New Columbia fitness studio offers dance-like workouts

Wednesday, October 24, 2012 | 3:47 p.m. CDT
Class participants prepare to leave Pure Barre, a new fitness studio at 124 E. Nifong, on Friday morning. Pure Barre opened Oct. 11 and offers 38 classes a week between 5:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.

COLUMBIA — Bianca Lilavois, an MU student who has been dancing all her life, took a free class at the Pure Barre studio earlier this month. The workout is perfect for dancers, she said.

"I usually take yoga and Pilates," Lilavois said. "This was a good combination of those and good for toning your muscles."


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Pure Barre opened Oct. 11, expanding the latest trend in exercise-set-to-music fitness to Missouri. The studio at 124 E. Nifong is both the first to open in Columbia, as well as in the state.  

Pure Barre offers an intense, no-impact, 55-minute, ballet-barre-based workout, said Lauren Matteson, co-owner and instructor of the Columbia studio.

She described the music-driven workout as a combination of Pilates, yoga and light weight-lifting centered around the ballet barre.

Exercises tone body like yoga and Pilates

Like yoga and Pilates, Pure Barre workouts focus on toning the body by working through various poses at a slower pace. Each pose or exercise isolates a different muscle, or set of muscles, so by the end of the class the entire body has been worked, Matteson, 24, said.

Movements are based on ballet techniques. Tools such as the ballet barre or light weights are added to increase difficulty and benefits.

Exercises at the barre focus on either resistance or stability training. Clients hold a position standing at the barre and exercise one muscle group at a time, Matteson said.

They use the weights — usually 2 pounds at the beginning — to tone the arms through short, repetitive movements.

A class typically ends with exercises focusing on the abs and lower back, followed by a full-body stretch.

The idea is to fatigue small muscles with small flexes or tiny movements, then stretch them out to create long lean muscles, Matteson said.

The techniques target the arms, abs, thighs and "seat" using the ballet barre to perform small isometric movements, according to the official Pure Barre website.

The workout targets areas women often have trouble with, though men can attend classes and be challenged, too, she said.

Founder started with background in dance

The first Pure Barre studio opened in 2006 when Carrie Rezabek Dorr took her dance history and combined it with posture-boosting positions, Pilates, light weights and yoga.

Rezabek Dorr traveled the country seeking out markets for her studios and began franchising Pure Barre in 2009.

The 100th studio will open at the end of the month, and more than 20 are set to open nationwide, Matteson said.

"It's effective," instructor Erika Christiansen said, explaining why she teaches the technique.

"The movement is challenging and effective, positions can be modified to fit your own body, and the music really drives the class."

Nearly everyone starts with the basic class. As clients become more familiar with the workouts, they can push the intensity and add more options.

"We will implement different tools to work with to keep things fresh," Matteson said.

In addition to the basic class, an introductory  "Breaking Down the Barre" class will be offered monthly beginning Sunday.

"Pure Barre Lite" classes will also be available once a month for those who want to take a slower-paced class before starting the basic class.

Classes are held seven days a week

Pure Barre is open every day of the week, offering seven classes Monday through Thursday, five on Friday, three on Saturday and two on Sunday. The number of classes and times could change depending on client preferences, Matteson said.

Classes start at 5:30 a.m. Monday through Thursday, with the final class beginning at 6 p.m.  Classes on Friday run from 5:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Saturday classes run from 8 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.; Sunday classes are scheduled from 2:40 p.m. to 4:45 p.m. Registration is required through the Pure Barre's Mind Body Online site. Each class costs $21, but discounted packages are available.

Classes are capped at 22 people to help instructors build relationships with clients and work with everyone on an individual level.

City gives broad support to fitness

Matteson was vacationing in Santa Rosa Beach, Fla., last March when she attended her first Pure Barre class.

"I fell in love with the workout and thought 'Columbia needs this,'" she said.

Other families from Columbia were also taking the class in Florida. Matteson surveyed them, and they told her that Pure Barre would "be a great addition to the community."

After taking five classes, she applied to join the franchise and flew to Denver to complete her certification, meet Dorr and "really see the heart of the corporation."

Columbia is an active town and supports a variety of fitness options, Matteson said, which convinced her there was a market, particularly among women. Her market research also discovered a large dance community "that might spark an interest in the exercise."

Matteson has a journalism degree from MU in strategic communications and a minor in business administration. Having financial and managerial skills, as well as the ability to market herself and the business, have been helpful, she said.

"I've been really able to use all those qualities to learn how to run a business and preparing for opening and hiring," she said. "So far things have gone smoothly."

Matteson describes herself as a "busy body" and "competitive." She played soccer and participated in dance as a child. She remained active during college by continuing to play soccer and dance recreationally, as well as try yoga, Pilates, Insanity and Zumba.

"You name it, I've done it," Matteson said. "I loved them all, but I just missed something about having the dance aspect and the music and the technique."

Supervising editor is Jeanne Abbott.

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