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Calling all to the barre

City's newest boutique fitness studio brings ballet workout back to its roots

By: Amy Crofts

  |  Posted: Saturday, Jun 21, 2014 06:00 am

BARRE OWNER – Nikki Smith is the owner of a new fitness studio called Sculpt Barre, which offers barre classes.
BARRE OWNER – Nikki Smith is the owner of a new fitness studio called Sculpt Barre, which offers barre classes.
CANDACE ELLIOTT/St. Albert Gazette

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St. Albert’s newest fitness studio more closely resembles a boutique clothing store than a place to get your sweat on.

With clean white walls, big windows and ornate chandeliers, it’s not difficult to understand how owner Nikki Smith describes her latest endeavour as, “a little piece of New York coming back home with me.”

Sculpt Barre opened its doors in the Campbell Business Park (the floor above Leading Edge Physiotherapy) last Saturday.

The studio exclusively teaches the barre workout – a hybrid ballet, yoga, Pilates, aerobics regimen – based on the original Bar Method developed in the 1960s by German dancer Lotte Berk.

Smith first began doing barre workouts in 2008 while living in the U.S. with her husband Nathan Smith, a now retired professional hockey player from Sherwood Park.

“I could never find (an exercise) that stuck,” said Smith. “I would do spin class, step class, run and play volleyball. Barre not only completely changed my body but it’s addictive. It changed my perspective on fitness.”

When Smith and her husband moved back to Alberta permanently, there were less than 10 barre studios in Canada.

“I knew what Alberta was missing,” she said.

With a degree in business from Grant MacEwan University and yoga instructor training, Smith opened up her first studio Sculpt Barre in Sherwood Park last year – the first exclusive barre studio in northern Alberta.

“The week we opened in Sherwood Park, I said to my husband ‘On our one-year anniversary in Sherwood Park I want to be able to start looking for space in St. Albert.’ That was my goal,” said Smith.

Within six months classes were filling up so fast participants had to be wait-listed.

Smith predicts similar success in St. Albert, since it has a similar population demographic to Sherwood Park.

“The people here are excited about it, which makes us excited about it!” she said.

One of a kind workout

The barre technique uses a series of small isometric exercises for strength training – muscle group contractions done in static position that minimize changing the length of the muscle or impacting the joint.

In a typical barre class, participants may do multiple repetitions of squat pliés or leg lifts. The focus is on holding the position and “pulsing” with small repeated movements instead of fully extending the muscles.

With several years of yoga and pilates experience, Smith developed her own barre method with a focus on body alignment and the rehabilitative aspect of the original Bar Method.

“Tiny movements, small muscle isolation, feeling that burn and getting into that shake – the whole method is built around that,” she said.

Unlike other studios, the instructors – also known as barretenders – at Sculpt Barre won’t be doing the class with patrons. They will be walking around the class correcting and pushing participants further and deeper into the positions, explained Smith.

“It is for any age, fitness level or body type. It is so low impact and great for people coming back from injury,” she said, noting participants range from 16 years old to 74.

A high proportion of clientele are women in their ’60s.

“I was generally a pretty awkward and clumsy person before doing barre. I move differently now. I have a little more grace about me,” chuckles Smith. “It is definitely not just for ballerinas.”

Barre isn’t only for women either.

Boys at the Barre is a monthly class at Sculpt Barre Sherwood Park – a night when participants can bring the men in their lives along, such as a friend, partner, brother or dad.

“The guys always say after that they have a newfound respect for male belly dancers because of how hard and how challenging it is,” said Smith.

She plans to bring more classes, including Boys at the Barre, to St. Albert soon.


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