By Léo Azambuja
There is a place on Kaua‘i where it’s actually a good thing to sweat the small stuff. It’s a place where you work those smaller muscles that are often neglected in even the most hardcore workouts. And while doing it, you’ll have a ton of fun dancing to upbeat music and forging what will likely become life-long friendships.
Welcome to Studio Barre & Soul.
“We do ballet-influenced moves, and it’s mixed with a little bit of yoga and also Pilates,” said Anna Bazalar, owner and founder of Studio Barre & Soul.
Barre workouts use a lot of isometric moves, she said, really putting to work your stabilizer muscles, the small muscles holding everything together underneath your larger muscles. The stabilizer muscles cinch everything together, sculpting a leaner, dancer’s body and helping us to keep a proper and graceful posture.
Despite having moves influenced by ballet, no one needs to know how to dance.
“You don’t need to know choreography, you don’t have to memorize anything,” Bazalar said. There are several kinds of classes for different tastes and levels of expertise, and within those classes, the teachers change the routine often, making it even more interesting.
Most Barre classes last an hour, but some are 45 minutes long. Music is a major part of it. Every teacher has a different taste for their tunes, said Bazalar, adding she likes music with beats.
“I’ll play anything; the more beats it has, the better,” she said.
Classes usually start with a quick warm up for knees and arms. Then you move to the bar, where you stretch your leg like a ballerina would. From there you move to a thigh and glute workout — the meat of their workout — followed by an ab workout and a three-to-four minute cool down. Everything is dictated by music, and there are always tools involved, whether they are weights, elastic bands, blocks or balls; so you never get the same exercise twice.
Sometimes, the movements are so small that it doesn’t even look like anyone is moving at all, but those small movements are working out the stabilizer muscles, Bazalar said.
Barre was developed in London, England by Lotte Berke, who started teaching it in 1959 out of her garage. Bazalar said women who would practice Barre with Berke were getting stronger and leaner. Berke’s daughter, Esther Fairfax, continued her mother’s legacy of teaching Barre.
Bazalar said the woman who helped her to train the initial crew at Studio Barre & Soul flew to London and met with Fairfax and learn more about the original Lotte Berke style of Barre. Whenever Bazalar visits California, she said, she trains with that same woman.
Barre came to Bazalar’s life following a serious injury. She led an athletic lifestyle her whole life. By the time she was pushing 30, she suffered a severe injury, rupturing her anterior crucial ligament, a key ligament that helps to stabilize the knee. In the span of 18 months, she had to go through three surgeries. During those difficult times, she found yoga and then Barre. Bazalar’s doctor was so impressed with her quick post-surgery recovery that he started recommending Barre as physical therapy.
“That really became my passion at that point, seeing how quickly it rehabbed my knee,” Bazalar said. “So anybody that walks in with a knee injury, I’m like, ‘You’re going to love it here, this is going to help you so much.’”
Studio Barre & Soul opened in Kapa‘a in December 2014. In March 2018, Bazalar opened a larger Barre Soul Deux on Rice Street, Lihu‘e. She said she had seen how many lives were enriched by her Kapa‘a studio, and that inspired her to open another one in Lihu‘e.
“I’m a person who really knows how to bring community together,” she said. “I’ve always been good at that, and now I’ve got to do it in bigger numbers.”
The new studio is quite large, with room for a retail space up front and a babysitting area in the back. So yes, moms can bring their kids and enjoy a Barre class.
There’s a wide range of people who come to Barre, from 12-year-old girls to 75-year-old grandmas. Even men come to the classes. Everyone is welcome, and everyone is treated as if they were part of the community, regardless of who they are.
“We are a very body-positive studio, you’ll see all the body types in here, thick, thin, tall, small, younger or older,” Bazalar said. “I think when people see the diversity of women that come here, they automatically feel comfortable.”
Studio Barre & Soul also gives back to the community by offering free half-hour classes on Mental Health Mondays, and also charging a reduced fee for community classes, in which 100 percent of the revenue goes to a certain foundation.
Bazalar said she loves their “community of women,” and even before she can get to know new students, her clients have already built a positive relationship with them. It becomes a powerful group of women who empower each other, she said.
“I really love what I do. I have a real passion for Barre because I really love to share what it is all about,” said Bazalar, adding her studio is the first and only one on Kaua‘i that is 100 percent dedicated to Barre.
Visit www.barrekauai.com or download the app Mindbody to book your workout. There are some sweet deals for those willing to give more than one try. Bazalar said everyone should come to at least three classes to find out if Barre is for them.
Studio Barre & Soul is at 4-733 Kuhio Hwy, Building 3 in Kapa‘a, and Barre Soul Deux is at 4286 Rice St. in Lihu‘e.