◊ THE CLASSES: GALS (Glutes, Abs, Legs) & X-Training ◊
WHAT YOU NEED
Barre socks (mandatory) for GALS
Running shoes (not required but ppl usually prefer them) for X-Training
Barre Belle has quickly drummed up a little reputation for being one of YYC’s most pretty & posh studios. And we get it. Opening on Valentine’s Day in 2016 by former Breakfast Television’s, Jill Belland, and fitness fanatic Kristi Stuart, these women rounded up some of Calgary’s best interior designers and barre instructors to put together what might be the chicest boutique fitness studios we’ve ever seen. Both the GALS (Glutes, Abs and Legs) and X-Training classes pushed us to fatigue and the instructors were approachable yet enviable and so damn fit. They’ve been in MEGA expansion mode opening their fourth location in Calgary earlier this year, and now spreading the love across Canada this fall with locations opening in Vancouver and Toronto. Watch this space, you guys, these belles are about to take over.
Barre Belle has four locations in almost every quadrant in Calgary in Mission (SW), Auburn Bay (SE), Parkdale (2642 Parkdale Blvd NW) and the latest stunning location that opened in the beginning of January 2018, West 85th (420, 8560 8A Avenue SW). We’ve now attended a class at their original location in Mission and their SE location in Auburn Bay. The Mission studio is located on 4th Street in between 18th and 19th Avenue SW beside a few adorable wallet clearing boutiques like Fieldstudy and Mini Purr. Street parking is available along 4th Street, or the neighbouring side streets, and there are multiple bus stops along 4th Street and 17th Avenue for the rare few who take public transport in this city.
The Auburn Bay location is very different, being located in one of Calgary’s most southern neighbourhoods, it’s in the multi business complex Auburn Station in the middle of the burbs. Parking is, of course, very plentiful outside all businesses, but taking public transportation is another story. The 302 bus would take you from downtown and take over an hour as the LRT doesn’t really go near SE Calgary. Considering it’s location, walking also only makes sense if you live in the immediate vicinity of Auburn Station. As Barre Belle expands across Canada, they’re opening in Vancouver in the famously trendy Kitsilano (also where lulu began, fun fact) and they’ll be opening in Toronto’s midtown poshy neighbourhood, Forest Hill.
CLASS SCHEDULE + PRICE
Almost all of the classes offered at Barre Belle are barre based (shocker) but they have a great mix of strength and cardio components that aim to tighten and tone your beautiful bods to create slender, strong dancer physiques. There are six types of classes in total to create said physique, with their most popular being their signature BarreBelle Fit, a full-body, 60-minute class that incorporates exercises at the ballet barre, on the mat and in the centre of the room. This is the perfect class to include in your regular routine or if you’re new to barre in general, actually. We took the GALS: Glutes, Abs, Legs class, which is all about your lower body and has a splash of 80’s thrown in for good measure with the use of ankle weights a lá Jane Fonda, and the X-Training class, which is the least barre of them all focusing more on cardio and cross training. All classes are OK for beginners, but the Barre Belle Fat Burn, Barre X, and X-Training classes are specifically designed to be higher intensity, cardio blasts of sweatyness so it’s easier if you’ve at least done a barre class before trying these. There’s also a Belles and Babes class which is a 50-minute mum and baby class where you utilize the baby weight (literally) to get your tone back. Baby age can vary, as long as the little bub can be strapped to you in your own baby carrier. No matter which class you choose though, all classes will include high repetition exercises with light weights and/or resistance bands, dynamic movement and, of course, the barre.
The class schedule at the Mission studio is the most built out out of all of the locations, which is no surprise as it’s the most central and the longest running studio. During the work week, you’ll typically find nine classes in a day geared towards the morning, lunch and immediately after work crowd with 2-3 options before 9:30am, a lunchtime class, and the rest happening post 5:00pm. Classes usually finish by lunchtime on the weekends as well, so there’s no sleeping in allowed. The 6:00am and 6:50am classes and the immediately after work classes at 5:30pm and 6:30pm are often wait-list only, and you can book classes up to a week in advance, so do that. It’s also ideal to arrive 15-minutes early, because five minutes before class starts, they may give your spot away to someone else.
The Auburn Bay schedule is a bit leaner with six classes a day Monday-Friday starting as early as 5:30am (they see you commuters) with the last class at 8:00pm. The weekend schedule is super lean with only two classes on Saturday wrapping by 10:00am and a few more options on Sundays. One thing that we love love love at the Auburn Bay location is they include child minding for the 9:30am class Monday-Friday. There was child minding during our X-Training class and don’t even get me started on the insanely inspirational super moms that were taking this class with their little bubs in the next room. Oh but also on this – we wonder if child minding classes would be beneficial for all locations? I know it’s assumed that as soon as you have a baby you move to the burbs, but I wonder if child minding was offered downtown if it would be utilised!? Hmmmm.
