Raising the Barre


Betty Dillard bdillard@bizpress.net

Fort Worth fans of ballet-inspired workouts can now pirouette over to a new Smart Barre fitness studio in Cityview, the second Fort Worth location and the fourth one in Texas. Barre workouts, which have been around since the 1950s but used primarily by dancers and models, are among the hottest fitness trends going, with more barre studios popping up across the country. Devotees include Sofia Vergara, Drew Barrymore, Kelly Ripa and Madonna. Set to motivating music, the barre technique combines ballet barre work, yoga and Pilates with orthopedic stretching to help produce a lean, toned body like that of a dancer’s.

Smart Barre founder and owner Allison Poston discovered barre classes in 2008 and was instantly hooked. After giving birth to two children, Poston, 38, a former professionally trained ballet dancer, was longing for her lost “ballet muscles.” The barre classes, which combined all of her favorite forms of exercise, helped her quickly find the long, lean muscles she once had as a dancer. She became a self-described barre “junkie.” A native of San Angelo, Poston graduated from Texas Christian University, where she had received the Nordan Fine Arts Award from the school’s dance department. She taught private classes at Margo Dean School of Ballet and Colonial Country Club before deciding to open her own barre exercise studio in 2011 on Camp Bowie Boulevard. “I like the intimacy of barre classes. I like the boutique feel. I like the personal attention and I wanted other women to experience that, too,” she said.

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Poston’s commitment to Smart Barre comes from her background in dance as well as from her father, a physician, and from the strengthening and straightening of her own back after wearing a brace for five years to correct her scoliosis. She’s now franchised three Smart Barre locations, two in San Antonio managed by one of her first clients, and the new Cityview location in southwest Fort Worth. “Word suddenly spread about Smart Barre and the next I thing I knew it took on a life of its own. I was amazed that it took no time. It just happened. It evolved,” Poston said. “If you had asked me five years ago if I would have a franchise, I would have said you’re crazy. But I’m doing what I love to do. We’ve kept it simple and it works.”

The newest franchise is co-owned by Poston and long-time friend Kristi Rittby. A fellow TCU alum and former ballet dancer, Rittby also is an instructor in the university’s mathematics department. The two entrepreneurs met while studying dance at the North Carolina School of the Arts. Rittby, who earned her black belt in taekwondo, was Poston’s client before becoming a Smart Barre instructor and co-owner. “This exercise technique just fit me perfectly,” said Rittby, 39. “It’s smart. It’s about protecting the body. Because it doesn’t involve any jumping or bouncing, it protects the joints. It’s a creative outlet, too, not just exercise. As a teacher, it keeps me intellectually stimulated. I’m always coming up with new music to use and different variations of exercises. No two classes are ever alike.” Based on principles of the Lottie Berk Method – a body-changing exercise workout introduced to the United States from Europe in 1970 – Poston’s Smart Barre is for women only. No tutus are required; in fact, participants who never had their toes in a ballet slipper can benefit from the workouts.

A typical 60-minute class (there’s also a 30-minute condensed class and a 45-minute stretch and restore class) has up to 20 women and offers a total body workout that incorporates the postural alignment and core strengthening principles of ballet, Pilates and yoga. Using isometric movements and orthopedic stretching, clients strengthen and lengthen muscles without adding bulk. A traditional ballet barre is used to help maintain balance and provide resistance along with light weights and a playground ball. Smart Barre’s concentrated movements target body areas with which women struggle – abs, hips, thighs, seat and arms. “Most clients see and feel results in as little as 10 classes,” Poston said. “We have clients from 17 to 70. This is a sustainable form of exercise that young bodies can benefit from and older bodies can benefit from. We’re promoting a lifestyle for our clients and offering people who have an extensive dance background another career opportunity.”

Classes are offered seven days a week at both Fort Worth locations; couples workshops are available as part of a monthly series. Many of the credentialed instructors are direct recruits from the TCU dance department. Smart Barre is registered as a franchise in several states, Poston said, adding that she’s trying to be smart about future studio business opportunities. “We’re growing our base of franchises,” Poston said, “but my mission is to grow quality studios now and not focus on franchising too quickly.”