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FITNESS, HEALTH, WELLNESS

features

HCM People: Esther FairfaxFounder, The Lotte Berk Foundation

My mother was the first person to take dance and create an exercise programme out of it

Published in Health Club Management 2024 issue 2
Fairfax still does two Lotte Berk workouts a day at the age of 89 / photo: Camille Marie Bieber
Fairfax still does two Lotte Berk workouts a day at the age of 89 / photo: Camille Marie Bieber
Nobody had ever done the sort of moves my mother did to work the small muscles

Tell us about your mother, Lotte Berk
Everyone in the health and fitness industry will be familiar with barre, but not many know the technique originated with my mother, Lotte Berk.

She was a renowned dancer from Liselotte Heymansohn in Cologne, who fled Nazi Germany, arriving in London during the war as a refugee.

Lotte found success as a dancer and in later years, when she reached her 40s – the age when dancer retired – she realised she couldn’t live without movement, so in 1959 she created an exercise programme that comprises 19 movements based around using a ballet barre.

She was the first person to take dance and create an exercise programme out of it and her programme became world famous.

She restricted it to women, as she wanted to create a safe space where they could feel good in their bodies.

Tell us about the protocol
She created it following an incident when she slipped a disk. To aid her recovery, she began working with an orthopaedic surgeon to design a series of exercises to strengthen the spine and core.

After making a full recovery, she started sharing her method with others.

Nobody had ever done the sort of moves my mother did. The Lotte Berk Technique works the small muscles which create a sleek body shape, so they work like a corset.

Generally with exercise, people want to focus on the major muscles, but although these are important, they’re supported by smaller muscles which are often ignored. Lotte Berk exercises focus on all those smaller muscle groups and feel like a bow and arrow into the muscle.

How did the business progress?
The Lotte Berk Technique expanded into a number of countries, including Switzerland, Italy, Israel, the Middle East and Canada, as well as around the UK, with classes continuing to this day.

In the early 70s, one of Lotte’s students – Lydia Bach – came to London from the US to train in the method and ended up buying the rights to the Lotte Berk Technique in the US.

Lydia registered the copyright for Lotte Berk’s name in the US, added more movements to the protocol – such as planks, push-ups, strength and balance exercises –  to create an hour-long class called Barre.

I regret that my mother lost out on the opportunity to popularise her own method in America, but at the time, it was a choice she made.

What kinds of influence did Lotte have on the wider industry?
You’ll see Lotte’s influence in many of today’s classes. For example, many teachers advise against wearing midriff-baring tops, as exposure to cold air can make muscles more prone to injury – Lotte was huge advocate of injury prevention.

What are your goals now?
I’m 89 and on a mission to protect and promote the Lotte Berk Technique in its original form. I want to make sure Lotte’s name doesn’t die and I’d like to see studios using my mother’s name, with instructors who are trained using my mother’s technique.

Although I’ve retired from teaching, I still work out twice a day using the exercises.

Tell us about the Lotte Berk Foundation
One of my teachers, Jenifer Klepfer, is leading the establishment of The Lotte Berk Foundation, which will promote the method and run teacher training courses.

The next course is planned for 24-29 June in Berkshire, UK. The lead teacher will be Jenifer, who has built a committed community of Lotte Berkers and I will give a Q&A on the Lotte Berk spirit and what makes the technique different. The course will also cover the history of the technique, the art of crafting a Lotte Berk class, anatomy and an exam.

Teachers have to be empathetic as well as strict and they need to have humour because my mother put a lot of mischief into it.

More: www.lotte-berk.com

Lotte Berk in the US
The cover of Lydia Bach’s 1971 book about The Lotte Berk Method

Lotte Berk licensed her name for the US market in the early 70s to former student, Lydia Bach who opened a studio in Manhattan and then more locations in Bridgehampton, Los Angeles and Connecticut, as well as launching a franchise.

Bach also registered the copyright for Lotte Berk’s name in the US, adding more movements to the protocol – such as planks, push-ups, strength and balance exercises –  to create an hour-long class called Barre.

Her studio sparked the creation of a number of new businesses that went on to form the foundation of the wellness and barre industry as we know it today

Bach published a book in 1971 called The Lotte Berk Method, Awake! Aware! Alive! Exercises for a vital body.

Exhale Spa

The New York Lotte Berk studio was run by Elisabeth Halfpapp and Fred DeVito who supported Lydia Bach to build the business over many years.

