. We change our students outside and in- we give them the courage inside to be more confident in life, and I believe we give them longer term changes by creating better patterns of motion. We are highly targeted- when we go after a muscle, we go after it. Not only are you holding the muscle and itís getting stronger and more shapely, but youíre also teaching your body to stay in position and in proper form (which is something your body doesnít naturally do). Itís safer to exercise than to lie in bed.
What is your vision for the future?
My ambition, my goal, is for every Bar Method class, anywhere in the world, to be the same high quality and to be consistent, even though the teacher may have his or her own Bar Method personality. Weíre working on a studio in London and a studio in Sydney, Australia. We opened our first Bar Method studio in 2001. Weíre having our 10 year anniversary this summer and weíre going to stream worldwide me teaching a class. Bar fitness is exploding around the world and deservedly so. I believe so passionately in bar fitness as a supreme technique for maintaining good posture and working your whole body safely with no impact. The exciting thing is Iíve further developed the method and the technique and Iím documenting it. Iím creating layers of support for all the franchisees, including formal evaluations and systems that enable the teachers to keep the standards and quality.