Shreveport's latest fitness trend & why ‘everybody’ is doing it

Stop by Lauren LeBlanc’s Highland-area studio on any given day and you may feel like you’ve instantly stepped into a dance party or music video.

Lively music pumps through the speakers and a disco ball-like strobe light spins red and green specks of light across the ceiling and walls of a dark room as a large group of women move in synchronicity to LeBlanc’s every command.

“The main thing is that it s a lot of fun.”

Except, these women aren’t dancers. They’re college students, doctors, teachers, stay-at-home moms, retirees and more.

And instead of a party or music video, they’re a part of one of the latest dance fitness trends that has folks raving –– barre workouts.

sleek3While the workout can come under a number of different variations and monikers — a quick Google search turned up everything from cardio barre to booty barre — what separates a barre workout from the rest of the pack is that it incorporates ballet-inspired moves while blending other fitness disciplines, such as Pilates, yoga, cardio and more to help create longer, leaner physiques.

“The main thing is that it’s a lot of fun,” LeBlanc said. “You nip and tuck without the plastic surgery and hit large muscle groups as well as accessory muscles. It just makes you feel good from the inside out.”

Don’t Call It A Comeback

Technically, barre workouts are nothing new.

Health and fitness website Greatist.com traces its origins back to German ballerina Lotte Berk who created the method and eventually opened a London dance studio in 1959 where she taught it to others, including celebrity visitors such as Joan Collins and Barbara Streisand.

One of Berk’s students, Lydia Bach, is said to have brought the barre workout to America when she opened the Lotte Berk Method studio in New York City in 1971. And the rest is history.

However, it wasn’t until the pop culture influence of celebrities and films like the ballet-themed thriller Black Swan that the method finally made its way into the mainstream.

“In my class, I even say ‘We’re going to do our Natalie Portman, now,’ or ‘Let’s get Gwyneth Paltrow legs,’” LeBlanc said with a laugh. “It’s that lean dancer body that’s in now, not the bulky look, but long, lean muscles.”

Locally, you can find a barre workout at gyms and studios, like FitRx, Breathe Yoga and Willis Knighton Fitness Center.

LeBlanc is among the first to bring to the Shreveport-Bossier City area seven years ago. She traveled to Beverly Hills where she learned the method and was certified as a Celeb Barre instructor.

“My husband and I had a fitness centeron Mansfield Road for 10 years and Celeb Barre was always a fan favorite,” she said. “So, when I opened Sleek Physique in 2013, I knew I had to bring that class with me. That was the class everybody came for.”

She and her team offer up to 38 classes per week, and to date, Celeb Barre continues to be the most popular one with up to 70 students per class, ranging in age from teens to 75. The class is open to all skill levels and modifications are provided to accommodate beginners and those suffering with injuries such as knee, hip or back pain.

Raising The Barre

Eva Broadway, 60, of Shreveport, is among those who followed LeBlanc from her old studio to Sleek Physique for the Celeb Barre class.

“I love it because it works all of the muscles, the deep and not-so-deep ones,” Broadway said. “Plus, Lauren is always so energetic and encouraging. She’s authentic and I just enjoy it.”

For LeBlanc, that’s the whole point of the class.

“I make it more like an experience. You need to have good music and a light show so it doesn’t feel as intimidating or like people are staring at you,” she said.

Meredith Dixon, a 27-year-old LSU Medical School graduate, describes herself as more of a runner, but when she tried Celeb Barre class a little over a year ago, she was instantly hooked.

“I just really like the pace of it, and I discovered that it really helped me with running and stretching. I got addicted,” Dixon said.

Her friend and fellow LSU Med alum Courtney Bundrick soon followed. Bundrick said it’s the challenge that especially keeps her coming back.

“I like it because it never gets easier and there’s always something different… Sometimes I come twice a day,” she said.

Katy Smith, 25, found the class to be a great way to make new friends when she moved to the area from Ruston with her fiancé-now husband Andy Smith. Plus there was an added bonus.

“It helped me prepare for my wedding last month,” she said.

Celeb Barre is offered several times daily, Monday through Saturday at Sleek Physique, 6607 Line Ave. in Shreveport. Learn more at sleekphysiqueshreveport.com or call 318.861.1082.