A question that comes up a lot when you tell people that you take barre classes is, “What exactly is barre? It’s like ballet, right?” Admittedly, barre is one of the harder forms of exercise to explain. Spinning? Easy peasy: “Stationary bike, dark room, music.” Weight lifting? No problem: “Pick up heavy thing, put it down. Repeat.” Running? No brainer: “Run. Because you’re a crazy person, apparently. Because running is allegedly a normal, healthy thing to do even when you’re not being chased by a bear.”

Barre can be a tough one to explain to someone who’s never tried it or even heard of it, though. Maybe it’s because it incorporates so many different types of movement, or because every class is different. Whatever the reason, perhaps it’s easiest to start by explaining what barre is NOT…

It is NOT a ballet class.

“Oh, I could never do a barre class. I can’t dance AT ALL.”

Take it from me, dear readers, a devoted barre junkie whose prior experience with ballet was mainly limited to a healthy obsession with the movie Center Stage during freshman year of high school. You do not need any dance experience to take barre classes!  We do use a ballet barre for balance and leverage on certain movements, but barre is not a dance fitness class. You do not need rhythm; you will not be required to shimmy or gyrate. At no point will you be asked to perform a combination across the floor. This is probably a huge relief if your preferred form of dance is of the “standing on my bed singing into a hairbrush” variety.

It is NOT a flexibility contest.

“I could never do barre–I can’t even touch my toes!”

For some reason, there’s a common misperception that barre is actually a training camp for future Cirque du Soleil performers. Will barre help improve your flexibility? Absolutely! But we aren’t spending a whole hour working on folding ourselves into human pretzels. Barre is all about working your muscles to fatigue and then stretching them out so they rebuild long and lean. It doesn’t matter whether you can wrap your leg around your head or can barely touch your toes. Your flexibility right now isn’t a prerequisite–it’s just a starting point.

It is NOT just for women.

“Dudes don’t do barre. It’s not manly.”

We are pretty sure that the brave guys who have attended an infamous B Present Date Day and lived to tell the tale would agree: it’s not for sissies! After all, there’s nothing inherently girly about push ups, plank holds, and jumping jacks. While most of the regular clientele at B Present is indeed of the female persuasion, men are always welcome in class. My husband has started tagging along on Saturday mornings and even claims to enjoy the classes, though I continue to harbor a suspicion that he’s keeping a tally in a secret notebook so that someday he can whip it out and say “Look at all these barre classes I went to with you!” and then force me to go to a golf tournament with him or something.

It is NOT just for people who are already in shape.

“I haven’t worked out in ages. I think I need to start with something easier!”

Certainly if you are coming back from an injury, have some physical limitations, or simply haven’t been active in a long time–or ever!–you need to listen to your body and take it at the right pace. That said, even if you are just starting out on your personal journey toward fitness, B Present has so many options to offer. Try Barre Basics–a 45-minute class, designed with the beginner in mind. Or maybe check out personal training, which can be tailored to meet you exactly where you are. And of course, there’s always Barre on Demand, which can be done in the privacy of your own living room if you’re feeling shy and just need a few practice runs before visiting the studio. Even in the regular classes on the schedule, nearly everything can be modified to provide just the right level of challenge for YOU, right now.

So now that we know what barre at B Present is NOT, tell us… What IS barre to you? Sound off in the comments below!

See you at the barre!