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In the decades that followed, she would help train nearly all of the women who’d go on to open today’s biggest barre franchises, from Exhale and Physique 57 to Pure Barre and Bar Method.
Over time, she found that her special combination of ballet moves, yoga, and rehabilitative exercises helped her not only to heal and hold onto her dancer’s figure, but also to get more pleasure from sex. As her daughter, Esther Fairfax, told me in a phone interview: “Sex came into everything she did.For entrepreneurs, selling visible muscles and physical perfection became lucrative.Jane Fonda brought aerobics to the masses, and co-ed gyms became more popular.“It was kind of a finger to the lips” about sex, she told me in a phone interview. Barre’s creator, Lotte Berk, a free-love revolutionary who began teaching the regimen in 1959, specifically wanted to advance what she called “the state of sex” by encouraging women to pursue sex for their own pleasure.
“It was , but you just don’t mention it.” And when I reached out to Pure Barre, the country’s largest barre franchise, for this article, its founder declined to speak with me after learning I wanted to talk about the connection between barre and sex. And in the post–sexual revolution 1970s, women’s magazines pitched the workout as a way for women to do just that — or as put it, to “build sexual confidence and competence.” What today has become a mass commercial fitness trend — a straitlaced subculture in which butts are called “seats” — was once a radical, decidedly erotic practice.Eventually, as the wider culture shifted, so did barre.