On a sweltering day in late June I made my way over to the sole NYC location of The Bar Method on Spring Street in SoHo. When I got out of the elevator on the second floor and entered the ridiculously gorgeous space, I was immediately and warmly welcomed by the front desk staff and Amy, my instructor and co-owner of the studio, who had one of her staffers show me around. I chose a locker, changed, and carried my key with me into the studio to hang on a hook.
I was the only first-timer in Amy’s class that day, and she watched me like a hawk throughout the hour. She had the special talent of making me feel welcome and noticed, but not unfairly singled out. New students definitely get called out at Bar way more than at Physique 57, where I’d heretofore taken all of my barre classes. In fact, there are way more callouts over the mic than corrections given with the mic off, and after reading others’ reviews it seems to be somewhat of a signature feature of Bar. Some people may be really turned off by that, but I personally like hearing corrections given to others because I can use them to adjust my own positioning. Usually I’m making the exact same mistake, or some variation thereof, of the student getting corrected. I also appreciate corrections given to me. In a dance class, corrections mean that the teacher sees potential in you and knows you can do better, so my inner teacher’s pet loves this shizz.
I was a little nervous about the class because it was labeled Mixed (Bar actually only offers Mixed and Level 2 classes at the NYC studio) and I’m still firmly in Beginner land at P57. I needn’t have worried too much, though, because the class proceeded at a manageable pace and Amy’s verbal instructions were superb. The class was definitely doable, albeit very challenging. Amy was always there to make sure we were working as deep as possible, and her firm, confident adjustments to my form, especially during arms and seatwork, were amazing. At one point she also murmured “nice tuck” in a surprised tone (then proceeded to adjust me even more).
Now, moving on to the class itself.
The class began with standard leg lifts, then we moved into assorted triceps exercises, bicep curls, and did a ton of pushups and some dips. Even though I only used 2 & 3 pound weights, the section felt NUTS and I wanted to cry, especially when Amy came around and correct my form during the isometric triceps extensions. Talk about burning.
The stretch on the barre after the warmup kinda hurt my ankle, but I adjusted my position and it felt better; I liked how ballet-y it was, with the quarter turn and side stretch.
The thigh section was incredibly slow and rough while it lasted, but actually ended pretty fast; I was honestly expecting more, even though I shook and trembled like whoa. I missed having the playground ball to squeeze between my thighs. (I’ve since gone to two more classes and none of the teachers have ever used the basket of playground balls sitting in the corner…what’s up with that? I need a little inner thigh playground ball action in my life!)
Seat work was less varied than at P57; we only did sets at the barre and no floor work, but it was totally killer. My glute medius shriveled up and died. There was more of an emphasis on an aggressive tuck, it seemed. One annoying thing– during seat work, when we were standing with a hip against the bar and our arms crossed in “seatbelt,” my supporting leg and hip started aching and my foot actually got pins and needles. Something was off with my alignment for sure. I wished I had the playground ball wedged between my body and the barre, like some P57 teachers tell us to do, because my alignment felt off. (However, I was able to adjust myself in subsequent classes and it’s since gotten better. I think. We’ll see.)
The abs section was kind of frustrating for me; I couldn’t feel my transverse abdominis connection during flat back or round back, but I know that I need to work on my breathing in order to really turn on the muscles. My neck also ached during curl because I was having trouble supporting my head. (I’ve since started to put extra foam under my back during curl and have been totally fine. Phew.)
We did some back dancing before the final stretch, and it was especially brutal after all the other work we’d done. When we got to stretching at the end I wanted to weep with joy. Speaking of stretching: something I liked way more at Bar vs. P57 was that all of the stretching in the class seemed wayyyy less rushed in this class. At P57, even in Beginner classes, I sometimes feel like I’m just throwing myself from position to position, and I worry that I’ll injure myself with all of the super-fast transitions. I felt like Amy really respected the importance of stretches between sets and didn’t just blow through them in two seconds apiece.
One tiny logistical complaint: While I majorly appreciate not having to bring my own lock, the key system seems clunky. The only possible upgrade to the incredibly lush locker room would be to install programmable combination locks! I say this because a girl walked away with my key by accident, so I was just standing by the board of keys looking dumb as the next class came in until she ran back in to return it. Blerg.
Overall, Bar felt more like a really strict, focused ballet conditioning class to me, whereas P57 kinda feels like a sorostitute workout party. And I actually think I liked both, but my dance nerd self likes anything that feels more ballet-esque. At Bar I loved the heavy emphasis on form, and I was really motivated to go inside myself and find the strength to push through the exercises. I think that because of this, I ended up taking far fewer breaks than I usually do at P57. I am a little embarrassed to admit that I did kinda miss my quasi-cheerleadery P57 instructors’ positive, chatty banter, but I appreciated Amy’s awesome cueing and on-the-beat counting.
Amy also knew everyone and clearly cares about her students. I overheard her asking people about their vacations, talking with a monthly unlimited member about her progress, etc. It definitely seems like they invest a lot of energy in their clients. That stuff gives me the warm fuzzies inside. After class, Amy asked if I’d enjoyed myself and if I could see myself coming back, and then offered me a great deal on the newcomer’s unlimited package. Of COURSE, in my dreamy and self-congratulatory post-workout state, I immediately took her up on the offer.
I took a couple of weeks off after that first class because I was super-busy and bopping in and out of town for the following weeks, but I recently went back and took two classes with Kristin, whose classes I also loved. After tonight’s class, I’m finishing my first week of the package (Wednesday-Tuesday) with three classes under my belt. I hope to hit it 3 times per week for the rest of this trial month. After that, I’ll reevaluate. Right now I can see myself continuing to attend classes at both Bar and P57, depending on whether I’m feeling more disciplined or in more need of cheerleading. But who knows? By that time I could potentially fall even more in love with the lush Bar studios and super-caring teachers, drink the rest of the Kool-Aid, and buy a membership. I’ve increasingly enjoyed myself as I’ve become more accustomed to what’s going on, so that’s definitely a possibility.
How about y’all– has anyone else been pulsing/shaking/sweating/crying lately, too?