Tuck, hold, squeeze, pulse, curl, breath, circle, freeze. I swear I hear these words in my sleep.
I am three weeks into my membership at Pure Barre, Ann Arbor, and while I love the way I feel after taking a class, sometimes I find myself more enamored with the cult-like nature of the exercise studio than I am the workout.
For those who don’t know, barre is the next Pilates and the Yoga for women who like their workouts scheduled and spoken to them but who just can’t sit still. It involves, yes, a ballet bar — although there isn’t a whole lot of grace associated with it, from my end — along with light weights, a ball, and some sort of stretching tube. The idea is to use the body’s resistance, small controlled movements and high repetition to push the muscle to exhaustion — which induces a very funny looking quaking, especially when you’re on your tip toes — in order to change its shape. And while each class is nearly identical, barre is never easy. The better you know the postures, deeper you feel what they call the “mind-body connection,” the more out of breath you’ll be. Not to mention that the instructors are trained in motivational speaking and will come around to ensure your leg lifts to you “challenge pint,” should you think about lowering it for a break.
I love it. I shelled out an arm and a leg for an unlimited package for the entire semester and as I sit here writing about it, my muscles are jumping to get back. And for what it’s worth, I’ve seen my body change for the better. And I’ve considered throwing away my education to become a barre teacher, but that’s another blog post.
What’s more interesting to me, or rather more relevant for the purposes of my capstone project, are the dynamics of these classes and the women who participate in them. Take, for example, the Pure Barre “look.” The studio requires long or crop leggings and socks, which is code for at least one article of clothing from Lululemon or Athleta — there is more brand loyalty in that room than in Starbucks on South U during finals — and the Pure Barre socks, which are black with colored dots, for individuation of course. It’s a barrier to entry (on top of the membership) that makes these women constantly invest back into the organization, money to buy clothing specifically to wear to class or time to coordinate outfits that will convey access to that clothing.
The other day, I watched three girls get in an Uber after a 9 am class. Yeah.
Anyway, I’ll spend the rest of my semester — five to six days a week! — recording the norms and rituals associated with this cult-like workout, all the while working to … lift, tone, burn??