last year, i decided to try all of the major barre studios in nyc.
i didn't want to preach that physique 57 was the best just because that's where i had taught.
also, to be honest, i didn't want to have to pay for classes in a place i used to work.. so i was hoping to spend my money elsewhere...

for barre FAQ's click { here }

i ONLY do barre workout (and a titch of yoga here and there-though i should get back to my regular practice) so i want a really comprehensive workout and when a barre class averages $35, i want to get my bang for my buck.

i spent btwn 2 wks and a month at the following studios and here are my assessments from studios i liked least to best.....


bar method is one of the more classic barre studios. closer to the lotte berk style of teaching and quite militant with little variations in choreography. while they stress and teach good form (thank you!), the class environment is cold and sterile.

form: correct form is taught here. what a relief! however, they wussed out teaching "pretzel" and only brought the leg off the ground for the final 16 or so... i believe they also counted down from 20 which seemed endless as opposed to 10, which i prefer.

cardio: pretty much nil. i rarely got my heart rate up (and don't say it's not because i'm not maximizing the exercise- i'm killing it) or broke a sweat. i was frequently bored and tired of doing the same choreo day after day.

instructors: very knowledgeable former dancer/actors (which you get a lot of in nyc) who were easily flustered - they had just opened- and incredibly stern. i'm sure they're a lot better now.

studio: beautiful studio spaces and nice but small locker rooms. they have you lock your valuables with a key then hang the key in the studio on a confusing board system. i can't tell you how many times people took my key or forgot which number was their's. it was weird.
 the front desk girls were darling but the clients and instructors gave me old ballet feelings. i can imagine it would be intimidating for non-dancers. they seemed to be cold and when they attempted "perky" it didn't seem sincere.

grievances: oooook... so honestly, i really didn't like my experience here and i cannot recommend them. first of all, once they realized that i knew what i was doing re: form, they googled me hard. it was weird. i had to assure them that i no longer work for physique. i saw a lot of my old clients there who were happy with the slower paced classes at bar method. i wasn't as into it. 

i mostly took the 9:30 am classes and they were always full--which is fine, i'd sign up in advance. however, i wasn't cool that random instructors were allowed to take class in a full class. seems like more clients could have squeezed in? also, instructors/owners were never identified at the beginning of class so i'd be in the middle of an exercise and a random woman would walk up and adjust me. it was bizarre. i thought it was a client. this happened twice. 

now here's what irked me the most: apparently they have a "no gum" policy. fine. you should tell people that WHEN they sign up for class the first time. 
no, not fine.... there is no way you could choke on your gum in this class.... unless you have an obstructed airway - in which case, you should be in a hospital.  i have ALWAYS kept gum on my molar EVEN SINGING IN A BROADWAY SHOW. even DANCING and flipping upside down. never lost my gum or choked on it. so i think i can handle a barre class where i'm barely moving/breaking a sweat.... and are we in kindergarten? so here i am with gum in my mouth and one of the "owners" walks up to me in front of everyone and puts her hand under my chin and demands i spit my gum out into her cupped hand. hmm... i'm assuming there are better ways to do this? i felt like i was a 6 yr old being reprimanded by a really really mean teacher. i said, "thank you, i can remove my gum myself." then i spit half of it out just to spite her in my mind. i was not into it. finally i took class from one of the owners who was a good/very thorough instructor but it still wasn't challenging enough for the expense.

i also attended Bar Method in Boston to a much warmer environment but a boring/not challenging class. 

i have had really bad experiences with pure barre in their las vegas studio. many of the teachers were under trained and didn't know any modifications for injuries. also, they change parts of their warm up every month which is really boring when you have the same choreo from ALL the instructors for a solid month. this studio was new and i'm assuming many of the instructors were as well.  i was often at the barre next to a famous sportscaster/dancing with the stars star -we always happened to come to the same class and she must have thought i was stalking her. 5 months later, i saw her at physique 57 and she expressed how much better she liked physique because of their fast pace, better instructors, and more intense workout. she is now pitching for physique. ok, it's Erin Andrews and she's a doll and one of the prettiest natural beauties i've ever seen. 

form: (mostly) good form is taught here. though the thigh/seat section isn't very challenging because they (and bar method) don't take full range of motion. 

cardio: like bar method, i barely broke a sweat or got my heart rate up.

instructors: there was only one girl that i didn't care for- and i'm certainly not outing her here- and i think it was just her dour personality and slow transitions that made me so annoyed. i didn't feel that they were very well trained (i've also realized that physique 57's training program is the most comprehensive of all of the nyc studios). but most of the other instructors were darling though none of them seemed to be comfortable with hands-on adjustments. i thought the studio owners were sweet and personable. 

studio: their studio is really dark because it's tucked into the corner of a columbus circle office bldg. the entry way isn't big enough for class changeover. the carpet is really rough and hard so they often need to use a mat for even basic floor exercises. they do not have showers so racing off to other activities can be tricky. 

grievances: unfortunately, when your instructors only have a 3 day training program, they don't know proper contraindications or how to safely adjust or enhance a clients stretch/exercise. on my last class at pure, the instructor stretched me on one side (you should always do both sides - every yoga teacher knows that) and pushed on the wrong part of my pack which made me slip a rib. my back went into massive spasm and i was straight up bugged.


