Crash Course: Chelsea Piers joined the boutique fitness bonanza in 2013 with the opening of its dedicated mind-body studio, a beautiful space that’s home to the sport center’s various barre classes. The Total Barre class is Chelsea Piers’ proprietary program created by the training staff and takes students through 55-minutes of rigorous full-body barre exercises. Other classes include Sweat Barre, Core Barre, and Barre Assets.
[left]where: Pier 60 entrance W. 19th Street
perks: mats, towels, lockers
sweat score: 7 out of 10
[/left][right]wear: bare feet or socks
instructor: Marie Strevens
class: total barre
cost: $30 drop-in [/right][line]
Being relatively new to New York City, I view every fit crash as an opportunity to explore a new area or neighborhood. In many ways this blog has become a self-guided tour of my new home town – a very sweaty and spandex-clad one. So when Chelsea Piers reached out to invite me to crash their barre program, I was excited to finally get over to the west side to check out the behemoth sports center I have heard so much about.
This fit crash brought me to the beautiful mind-body studio at Pier 60. The entrance is located at the intersection of W. 19th Street and the West Side Highway. You’ll have to dodge various bicyclists, rollerbladers, scooterers, runners, and other pedestrians on the pathway just in front of the studio, but I know you can do it. Consider it a fun way to test your reflexes.
Once in the front door of the studio, all is calm and bright. Check in at the front desk and walk up the small ramp to the locker area to store your belongings. I noticed that there wasn’t a locker-room, but there is a changing room and a bathroom if you need to switch outfits. Showers are located in the larger complex and are open to members only, so you’re out of luck if you’re a drop-in student. There are wet towels stored in a fridge in the waiting area. If you’re in a pinch and need to freshen up after class, those might do the trick.
I was signed up for the 12:45 pm Sunday Total Barre class with Marie, a beautiful French dancer who made sure we were all set up with the proper weights and accessories. Her posture was impeccable, which of course made me sit rail straight on my mat in an attempt to find the same. The atmosphere in the room was casual and there was little to no pre-class chatter. Either everyone was suffering the effects of a fun Saturday night or they were just happy to keep to themselves. The energy hovered just above a murmur. Students drifted in moments before class started, and some after.
Marie put on a microphone headset, turned on the soundtrack, and started class with a bang. We got right into a dynamic set of plies, deep plies, and squats. “Um, what happened to the warm up?” I remember thinking to myself. But looking back I realize that the warm up was just very…vigorous. And perhaps hiding under the guise of a leg-burning super set. Marie was not playing around.
The music was a generic mix of hits from the 80s and 90s, which really can’t go wrong. But there were a few times when Marie’s count of “one, two, one, two” didn’t match the beat of the song, which became my only real pet peeve. She was otherwise authoritative and on point, but not overly peppy or saccharine – something I sincerely appreciate as sometimes barre instructors cross the line into full cheerleader mode.
Her cues took a bit of concentration to follow, but if you did exactly as she said, you discovered a whole new set of muscles hiding under your glutes and shoulders that have never seen the light of day. All of the various tucks and pulses echoed things I have done in other barre classes, but the 55-minutes definitely felt like a very distinct and unique experience. Not “Pure Barre-ish” or “Barre3-ish.” Entirely Pier 60-ish.
For those looking for the nitty-gritty details: we incorporated leg work with the dreaded blue resistance ball, ab sequences, seat work at the barre, and arm exercises with small weights. It was full-on full-body. No muscle was safe.
One thing I noticed right away was the steady pace of the class: we seemed to cover more ground and do more sets of exercises than any other barre class I’ve been to. I think that’s because there weren’t extended periods of stretching as there are in other studios. There were a few stretches here and there (especially after that killer seat work, ouch!), but it wasn’t a pronounced part of the 55 minutes. At $30, the class is quite expensive, so it it’s nice to know you cover all the bases and leave having truly worked every last muscle.
Overall I thought it was a challenging class that felt more athletic than others I’ve taken in the past. It always blows my mind how different and varied barre classes can be, and I recommend organizing a barre crawl to a few different studios to see what class style you like best. Some are slower and more measured. Others are energetic and upbeat. Some incorporate more traditional ballet moves and terms. Others go to town with pelvic pulsing and booty squeezing. The spectrum is incredibly wide and it takes a bit of trial and error to find what works for you. You know what that means: get crashing!