Pacific NW Pilates blog

Holly Shaw Raises the Barre

by Leslie Braverman on March 6, 2017

Holly Shaw exudes energy when she teaches. She brings layers of extensive dance training, performance and movement education to every class, workshop and course she teaches at Pacific NW Pilates (PNWP). She knows the essence of rhythmic, coordinated, articulate and expressive movement. It’s in her DNA.

In 2015, at the height of the booming barre craze, Holly added Total Barre to her Instructor Trainer credentials. The brainchild of Merrithew Health & Fitness, Total Barre is founded on 25 years of safe, responsible and well-researched exercise principles. When Holly teaches Total Barre, students get the total package—a powerhouse educator and tried-and-true training.

Two years later, Holly is a veteran Total Barre teacher. She knows the pros and pitfalls. She anticipates client challenges. She encourages change. As barre training continues to grow, we want to know what concerns and excites Holly Shaw. So we asked.

PNWP: According to IDEA Heath & Fitness Association it’s a barre bonanza. There are many different barre programs to choose from. What advice would you give to someone who wishes to take barre classes?

HS: Barre exercise is popular because it’s fun, inclusive and a great workout. And, anyone can teach it. In general, I would suggest students look for well-balanced classes—if an entire one-hour class only works the quadriceps, for example, it’s not a good class. I also recommend that students seek instructors who provide corrections and modifications for every exercise. Barre classes are sometimes considered a one-size-fits-all workout. Students should be given personalized cues and options based on skill, posture and special conditions.

PNWP: What makes Total Barre distinctive?

HS: Total Barre is all the fun of movement set to music and backed by sound exercise concepts. The routines always incorporate STOTT PILATES’ five basic principles, programming and teaching guidelines. Total Barre teachers incorporate corrections about breath, the placement of the pelvis and ribs, how the shoulders move and stabilize and the alignment of the head and neck. We break each exercise apart and study the mechanics—students discover how to exercise at their personal best—the addition of props, altered range of motion or specific cues can make any exercise possible and beneficial.

Holly shows an example of a tucked pelvis (first image) versus a well-supported flexed spine and posterior pelvis or imprint (second image).


PNWP: The barre tuck—it’s all over the news. What are your thoughts on this?

HS: The barre tuck (yuck). The cue to tuck the tail under comes from ballet. In Total Barre, we teach students to lengthen the lumbar spine and posteriorly rotate the pelvis using the support of the abdominals. Students who tuck are over-using the gluteals and hip flexors—the spine and pelvis are forced into an exaggerated position. This is dangerous because it places additional compression on the spinal discs. Instead of the muscles supporting the weight of the body in a balanced and dynamic way, the joints and ligaments take on the brunt (forces and shearing) within the body.


PNWP: What role does music bring to Total Barre?

HS: Music adds energy and motivation to any class. When you hear music, what do you want to do? Move. Watch what little kids do when music plays—they begin to bounce or sway. Nevertheless, adult students sometimes become anxious about moving to music. The student may feel self-conscious or distracted. It’s important for instructors to recognize when this happens and change the cues about the music. I often stop counting and help the student focus on the rhythm of the movement instead.

PNWP: What’s next?

HS: A lot more Total Barre! This weekend (March 11-12) I teach the Total Barre Foundations Course and Total Barre Endurance 1 . During PNWP’s Spring Conference 2017, I’m teaching a new workshop designed for special populations: Total Barre Modified for Pre and Post Natal.

Total Barre is for everyone. Nab a spot at the barre.

Pacific NW Pilates is studio, school and fitness family under one roof. Click to learn more about our education courses and workshops, private studio sessions and group classes. Or call Brette for details: (503) 292-4409.





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