It was something Kelly Griffith always wanted to do, but when her Xtend Barre studio in Shaw flooded, she had little choice but to take her ballet-inspired workout on the road.
But where? Griffith would need a space with some sort of railing for students to hold while rising into a releve. And that space would have to have enough room for 10 to 20 people to plunge into grand plie. Railing? Wide space? Bar.
Yes, barre in a bar. Actually, a few bars peppered throughout the Shaw-U Street corridor. Through June 10, Griffith is hosting an Xtend Barre Crawl at local pubs, including Dacha, Marvin, Right Proper and Baby Wale.
There is no drinking during the classes (I know, bummer). But you could always stay and have a round, though some might say that kind of defeats the purpose of exercising.
All classes are free, but you must sign up online at tinyurl.com/xtendbarrecrawl to reserve a spot. Once you’re in, all you need to bring are sneakers, a mat and two water bottles to stand in for dumbbells. Classes are filling up quickly. But depending on how long it takes to repair the plumbing at the studio, there may be more on the horizon.
“The fitness industry in D.C. is growing, people have options, and there are a lot of fun classes to take. So you just want to keep your clients engaged and happy,” Griffith said.
Xtend Barre has gained a loyal following since Griffith introduced the class five years ago at her Fuel Pilates studio in Georgetown. The method, created by Andrea Rogers, uses elements of ballet and pilates. There is no choreography, just a whole lot of small isometric movements that set your muscles on fire.
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“They heard my story, and everybody was so sympathetic,” she said. “People in the neighborhood were open to the idea, and I started reaching out to businesses I didn’t have a connection to and they were like, ‘Let’s do it.’ ”
Because none of the bar owners are charging Griffith for the space, she figured it was only fair not to charge for any of the classes.
“It’s just great community-building,” she said. “I’m hoping to keep my clients happy, and maybe they’ll bring friends because there’s happy hour.”
On a recent Tuesday evening, I dropped by Marvin to check out the second class of the crawl. In a backroom on the second floor of the 14th Street bar, Griffith had set up a pretty convincing ballet studio.
Tables and chairs were scooted to one end. Students lined up along the bar and side mantels, the makeshift railing. Just about all of the 16 people in attendance were Xtend regulars, eager to keep up with their classes.
“Everyone, spread out,” said Griffith, a redhead with the long limbs of a dancer. “Give yourself some room and turn your feet out into first position.”
After several minutes of warming up with leg lifts, plies and arm curls with the water bottles, we made our way to the “barre.” Sunlight bounced off of bottles of Rolling Rock and Corona behind the bar as we placed our left hands on the ledges.
“Shoulders back. Don’t stick your butt out. Tuck your hips under,” Griffith told me, as I sank a little deeper into a plie. Flashbacks of ballet lessons at Mrs. Blake’s Rockville studio filled my head. She wasn’t too keen on me sticking out my booty, either.
“Get as low as you can in that plie, now pulse up,” Griffith said. “You have eight, seven, six . . . hold it. And bring it all the way up.”
No burpees, no jumps squats and still a fine layer of sweat formed on my forehead. My neighbors seemed perfectly at ease with every move, as I wondered how simply holding my arm above my head could hurt so much. Did I mention that I’d never taken a barre class? So much for thinking that six years of ballet as a child would give me a leg up.
“All right, guys, let’s descend to the floor. Come into a plank. Now give me some push-ups.”
Griffith took us through a series of pilates moves, working our hamstrings with bridges and our abs with roll-ups. After hitting every muscle, even ones I hadn’t used in a while, she led us in some much needed stretching.
After the class, students started rolling up their mats to clear out. “Thank you all for coming,” she said. “There’s a special: $75 for two weeks of unlimited classes when you book your first class once the studio reopens.”
A pair of regulars gushed over the novel studio space while gathering up their belongings.
“What a fun space! I was literally here last night at happy hour and now I’m back here doing barre,” said Megan Tackney, 31, who lives in Columbia Heights. Her friend Anais Cayo, 29, chimed in that they had been going to Marvin since it first opened, much like Xtend.
“We love barre,” said the Adams Morgan resident. “The instructors are always good and Xtend is a good mix of cardio and strength training, but you’re not drenched afterwards.”
Speak for yourself.
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