core was once considered physique's rival sister program. derived as well from lotte berk and tweaked a bit, it is one of the older barre programs in the city.

form: close to lotte berk. they still do flat back against the wall (unlike physique). they attempt to do proper form but it falls short with few hands on corrections.
they also have different "fusion" exercises so i'm just talking about their classic "Core Fusion" method. some of the "sport" fusions were not for me.

cardio: a step above pure and bar method, but still not as challenging as physique and figure 4. there were many classes where i barely broke a sweat.

instructors: i was only impressed by ONE of the teachers i experienced. he worked for the Opera in their ballet corp and was lovely and challenging. the rest of the instructors struck me a s bored mommies who wanted to get out of the house and continue their group fitness hobby. it struck me as "country club" exercise classes, not an elite boutique work out experience.
i really disliked most of the instructors.

studio: i attended class at their central park and gansevoort locations. cp was constanly under construction (and needed to be) .. however their carpet was what really needed an overhaul. it was stained and smelly and totally disgusting. thank heaven for the lofty ceilings and skylights because their meatpacking location is sooo depressing. located in the basement of the gansevoort hotel, it is like doing barre in your parents low ceiling'd basement. yes, i ran into a few celebs there, but i couldn't figure out how they hadn't figured out htat that place is a total bumski. it's also a spa and .. no thank you. i like light and air.

FIGURE 4 (at Pure Yoga)

form: great form is taught here and they seem CLOSEST to physique in intensity, strength, and cardio. they have minimized a few of the exercises that seem to exacerbate clients at physique 57.

cardio: awesome. almost as intense and sweaty as physique.

instructors: the few classes i attended were all taught by fabulous twyla tharp and former broadway dancers. they were anatomically knowledgable, capable, and really competent yet authoritative. i liked them very much.

studio: figure 4 is housed in pure yoga's gorgeous sanctuary. cold towels after class? yes, please.
it's spa like and totally lovely there and their locker room is pretty gorgeous. they teach on a hard floor as opposed to carpet which i am not opposed to. it somehow seems more sanitary that way.

grievances: my ONLY complaint at this point is that you can't buy classes ala carte. you must become a premium member of pure yoga and with my transient schedule, i can't commit to a nail color let alone a yoga studio. it's also incredibly expensive but it's my dream place. yoga AND barre? heaven. if i lived nearby and had a stable life, i'd absolutely become a member of pure.


form: physique is MILITANT about form. and for great reason! the method is only really effective when your form is correct.

cardio: you will sweat and shake in EVERY class. it doesn't get easier, you only get better.

instructors: physique 57 instructors are BY FAR the most knowledgable and well trained instructors of any of the methods. physique auditions their instructors and the chosen few are PAID to train 15 hours a week for MONTHS before they are invited to assist on the floor then test out only to further assist and co-teach before they are trusted to teach alone. it was one of the hardest things i've ever done (far more challenging than learning a broadway show) but so incredible because i know WHY the method works and how to help any injury/pregnancy.... physique is also militant (which is why i don't really want to work for them) about maintaining teacher standards. their clients are demanding of their instructors and it  pays off. those people are the best in the business. i really love taking Sherri, Emily Z & Emily T.

studio: physique has 3 gorgeous studios in nyc. the upper west side space is gorgeous (especially the front room with the windows), the original 57th street location is a bit stuffy and intimidating- those clients are NUTS, and the spring street location is sun-less (woof) but a total celebrity hang. i do wish there were more large studios and natural light with bigger locker rooms, but the amount of class options and locations really make up for that.

grievances: from a client's perspective, i have no beef with them. physique is consistently fantastic with consistently great instructors. i wish their class price wasn't so steep but it's pretty on par with the rest of the other studios but much better in EVERY area. wish it wasn't so, but if i'm going to spend my money on barre, i'm going to do it at physique.

* * * * * *

i'm still open to new studios in nyc.
just started taking at bari and i'm going to check out flybarre this week as well.
i'm also interested in nalini method.....

i'll let you know how it goes.
i've also been taking at body by simone.... not barre at all, but fun to mix it up. nothing about it is life changing but i'd expect that their private sessions are really fantastic judging by sandra bullock's bod. it's pretty trippy to be in class with so many celebs and it makes me grateful that my parents put me in dance class for no other reason but to not look like an idiot in a group fitness class.... sadly, i can't say the same for many celebs.....

soooo.... if you go to physique, be sure to tell them i referred you!

and UTAH/VEGAS... your barre review is coming! 


Natasha Oswald said...

So now I def want to come to NYC not for the New Year eve, but to go to a barre class that will actually challenge me!

Jennifer said...

Hi Natalie. Womdering if a true beginner could safely and effectively do a barre workout using the Physique 57 DVDs? I live in Salt Lake and can wait for your barre review here to try a live class if that's preferable. I just like the flexibility of the DVDs for my crazy schedule. Thanks!

Natalie Hill said...

@jennifer. yes. the dvds are great. read the barre FAQ's. i always recommend going to class before but the physique dvds are created for beginners so you're safe.