Passing the ‘barre’
Former lawyer launches Bethany’s first exclusive studio with Beach Barre Body
Linda Durfee sat in her car in front of the newly-opened Beach Barre Body studio in Bethany Beach, trying to work up the nerve to go in. Through the car’s windshield, she watched all of the 20-, 30- and 40-somethings walk through the door with only the workout clothing on their backs and seemingly without another thought.
Now in her 70s, she wondered if she could, too.
“I was sitting in the parking lot. My husband brought me down here, and I said to him, ‘OK —take a look at all those young bodies. I’m not going in there!” Durfee recalled with a laugh. “It’s kind of intimidating to walk into it.”
However, just like most newcomers to the growing exercise movement simply known as “barre,” despite her initial concerns, once she went in for one workout, she was hooked.
While Durfee is somewhat of an outlier in terms of the age of the average barre-fly, Beach Barre Body owner and longtime exercise advocate Sue Sheain said that making barre both approachable and enjoyable for all of her clients regardless of their age, experience or physical limitations, was really her main focus in opening the studio.
Put simply, Beach Barre Body, she said, is for everyone.
“Bring yourself and be yourself,” said Sheain. “We’re trying to make it approachable and make people feel comfortable. We want you to come have fun.”
Getting its start now more than 50 years ago in London, the method eventually made its way across the pond to 1971 Manhattan and has been around the States ever since. However, it didn’t start to gain steam until the latter part of the past decade.
Despite its ballet-inspired beginnings, barre also combines aspects of Pilates, dance and yoga — all carefully mapped out by instructors and cued up to motivational music, with playlists ranging all the way from Beyonce to Bowie.
“It’s always a different class. It’s always something new,” said Melanie Pauley, who attends multiple classes every week, along with the rest of “The Fenwick Island Girls.”
“We’re getting more out of it each time and working different muscles — you just don’t know what you’re gonna be in for that day.”
While each instructor brings their own idiosyncratic tunes and routine that keeps classes curious, it’s the method’s unique process that maintains the physical variation in the exercise.
“You can do this every day,” said barre-tender Barbara Becker, who spent most of her fitness career with Brick Bodies before joining the BBB team.
“It’s a ton of core and a ton of arms and a ton of legs. There’s so many options you can do — you can do barre with the ball, with the rings, with the weights — you can get all the different muscle groups.”
“It never gets easier. That’s the beauty of barre — it’s always challenging,” added instructor Marni Gorman.
Gorman went for her first barre workout in 2006, eventually going on to become a certified instructor and to start her own studio back in Baltimore. She explained that barre is based on slight isometric movements, working with one’s own body weight to create resistance.
“You can always get a little deeper; you can always get little lower. It’s that isometric movement that really makes the change in the muscle.”
The barre beach body
Aside from the studio’s approachability, it’s the results that keep clients returning to Beach Barre Body.
From former weightlifters, such as Becker, to lifelong runners, including newcomer JoAnne Armstrong, the method has proven itself even more quickly than typically expected.
“After the second class, my stomach felt flatter. I’ve been working out my whole life — I just noticed change immediately,” said Armstrong, who went from getting dragged to her first class at 3Bs, to “becoming addicted to barre,” and finally going on to start training to become an instructor.
“After that, I was like, ‘Alright, there’s something in this,’” she went on. “I’m definitely in better shape. I stretch now, and I never used to stretch. I definitely feel like it’s just a different workout, and I like it a lot better.”
For seniors, such as Durfee, the method has increased her strength noticeably.
“Especially with a senior, you need a lot of strength — I was looking for something that really had a punch,” Durfee said. “I’m stronger, more flexible, I have tons of energy, I just feel like I have no limits.”
From local instructors such as house-favorite Beth “The Body” Parady to guest barre-tenders from Baltimore and beyond, there’s always someone new to try out at Beach Body Barre.
Some of the usual suspects going along with both Gorman and Becker include recent Broadway “West Side Story” star MaryJoanna Grisso, Brazilian crowd-pleaser Nanda Oliveira, instructors from Soul Body in Baltimore, such as co-founder Ann Marie Barbour, and some former-clients-turned-instructors, including newcomer Kolby Scott.
“I always wanted to do it,” said Scott of getting certified. “It’s really satisfying when you love what you’re doing — you’re trying to give people what you’ve gotten out of the class.”
“We were like, ‘We gotta try her,’” Jackie Ferry said of when she and the Fenwick Island Girls heard that Scott would be guest barre-tending one weekend. “They all have a different way of teaching, different methods of instructing, so you get a different class every time which is great.”
Ferry said that she and the “FIG” crew typically sign up for classes in advance, keeping tabs on guest appearances via the Beach Barre Body Facebook page.
More than just a workout
A writer, producer and attorney, when Sue Sheain decides to do something, she gets it done.
When she decided to open Beach Barre Body, she made it happen in just 30 days. Orchestrating a complete DIY build-out of the space next to Ba Roos Ice Cream in the Sea Colony Marketplace and lining up the instructors to make it all work — all on a budget, all of it “eco-friendly.”
“It was so exciting when they opened that door and people walked in,” Sheain said of the studio’s Memorial Day grand opening. “We had a full house, and we didn’t even have a sign yet. The support from everybody — it’s amazing. It’s been absolutely amazing.”
While Sheain has owned a place in Sea Colony for years and is by no means a stranger to the Bethany Beach area, originally from Baltimore, she’s now embracing both calling Sussex County home and getting more involved in its tight-knit community.
“Fitness is a social life, and we want to be part of that,” she explained. “You meet new people — that’s the thing that’s been really wonderful, is just meeting new people and understanding how great everybody is around here.”
As made evident by the famous Fenwick Island Girls — who decide on classes via group text and start off at barre class before hitting their next stop, whether it be the beach or brunch — Sheain believes that barre should be about more than just working out. She wants her clients to feel at home. She wants her clients to get a chance to meet new people. And above all, she wants her clients to have a good time.
To accommodate that, Sheain has big off-season plans for Beach Barre Body that are set to include frequent networking events and other social gatherings.
However, for now, she just wants the community to get to know her and Beach Body Barre, while she gets to know them in the process.
“You just put yourself out there, and I think that’s what I’m trying to do here,” Sheain said. “You just put yourself out here and hope that you have something that people can appreciate and enjoy.
“There’s no judgement here. We’re gonna keep you safe, we’re gonna work you out, and you’re gonna feel like you accomplished something. Being a writer, I know that everyone has got a story — and I look forward to getting to hear every last one of them.”
Beach Barre Body is Bethany’s first exclusive barre studio and is located at 33550 Market Place, just south of Bethany Beach, next to Ba Roos Ice Cream. The studio is open seven days a week. To see a class schedule or to sign up, visit www.beachbarrebody.com. To keep up with guest barre-tenders, check out their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/beachbarrebody.