Barre & Soul has a few different origin stories.
One begins in Massachusetts in 2006, when the Boston-based studio’s founder, Andrea Isabelle Lucas, began training in barre classes. Barre is a workout with ballet, modern dance, and yoga in its DNA. She used the confidence she gained from it to find her footing the next year while she went through a difficult divorce.
The other begins far earlier and across the Atlantic. It starts in 1950s England with the founder of barre itself, Lotte Berk, and her daughter, Esther Fairfax. The 85-year-old Fairfax, who has been teaching her mother’s method for 50 years, taught Lucas her mother’s method in 2017 when the latter flew to England to train with her.
Both stories draw on the same truths—that barre, as a workout, is fun, and more importantly, confidence-imparting.
Barre & Soul currently has four locations in New England. Andrea Isabelle Lucas founded it in 2013.
On top of starting a multimillion-dollar barre studio chain, an online barre instructor certification, and clothing line, Lucas is a former teen mother and a domestic abuse survivor. In 2019, she published a book titled Own it All, which details those struggles and encourages women to take control of their own lives and health.
“It’s so important for us to share our stories—you never know who you’ll touch or who will be able to relate to your journey,” Lucas said. “The more we can be vulnerable and share—we really have such a power to have an impact on the women we serve. Not only on their physical wellness but their social and emotional wellness, as well.”
That emphasis on sharing has led to success in business, in that it creates community.
"Your business is your self-expression in the world. It’s your ultimate expression of what you have to contribute,” Lucas said. “It’s so important to be willing to open up and share and create a culture in your studios that reflect your values. That’s what makes it sustainable. The hours are long and we work really hard, but I think making a difference in the world is what moves and drives us.”
For the logistics end of the business, Lucas turns to MINDBODY’s fitness software. Its reporting features—which show her how her various studios are performing—is the perfect chance to check in on her community.
“I kinda feel like a pilot. I’m in my cockpit, I’ve got all the different readings and stuff. For me and my team, it’s helpful to have those MINDBODY tools,” Lucas said. “It gives me a chance to compare what’s happening at one studio to another studio. I can see how we compare on first visits or converting a first visit into a class pack or a membership.”
That constant attention to the upkeep of the business’s wellness is part of what led Lucas to the cradle of barre in 2017.
After 10 years of teaching barre herself, Lucas and some of her staff trained with Esther Fairfax in England.
The trip served to clarify how barre’s beginning differs from its present. Berk, known for her witty, enjoyable classes, could also be a stickler for certain things.
“I was not prepared for how different the original Lotte Berk method was from what we know as barre,” Lucas said. “Lotte never wanted to be known as a—they call it a ‘keep-fitter’ in England, but basically a fitness personality. She wanted to be known as an artist. She thought breathing was vulgar and nobody was allowed to breathe loudly in her class. It was much more modern-dance inspired. There was a lot more banter and innuendo in class, it was a lot more cheeky.”
Despite the differences, barre’s soul has remained the same over the years.
Fairfax, in a video made with Barre & Soul during the trip, explains:
“[Lotte Berk] brought wit to the class. She brought fun, enjoyment, and a lot of positivity and encouraging people to get there. This is hard, but you’ve made it,” Fairfax said. “So that started to change their lives as they got more confident, and understood how they have to live their life and be the driver.”
It’s not hard to draw a parallel between Barre & Soul and Berk’s studio in that sense—decades and an ocean apart haven’t dulled the point of barre: to take care of ourselves, while having fun and changing lives.