Class prices are on the top end for barre at $25 per class for a drop-in, however it’s the same as many of their competitors like Barre Body Studio, Barre3, and Barreworks but a bit more than their Calgary neighbours The Sweat Lab at $23. Considering the quality of the studio and the classes, we’re not mad about $25. Besides paying a drop-in fee though, there are a few other options for class packs or memberships. You can purchase a 10 or 20 class pass, and they have over four membership options which vary depending on when you want to fork over the cash. Memberships make the most sense if you’re planning to attend more than twice a week, otherwise the 20 Class Pass is the best deal, dropping per class rates to $20. They also offer private classes for $150 an hour, child minding for $10 per child or $15 for two kiddos.
- Drop-in: $25
- New to Barre Belle 2 week unlimited: $55
- 10 Class Pass: $210 ($21 per class)
- 20 Class Pass: $400 ($20 per class)
- Auto-Renew Membership: $175
- Premium Auto-Renew Membership: $225 (includes 10% off merch, 3 bring a friend passes per month)
- Belle Society: $350 (group pass for 12 people)
- 6 Month Membership: $999
- Annual Membership: $1800
Barre Belle has a bit of a reputation for being beautiful, posh, expensive, sometimes a bit snobby and full of fit beautiful woman. Thankfully, our experience showed zero signs of snobbery but a zillion signs of beautiful. We were making mental Pinterest boards from the interior decor perfection that is this studio from the minute we walked in. If that’s not your scene, that’s totally and completely ok. But if you want to work out in a beautiful feminine space that feels like a combination of a spa and the latest Elle Living mag, then this is the place for you. Designed by Aly Velji, one of Calgary’s top interior designers, the studio’s 1920s-inspired millwork is total Insta bait and every detail is considered in the décor and the layout of each studio.
Their flagship studio, Mission, has an open layout in the main foyer, the sign-in desk is accented with a massive white fabric art installation and the waiting area is as chic as the neighbouring boutique shops with exposed cement, amethyst side tables and Aztec print pillows that all somehow go together. The “vault”, a little alcove tucked into the cement making it feel like a boutique in a cave, is full of lulu x Barre Belle branded gear, cheeky barre sweatshirts, and other things you don’t need but definitely want. Past the lobby is a locker lined hallway that leads to the water station and the studios, of which there are two that are white and black and chic as hell. With black crown molding in all the right places, the mirrors are backlit, the equipment is mostly black, and the studios are finished with feminine chandeliers. The one (female) change room is completed with a massive floral wall mural, pretty pillows, and a ton of amenities including bathrooms, a shower, blow dryers and beauty products from local spa Babor.
Their third studio, Auburn Bay, that opened in March 2017 is a bit smaller in terms of the lobby and size of the change room, but their main studio is actually larger than Missions with a capacity of about 28 (Mission fits 18-20 comfortably). The decor has all of the same trappings with a fresh main lobby, this time accented with 70’s macrame hanging planters, two studios finished with their signature black crown moulding, back lit mirrors and chevron floors, and change rooms equipped with fancy product and beautiful wall murals.
Their latest studio to open in Calgary’s west end, West 85th opened in January 2018 and it’s probably the most impressive of them all (that said, we still haven’t seen Parkdale). With a wide open front lobby finished with a custom made rose print carpet (bc winter boots) the open concept continues down a beautiful hallway that I literally wish was my house. This location only has one studio but it’s huge and might actually be the most beautiful studio we’ve seen yet – big call – we know. This location has a v large women’s change room with multiple showers, washrooms, plenty of space to get ready and it has the same floral print murals as Auburn Bay. This studio does have a second washroom that men could use if they were to impress us all with their presence.
Although you might think this beautiful space lends itself exclusively to gorgeous, trendy, slender 25-year old femme fatale’s, you would only be half wrong. Our classes actually had a lovely mix of experience levels, shapes and sizes but only women, no men anywhere in sight. The Mission class was full of barre belle’s 25-35 but the Auburn Bay crowd was a bit more diverse. Our 9:30am X-Training class was all regulars and a mix of mums, a lot of nurses (the hospital is nearby) and people who work from home. Their clientele ranges from late teens to, wait for it….SEVENTY TWO. Their oldest SUPERWOMAN regular named Donna is 72 and she takes classes three times a week. Amaze. At the end of the day, Barre Belle definitely caters to the person that values a stunning setting as much as the workout itself. Although the staff are incredibly welcoming and friendly, we could see how the perfect vibe of the space could be intimidating for newbies, men, or people who don’t know what Instagram is.
