Hold On for One More Plié

At the Barre Code’s cardio class, you’ll bend deeper, move faster and sweat more

November 6, 2012

Owner Amy Barnes likes to give all of her students hands-on assists during classes to make sure their technique is correct.

Barre workouts are designed to make muscles burn, legs shake and faces glisten. But sometimes you want to plié yourself to perspiration, Amy Barnes says. And for that, you need Cardio Code, the signature class at her new Del Ray studio the Barre Code.

Barnes first grabbed a ballet barre as an exercise prop back in Lexington, Ky., while teaching at a Pure Barre studio. (A D.C. location of that method is set to open within the next few months.) When Barnes moved to Washington, she became the lead teacher at B.Fit in Logan Circle, where she trained several women who have opened other area barre studios.

So when it was time to strike out on her own, Barnes knew what she could add to the equation: cardio.

“Over the years, I’ve gotten the same question,” she says. “ ‘What are you doing for cardio outside of barre?’ ”

Her answer: “I’m doing Flashdance by myself.”

To lift her heart rate, Barnes does more exaggerated movements than you’d see in a typical class. Now she’s translated that into something she can teach, starting with a warm-up that always features push-ups and planks before heading into high-energy dance segments that leave the room breathless.

“This is a city of runners, and I’m not a runner,” says Capitol Hill resident Kristen Degischer, 32, who’s visited lots of barre studios looking for something sweatier. She found it with Cardio Code. “The moves are comparable, but we’re working at a faster pace and more repetition.”

The exercises still manage to tire out those little stabilizers that barre is known for targeting, but when Barnes has students squat deeply into a plié and then shoot up onto their toes in relevé, they’re also working larger muscle groups.

Moves such as the Pony — the ’60s-era dance step — have students hopping more than they would in a basic barre class. Barnes has tried to make that easier on the joints with the design of the studio. It has a sprung floor to absorb shock, and instead of hardwood, it’s made of a composite material that resembles vinyl. (It’s comfortable and adds traction, so students can go barefoot without worrying about slipping.)

To make sure increased range of motion doesn’t translate into wild flailing, Barnes hammers technique and isn’t shy about adjusting students’ bodies until they’ve got the hang of an exercise.

“My goal is to do a hands-on assist for every single person in class,” she says. “If you’re doing it wrong, you’re not getting the workout you came here to get.”

In case you still have energy when it’s time for “back dancing,” Barnes can take care of that. She shuts off the lights, cranks the music even higher and shouts at everyone who’s lying on the floor in a hip bridge to “Tuck! Now!”

“I want them to have the biggest finish. Hit muscle fatigue and push it beyond,” she says.

It looks like Barnes has cracked that code.

Event Horizon: All barre-inas — and barre-inos! — are invited to the Barre Code’s grand opening (4-6 p.m., Sat., 2413 Mount Vernon Ave., Alexandria) for snacks, a raffle and more. RSVP at 703-299-0259 or Info@the-barrecode.com.

Barre-Hopping

Georgetown’s Fuel Pilates introduced the D.C. area to Xtend Barre, and now owner Kelly Griffith is opening a second studio completely dedicated to the method, which is rooted in Pilates principles. Swing by (1228 Blagden Alley NW, 202-289-2020, Xtendbarredc.com) for Saturday and Sunday’s grand-opening festivities, which include free classes (at 9 a.m., 10:30 a.m. and noon). If you don’t get into a class, you’ll get a code for a freebie to take later.

New ideas keep erupting at Arlington’s Lava Barre (3260 Wilson Blvd., 571-483-0468, Lavabarre.com), which has been experimenting with different class formats. One new offering is Lavalicious (every other Saturday at 3 p.m.), taught by pole-dance instructor Jessalyn Medairy, who uses the barre as a prop for sultry choreography. The studio also has outdoor training for small groups and plans to add prenatal and postnatal classes in January.

Vicky Hallett is a MisFits columnist and the Fit editor for Express.
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