Halfpapp and DeVito eventually left to launch Exhale Spa at which point, the original Lotte Berk studio in New York closed, opening up an opportunity for the creation of Physique 57 and others.

Exhale was sold Hyatt who operated it between 2017 and 2020, when it was taken over by E-HALO.

In 2019, Halfpapp and DeVito opened CoreBarreFit (www.corebarrefit.com), a 20 minute walk from the Lotte Berk Barn in Bridgehampton, which is now a SoulCycle.

Physique 57

Physique 57’s Jennifer Maanavi and Tanya Becker were a teacher and student who met at The Lotte Berk Method’s New York City studio.

addened by its sudden closure, they decided to go into business, creating the Physique 57 brand with choreography influenced by Lotte Berk. Read more in our interview with Jennifer Maanavi in this issue of HCM.

The Bar Method

Burr Leonard was a student and eventual owner of a number of Lotte Berk franchise locations throughout Connecticut. After a decade of teaching the Lotte Berk Method, she and her partner Carl Deihl found that the technique they were teaching had diverged so much from the original that they decided to branch out on their own.

They called their class The Bar Method and opened their flagship studio in 2000 in San Francisco. The company currently has around 80 locations and has grown through franchising.

Physique 57 was founded to champion barre-based workouts / photo: Physique 57
Esther Fairfax is establishing the Lotte Berk Foundation to safeguard her mother’s legacy / photo: Camille Marie Bieber
Esther Fairfax is establishing the Lotte Berk Foundation to safeguard her mother’s legacy / photo: Camille Marie Bieber
Esther Fairfax in her youth / photo: Camille Marie Bieber
Esther Fairfax in her youth / photo: Camille Marie Bieber
Esther Fairfax with her mother, Lotte Berk / photo: Camille Marie Bieber
Esther Fairfax with her mother, Lotte Berk / photo: Camille Marie Bieber
Esther Fairfax with Jenifer Kelpfer who is leading foundation of The Lotte Berk Foundation / photo: Camille Marie Bieber
Esther Fairfax with Jenifer Kelpfer who is leading foundation of The Lotte Berk Foundation / photo: Camille Marie Bieber
https://www.leisureopportunities.co.uk/images/2024/23562_882286.jpg
The Lotte Berk Foundation founder on continuing her mother’s legacy
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features

HCM People: Esther FairfaxFounder, The Lotte Berk Foundation

My mother was the first person to take dance and create an exercise programme out of it

Published in Health Club Management 2024 issue 2
Fairfax still does two Lotte Berk workouts a day at the age of 89 / photo: Camille Marie Bieber
Fairfax still does two Lotte Berk workouts a day at the age of 89 / photo: Camille Marie Bieber
Nobody had ever done the sort of moves my mother did to work the small muscles

Tell us about your mother, Lotte Berk
Everyone in the health and fitness industry will be familiar with barre, but not many know the technique originated with my mother, Lotte Berk.

She was a renowned dancer from Liselotte Heymansohn in Cologne, who fled Nazi Germany, arriving in London during the war as a refugee.

Lotte found success as a dancer and in later years, when she reached her 40s – the age when dancer retired – she realised she couldn’t live without movement, so in 1959 she created an exercise programme that comprises 19 movements based around using a ballet barre.

She was the first person to take dance and create an exercise programme out of it and her programme became world famous.

She restricted it to women, as she wanted to create a safe space where they could feel good in their bodies.

Tell us about the protocol
She created it following an incident when she slipped a disk. To aid her recovery, she began working with an orthopaedic surgeon to design a series of exercises to strengthen the spine and core.

After making a full recovery, she started sharing her method with others.

Nobody had ever done the sort of moves my mother did. The Lotte Berk Technique works the small muscles which create a sleek body shape, so they work like a corset.

Generally with exercise, people want to focus on the major muscles, but although these are important, they’re supported by smaller muscles which are often ignored. Lotte Berk exercises focus on all those smaller muscle groups and feel like a bow and arrow into the muscle.

How did the business progress?
The Lotte Berk Technique expanded into a number of countries, including Switzerland, Italy, Israel, the Middle East and Canada, as well as around the UK, with classes continuing to this day.

In the early 70s, one of Lotte’s students – Lydia Bach – came to London from the US to train in the method and ended up buying the rights to the Lotte Berk Technique in the US.

Lydia registered the copyright for Lotte Berk’s name in the US, added more movements to the protocol – such as planks, push-ups, strength and balance exercises –  to create an hour-long class called Barre.