- Filtered water
- All equipment and mats provided
- Locks provided for lockers
- Retail boutique that includes the mandatory toe socks
- Women’s change rooms includes washrooms, showers, hair ties, blow dryers, dry shampoo and Babor Spa products
- Child Minding at Auburn Bay location
Barre Belle was founded by two of the fittest power house women of life, Kristi Stuart and Jill Belland. They opened Barre Belle’s doors on Valentine’s Day 2016 (awww) with the Mission location being their first studio, and it was a smashing success from the first red ribbon cutting. Since then, they have expanded their team to over 35 instructors between all four locations and the number continues to grow as they open along Vancouver’s shores and Toronto’s hustle. Although we’ve heard a thing or two about their snobberific reputation, the team has only shown us lovely colors and we’ve witnessed every single staff member be incredibly focused on the belle’s in their community. So, full fruits from us!
Emily reminded us of all the best parts about the 80’s and now we want to bring them back in a big way. With her Jane Fonda-esk aerobic leg section including ankle weights, her headset, and her scrunchie tied high ponytail – we were so totally into everything she was putting down. Her friendly and bubbly energy was contagious from the moment we stepped in the doors, she gave us a tour of the whole damn place, and she ensured we were properly set-up for the class beforehand, including letting us borrow toe socks because we forgot them in our suitcase. She knew everyone else in the class by name and performed 99% of the class with us, showing modifications for almost every exercise and somehow managing to never be out of breath. Emily’s instructions were super clear, and she kept the class moving at a quick clip the entire 50 minutes – basically never giving us a break besides one water break. ONE.
Katrina has been teaching barre for over four years, and her knowledgeable and veteran status shows. She was originally trained at Barre Body Studio and learned from the legendary barre goddess Marlo Brausse, but she moved over to Barre Belle in January 2017 first at the Parkdale location and then moving to Auburn Bay when they opened last year. She is incredibly approachable, energetic and as the manager of the studio knows EVERYONE by name, including the littles that arrived for child minding during our class. Katrina did 95% of the class with us which is insane while teaching once you read further to understand what that actually entails, and she helped us keep pace and showed three versions for almost every exercise. She was very clear about expectations and guiding the class, and she was pretty damn funny and had no problem cracking jokes at herself that she was covering the front mirror in her own sweat. #respect
LEVEL OF DIFFICULTY
WAY HARD | HARD | MIDDLE OF THE ROADSIES | CHILL | HELLA CHILL
GALS (Glutes, Abs, Legs):
We’re giving this one full fruits and rating it Hard because it WAAAAS. That’s not even bc I was six months preggers at the time – my bestie, Tamara, who came with and works out 6+ days a week, was equally struggling by the end. The class had components of cardio, functional training, traditional Pilates, and tons of core so it was very dynamic, and we were constantly working a different body part. There wasn’t a lot of time at the actual barre since the majority of the class was in the centre of the room or on the mat, so if you’re keen for more of a ballet inspired class try Barre Belle Fit. The class started in the centre of the room with versions of jumps, sliders, and high knees all with resistance bands around our thighs. And that was just the warm up. We then moved to an arms and abs section, using low weights and our core to keep us stabilised with a ball behind our backs at the barre (the only time we were at the barre). We spent some time focusing more on our glutes and legs with exercises in the centre of the room that required ferocious repetition, and we spent a lot of time on our mats accessorising with ankle weights (like straight up 80’s ankle weights) for a killer butt, inner thigh, and hip leg series that had elements of traditional Pilates interwoven. We finally neared the end with a 10-minute ab sequence that included crunches, planks, toe reach up’s, soldier planks and other terrible but good for you core things. I loved that it was super easy for me to take modifications that didn’t work my core as much (bc of my growing baby bump) or that were less intense so I could withstand the class, however witnessing the other belle’s it was clear this class has the makings to work you to blissful fatigue.
This class is unlike any other on their class schedule because it leans more heavily into cross training and cardio than the typical low-impact, toning focused barre classes. This 60 minute blast of intensity was a full body workout that focused on our plyometric training and tons of core. We used a number of props that we got ready at the start of class like weights (3 or 5lbs), a weighted ball (8 lbs) and a resistant band. The entire class was made up of three set of four exercises and finished with a cardio section. In the three sets of four exercises we did things like lunges with weighted shoulder presses, planks, and my FAVOURITE part of class; bringing the 8lb weighted ball overhead and smashing it with all your might to the ground – repeatedly. This exercise alone is worth going to the class to unleash any built up, umm anger?! This kind of structure, i.e. multiple rounds of the same movement, is what builds up endurance, strength, and in the final stretches is what burns maximum fat – plus the third round is always a little bit shorter, thank the lord. Katrina showed three modifications for every exercise so it was totally customisable for any level. It’s hard to imagine pushing that hard to the very end and having the “cardio” section still to come but it wasn’t as completely awful as I thought it would be. The cardio section consisted of burpees for 30 seconds, toe taps for 30 seconds, heel taps for 30 seconds, and high knees for thirty seconds. To sum up, full fruits, Way Hard and v sweaty.
To try this class or anything else on their schedule, see Barre Belle’s schedule here.