The concept of Disco Barre came to me one night listening to the Larry Levan remix of Taana Gardners, Work Your Body whilst practicing some moves after recently qualifying as a barre instructor. To me, the combination made sense. It conjured up thoughts of dance studios, the fitness craze of the 80s, leotards and legwarmers, Madonna dancing in clubs, NYC and the Paradise Garage and Mickael Baryshnikov partying in Studio 54. I trademarked the name the next day.
Disco Barre is an hour of intense, controlled movement and isometric work where we work our muscles to fatigue. They literally pulsate within every pulse and the feedback I get is that the music transports you to a different place and detracts from the hardcore burn, which was my intention.
I’m a music obsessive and my early years consisted mainly of Madonna, but were also heavily influenced by Adam and The Ants, Blondie and Eurythmics . You could say I’ve always favoured an 80s, electro vibe. At 15 years old I fell in love with house music – and I still am, but as I’ve got older, have delved further back to its disco roots and it’s this musical heritage that is evident in my class. There was a recent study which claimed we don’t listen to new music over the age of 34 and this is mostly true of me, with only a little exception.
The warm up is always done to a high energy disco track like ‘Fly With The Wind’ by the Peter Jacques Band. It’s fun, fast paced and gets the blood pumping. I use more repetitive house music for the booty barre bit (the longest and probably the hardest section), so you can really get in your zone and the driving beats can encourage you to push harder. I favour disco tracks for some of the more balletic exercises as the funkier rhythms make you want to dance (although I always feel mean at this point stopping clients having a shoulder shimmy, but it’s not a dance class, the aim is for shoulder stabilisation). I let my inner drama queen out by playing a big number like Frankie Goes to Hollywood ‘Relax’ or ‘Walk the Night’ by there Bent Brothers for the arm section in the centre – tough tunes for tough moves. For the cool down stretch we end with a disco slow jam (my fave is Madleen Kane’s ‘You and I’) and between that it’s an eclectic mix of whatever takes my fancy, but the music inspires the moves, not the other way round.
I probably am a bit of a music snob, but there is a place in fitness for tunes that you wouldn’t listen to at home but could totally work out to. The Eye of The Tiger is an obvious choice and I’m not knocking it at all. It evokes images of Rocky Balboa pounding the pavements and his passion and dedication is motivation for anyone.
In the Naughties I was huge fan of the Les Mills Body Pump and Body Combat classes – a proper addict – and part of their appeal was the cheesy tracks that somehow worked perfectly to the sequences. I’ll never forget the endorphin rush I got jabbing and uppercutting to a version of Sk8ter Boy which sounded like Avril Lavine was on speed.
There are now so many music and exercise hybrids which illustrates how powerful the link is. Music is so subjective and if a teacher is loving the music they are teaching to, that should rub off on the class. If it makes you move, that’s all that matters.