It was all sweat and no tutus at the Elements Fitness barre class in East Hampton on a Saturday morning in late June. The studio, which opened in May, is the sister location to the original studio in Manhattan.
Sunshine poured into the high-ceilinged studio on the second floor of the building at 66 Newtown Lane as four women removed their sneakers and approached the wooden bars that run parallel to the windows.
“Squeeze, squeeze, squeeze,” Elements Fitness founder and barre instructor Andrea Fornarola Hunsberger said enthusiastically into her headset.
Each with one hand on the bar, the women spread their legs hip-width apart, raised their heels into tip-toe position, with toes pointing out, and slowly lowered their hips into squats.
The ballet-inspired workout aims to engage all major muscle groups and their accessory muscles through small, low-impact exercises with playground balls, resistance bands, a ballet bar and the participants’ own body weight, said Ms. Hunsberger, a professional dancer.
“We try to focus on finding a mind/body connection,” she said. “Usually when people are somewhat new, it feels a little awkward. But as you continue doing it, you get used to the exercises and you find positions faster and you’re able to get deeper into the muscle.”
While the exercises don’t cause a sweat in the way a long-distance run on a summer afternoon would, the “after-burn” is a definite reminder of the workout.
“It’s building strength and conditioning,” Ms. Hunsberger said. “You feel the effects of the class on Sunday. When you feel sore, your muscles are repairing themselves and you’re actually still burning calories. You up the metabolic rate and you’re continuing to burn calories.”
The advantage of barre, she added, is the low-impact work, which is beneficial for pregnant woman and anyone with an injury.
“For example, if you have high blood pressure, we get the heart rate up in a way that it’s safe. But if you’re going into a really hot yoga studio or a gym to lift heavy weights or run, it’s taking a toll on your body.”
Barre is also easily modified, said Ms. Hunsberger, and allows clients to determine how easy or difficult they want the workout to be.
Ms. Hunsberger founded Elements Fitness in January 2010 after seven years of living in Manhattan and working as a professional dancer.
“I actually started teaching barre classes as a means of survival,” she laughed. “Initially I moved to New York to work in musical theater and perform on stage. I also taught dance in high schools and children’s theaters across the city.”
The name of the studio, Ms. Hunsberger said, is largely inspired by her past and all the work she did to open her own space.
“I feel like I brought together all the elements of my background,” she said. “When I created the class, I took what I liked and subtracted what I didn’t, like from things I’d learned. My background as a dancer, using very traditional alignment, plus my love for Pilates and yoga, I was able to combine it all together.”
The name is also partially inspired by the cross-over between classes at Elements, Ms. Hunsberger added. Elements offers barre, in addition to a dance cardio workout, a barre express class, and private training.
“All our classes are based on a similar formula,” said Ms. Hunsberger. “Even if you take barre, there will be things in dance cardio that you’ll recognize. You’ll use interval training but we still do signature sculpting and toning. The ab work is similar, similar seat work,” she said.
For more information on times and classes at Elements Fitness, visit www.elementsfitnessstudio.com.