I regret that my mother lost out on the opportunity to popularise her own method in America, but at the time, it was a choice she made.

What kinds of influence did Lotte have on the wider industry?
You’ll see Lotte’s influence in many of today’s classes. For example, many teachers advise against wearing midriff-baring tops, as exposure to cold air can make muscles more prone to injury – Lotte was huge advocate of injury prevention.

What are your goals now?
I’m 89 and on a mission to protect and promote the Lotte Berk Technique in its original form. I want to make sure Lotte’s name doesn’t die and I’d like to see studios using my mother’s name, with instructors who are trained using my mother’s technique.

Although I’ve retired from teaching, I still work out twice a day using the exercises.

Tell us about the Lotte Berk Foundation
One of my teachers, Jenifer Klepfer, is leading the establishment of The Lotte Berk Foundation, which will promote the method and run teacher training courses.

The next course is planned for 24-29 June in Berkshire, UK. The lead teacher will be Jenifer, who has built a committed community of Lotte Berkers and I will give a Q&A on the Lotte Berk spirit and what makes the technique different. The course will also cover the history of the technique, the art of crafting a Lotte Berk class, anatomy and an exam.

Teachers have to be empathetic as well as strict and they need to have humour because my mother put a lot of mischief into it.

More: www.lotte-berk.com

Lotte Berk in the US
The cover of Lydia Bach’s 1971 book about The Lotte Berk Method

Lotte Berk licensed her name for the US market in the early 70s to former student, Lydia Bach who opened a studio in Manhattan and then more locations in Bridgehampton, Los Angeles and Connecticut, as well as launching a franchise.

Bach also registered the copyright for Lotte Berk’s name in the US, adding more movements to the protocol – such as planks, push-ups, strength and balance exercises –  to create an hour-long class called Barre.

Her studio sparked the creation of a number of new businesses that went on to form the foundation of the wellness and barre industry as we know it today

Bach published a book in 1971 called The Lotte Berk Method, Awake! Aware! Alive! Exercises for a vital body.

Exhale Spa

The New York Lotte Berk studio was run by Elisabeth Halfpapp and Fred DeVito who supported Lydia Bach to build the business over many years.

Halfpapp and DeVito eventually left to launch Exhale Spa at which point, the original Lotte Berk studio in New York closed, opening up an opportunity for the creation of Physique 57 and others.

Exhale was sold Hyatt who operated it between 2017 and 2020, when it was taken over by E-HALO.

In 2019, Halfpapp and DeVito opened CoreBarreFit (www.corebarrefit.com), a 20 minute walk from the Lotte Berk Barn in Bridgehampton, which is now a SoulCycle.

Physique 57

Physique 57’s Jennifer Maanavi and Tanya Becker were a teacher and student who met at The Lotte Berk Method’s New York City studio.

addened by its sudden closure, they decided to go into business, creating the Physique 57 brand with choreography influenced by Lotte Berk. Read more in our interview with Jennifer Maanavi in this issue of HCM.

The Bar Method

Burr Leonard was a student and eventual owner of a number of Lotte Berk franchise locations throughout Connecticut. After a decade of teaching the Lotte Berk Method, she and her partner Carl Deihl found that the technique they were teaching had diverged so much from the original that they decided to branch out on their own.

They called their class The Bar Method and opened their flagship studio in 2000 in San Francisco. The company currently has around 80 locations and has grown through franchising.

Physique 57 was founded to champion barre-based workouts / photo: Physique 57
Esther Fairfax is establishing the Lotte Berk Foundation to safeguard her mother’s legacy / photo: Camille Marie Bieber
Esther Fairfax is establishing the Lotte Berk Foundation to safeguard her mother’s legacy / photo: Camille Marie Bieber
Esther Fairfax in her youth / photo: Camille Marie Bieber
Esther Fairfax in her youth / photo: Camille Marie Bieber
Esther Fairfax with her mother, Lotte Berk / photo: Camille Marie Bieber
Esther Fairfax with her mother, Lotte Berk / photo: Camille Marie Bieber
Esther Fairfax with Jenifer Kelpfer who is leading foundation of The Lotte Berk Foundation / photo: Camille Marie Bieber
Esther Fairfax with Jenifer Kelpfer who is leading foundation of The Lotte Berk Foundation / photo: Camille Marie Bieber
https://www.leisureopportunities.co.uk/images/2024/23562_882286.jpg
The Lotte Berk Foundation founder on continuing her mother’s legacy
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