LOTTE BERK, EXERCISE PIONEER

lotte berkThe Bar Method is based on the technique of Lotte Berk, (shown left), a German dancer who fled the Nazi’s in the late 1930’s and came to London with her British husband.

After injuring her back, Lotte got the idea of combining her ballet bar routines with her rehabilitative therapy to form an exercise system.  In 1959 she opened The Lotte Berk Studio in her West End basement.   There, she sculpted the bodies of her students, among them Brooke Shields, Joan Collins and Brit Ekland, as she entertained them with bawdy humor and tips on love.

One of her students, an American named Lydia Bach, was so impressed with the technique that she bought the rights to Lotte’s name and in 1971 opened The Lotte Berk Method exercise studio in Manhattan.

Ten years later, two sisters, Burr Leonard and Mimi Fleischman took their first Lotte Berk Method class and also fell in love with the technique.  In 1991, Burr along with her new husband Carl Diehl bought a license to operate Lotte Berk Method studios in Southern Connecticut.

Burr spent a year studying and teaching The Lotte Berk Method at the Manhattan studio, then opened her first Lotte Berk exercise studio in Greenwich, Connecticut.

Immediately, Burr noticed that some of her clients’ knees, backs and shoulders were not responding well to the exercises and sought the help of a physical therapist.  Under his guidance she reworked the sculpting exercises so that they would target students’ muscles without impacting their joints. (To read about the health benefits of The Bar Method Exercise Studio’s low impact workout, click here.)

burr leonard|lotte berkDuring the 90s, Burr and Carl opened three more Lotte Berk Method studios in New Canaan, Darien and Westport, Connecticut.   At right, you can see Burr Leonard and Lotte Berk in 1991 when Burr and Carl visited her in London.

At the end of their ten-year license term, the Connectict studios were thriving, but Burr’s  version of The Lotte Berk Method had become so unlike her licensor’s that she and Carl made the decision not to renew.  In 2001, they founded The Bar Method, sold their Connecticut studios and opened their flagship Bar Method exercise studio in San Francisco, California.  Two years later, Burr’s sister Mimi Leonard Fleischman opened the first Los Angeles Bar Method studio in partnership with her husband Mark.

Since then, Carl has retired, and around 70 studios have opened in the U.S. and Canada.  (Click here to find all the Bar Method Exercise Studios.) Burr divides her time between guiding her franchisees and producing Bar Method media products, among them exercise dvds “Change Your Body!”, “Accelerated Workout,” “Super Sculpting” 1 and 2,” “Beginner’s Workout,” and “Dancer’s Body.”  (Click here to sample and buy these Bar Method exercise dvds.)

During the same period that Burr and Carl were opening their first Bar Method studios, other former Lotte Berk Method teachers began to develop their own versions of the technique.  In 2003, Lotte Berk managers Fred DeVito and Elisabeth Haffpapp gathered up eight of their fellow teachers and left to join Exhale Spa, located ten blocks away from their former studio, where they now teach a version of Lotte Berk called Core Fusion.

The departure of so many key teachers caused The Lotte Berk Method itself to fold in 2005.   The next year another off-shoot sprang up when Tanya Becker, a former Lotte Berk Method teacher, became the director of Physique 57, a Lotte Berk-styled studio on West 57th Street.  Other current Lotte Berk Method spin-offs include Pure Barre, Fluidity, Dailey Method, BarrePhysique, Barre3, Karve, PopPhysique, Go Figure, Body Fit, The Debbie Frank Studio, and Bodd.

11 replies
  1. Tammy
    Tammy says:

    I love the Bar Method workout. Whenever I go to a different exercise routine for variety, I don’t feel as good afterwards as I do after doing a Bar Method workout. I hope there will be more DVDs coming out soon, as I live in Vermont, and there are no studios here. In the meantime, are there any similar DVDs I could through into my routine for variety?

    Reply
  2. Gena Khodos
    Gena Khodos says:

    Hello,

    I am relatively new to Bar Method, as I have only been doing it for two months (4X/week). I keep reading about these transformative effects, where people are losing inches within weeks, and I am just not seeing the same results. I LOVE Bar Method for the merciless burn and the consideration of my marathon ravaged knees, but I am wondering when the promised inches off the waist will begin to melt off.

    Thank you.

    Reply
  3. Mimi Fleischman
    Mimi Fleischman says:

    Hi there,
    If you are working specifically on your waist, you should know that abs are harder to reach than most of the rest of your body. The waist is specifically related to your transverse abdomen as well as your rest of your ab muscles. Talk to your teachers about your question and ask them to watch you carefully in class to see if your form is correct. Feel free also to write me to follow-up. Best, Mimi Fleischman, Director, Bar Method LA barmethodla@aol.com

    Reply
  4. Anne Johnston
    Anne Johnston says:

    I love the Bar Method workout too! I’ve tried others but this one just makes me feel better, like I worked harder and it also doesn’t hurt my joints! At 53 I’m starting to feel a few aches and pains and I really appreciate how gentle these exercises are. I would love it if you could put out more videos so I could have some variety in my workouts. Or, maybe you could even put videos on a website and charge a monthly subscription fee. I would happily pay to have access to a changing collection of your videos. Just a thought! Thanks for a great, thoughtful exercise routine!

    Reply
  5. Mindy
    Mindy says:

    I really like Anne’s idea of changing workouts via web for those of us who do not have a studio nearby. I would not mind paying that monthly subscription. 🙂

    Reply
  6. Vicki
    Vicki says:

    2 comments:

    -It was good to read the history, esp. with the explanation re: the spinoffs. There does seem to be a lot of competition in this type of workout.

    -Even though there are Bar Method studios in my general area, I might try the DVDs. I too support the idea of utilizing the Internet as a means to deliver workouts to subscribing members.

    Reply
  7. Michelle in Bcn
    Michelle in Bcn says:

    I recently moved to Barcelona and am looking for a place that teaches the Bar Method (or similar). Anyone know of something here in Barcelona ?

    Reply
  8. Mimi Fleischman
    Mimi Fleischman says:

    Hi Michelle,
    I am not aware of any bar classes in Barcelona. Would love to hear from you if you find something!
    Best,
    Mimi

    Reply
  9. Karen
    Karen says:

    Hi,

    In follow up to the question about finding bar classes in Barcelona, is anyone aware of any studios offering them there now? I’m moving to Barcelona this summer and am addicted to the bar method…hoping I can find a way to keep up with the classes!

    Thanks,
    Karen

    Reply
  10. Bar Method Headquarters
    Bar Method Headquarters says:

    Hi Karen,
    Thanks for your interest! We do not yet have any studios in Barcelona, but our DVDs are a great way to take your favorite workout abroad! They are formatted to play on international DVD players, zones 1-8. Check them out at http://shop.barmethod.com. Enjoy your travels and good luck!
    Best,

    Bar Method HQ

    Reply

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