By Alorie Gilbert
It’s no easy feat showing up for a 5:30 a.m. fitness class before heading off to a full day’s work at Bainbridge Island public schools. That’s why Terra Claiborne, Kyanne Hawkins, Diane Bedell and a handful of other island educators spur each other on. They are regulars at the semiweekly, predawn classes at Barrecor, fortifying themselves with plank poses and pliés before giving their all to the kids.
“It’s kind of become a sisterhood,” said Barrecor owner and instructor Emiliana Prado, who is celebrating five years in business at her studio off Hildebrand Lane this February.
Claiborne started coming to the studio three years ago and one day gifted Hawkins a free class. Hawkins then invited another teacher, and the network kept growing. “Everyone kept grabbing someone,” said Hawkins. Now eight or so teachers and staff all coordinate their workout schedules, which keeps them motivated. “If someone sets it up, you’re accountable,” Hawkins said.
Prado delights in the camaraderie among her clients. In addition to the group of teachers, several mother-daughter pairs frequent the studio. She and her team of instructors make a point to learn customers’ names and personal stories. Throughout each session they walk the room, gently correcting positions and giving encouragement. The positive and supportive atmosphere fosters social connection, Prado said. Plus, the one-hour, instructor-led workouts are designed to be accessible to many fitness levels. “People are having fun,” she said. “They don’t notice the time passing.”
The clean, modern design of the studio, with cheerful orange and yellow accents, adds to the inviting feel. Prado, formerly an interior decorator, designed the space herself and runs the business with her husband, Daniel DeBellis. The couple, who are parents to five teens, are keen to replicate the Bainbridge studio in other locations. They’re currently eyeing sites in Seattle and the Eastside.
Prado, a native of Brazil, has been teaching barre classes for nearly a decade. She was drawn to the fitness trend, which combines elements of yoga, pilates and ballet barre work, after a fall that injured her back and left her unable to do high-impact activities like running or skiing. Barre workouts restored her fitness and led her life in a new direction. She became an instructor, eventually opening the Bainbridge studio. “I understand people with injuries and back pain,” she said. “I’m pain-free, and that is one of the best things about this.”
It was actually a dancer with a back injury that came up with the exercise concept. Ballerina Lotte Berk merged barre routines from ballet with physical therapy, opening the Lotte Berk Studio in London in 1959. The method gained popularity and a celebrity following in the U.S. in the ’70s. Barre studios had a resurgence following the 2010 movie “Black Swan,” giving rise to several new chains and a new generation of devotees.
The workout promises the lean, sculpted muscles of a dancer—no dancing required. At Barrecor, classes begin in front of the mirror on a mat and make use of exercise balls and lightweight dumbbells to work arms, legs and abs. Later, participants move to the ballet barre for more leg and core exercise involving a resistance band. Much of the work is isometric, focusing on particular sets of muscles with small, repetitive, pulsing movements and holds. Proper alignment and posture are para- mount, with “quality of motion—not quantity” as the goal, DeBellis said. Meanwhile, poised, upbeat instructors and an energetic soundtrack keep things moving.
Prado explained that the low-impact routine elevates heart rate and strengthens muscles in an efficient way, without a lot of sweat and time invested. Yet it’s intense. Muscles can start to shake and burn toward the end of a set. “They are short sets but they burn, and they’re effective,” she said.
Three one-hour sessions a week should yield results in two or three months, according to Prado. The studio offers two to four classes every day, with punch cards and unlimited annual memberships available.
Prado and DeBellis view the business as a labor of love—a reflection of both their own bond and the affection they have for their members. The “cor” in Barrecor comes from the Portuguese word for heart, coração.
The feelings appear mutual—every single online Google review gives the studio a 5-star rating. Customer raves are featured on chalkboards around Barrecor’s studio. Claiborne, who grew up doing ballet and now does four Barrecor classes a week, is one such fan. “The instructors are really invested in us,” said the first grade teacher, adding, “It’s a good mental break from whatever your day is.”