Raising the Barre
From Freshmen to Senior Citizens, Alum’s Local Fitness Studio Caters to All
By 10 a.m., Lauren Filocco ’12 has already been in her barre studio for four hours. She weaves around the mats and exercise equipment, dances around patrons as they warm up and cheerfully shouts counts over upbeat pop music blaring through the speakers. She demonstrates each upcoming move, dipping gracefully into a low squat or effortlessly balancing with the eponymous bar in her hands. Neither her form or energy ever falter.
In high school, Filocco couldn’t even touch her toes during the state-mandated fitness test. Now, she teaches seven classes each week at OpenBarre, located above Jason’s Deli in downtown College Park. She opened the studio nearly three years ago to fill a workout void she had experienced as a Maryland student.
“When I was a senior, I was driving to Rockville to take fitness classes,” Filocco says. “I figured it’s a gap in the area, just fitness classes in general, at the time.”
Barre blends elements of Pilates, yoga and ballet in low-impact but challenging fitness classes that attract a wide range of ages and athletic skill levels. The exercise offers room for modifications, and Filocco tailors workouts for each client.
“Barre is great for people at all different stages of their fitness journeys,” Filocco says. “You could be a first-time exerciser, so you’ve never really worked out, and you can come in and work out next to a Division I athlete.”
It doesn’t bulk up muscles, but conditions you with “functional endurance,” Filocco says. For instance, she is now able to power through carrying mattresses between her bedroom and the basement—necessary because she and her husband sometimes rent out their house as an AirBnb—without multiple breaks.
Inspired by a Groupon offer, Filocco took her first barre class in 2015, when the operations and supply chain management grad was working at McCormick Spices in northern Baltimore County and meeting her mother—who worked in Northern Virginia—somewhere in the middle to take classes together. She liked it so much, that she soon started taking classes closer to her workplace.
In May 2016, Filocco told her husband, Adam, she wanted to quit her job and open a barre studio in College Park and wrote up a business plan.
“I’m that person who, when I decide I want something, it’s going to happen right then or it’s never going to happen,” Filocco says.
Since graduation, working for Amazon as well as McCormick, she says there was “never any doubt as to whether or not I would have a consistent paycheck.” Yet by October, she signed a lease for a studio space. She was terrified, but said, “I think that I generally work well with fear.”
Since opening in 2017, Filocco has built up her studio, a small staff and a loyal customer base. She keeps her clients engaged through an appreciation month in November, friendly “Barre-lympics” competitions over the summer and other monthly incentives.
Shy Porter Ph.D. ’20 achieved her 100-class milestone during the Barre-lympics. A longtime runner, Porter often did “two-a-days” at OpenBarre over the summer to get her team more points. (They won “by a landslide.”)
Porter says that previously, her workouts seemed “stagnant.” In barre classes, Porter, who attends almost daily, enjoys the targeting of “niche muscle groups.”
“I consider myself a pretty fit person, but I was shocked when my muscles were completely falling apart during class,” Porter says. “The next day, I was so incredibly sore. I was like, ‘This is amazing. I need this to be part of my life.’”
Conversely, Jessica Roffe ‘13 never enjoyed working out. Roffe, assistant director of the QUEST Honors Program, attended a class at OpenBarre back in April 2017 because Filocco is an alum of the program.
Though she was nervous to try it, Filocco made her feel like she could keep up. And she has.
“It’s nice to feel like I’m actually doing something for me and taking the time every week to set aside at least an hour to do that. You’re in your own world,” Roffe says. “It’s probably one of the only times throughout the week that I don’t have my cell phone by my side, which is nice.”
Whether hardcore or laid-back in their approach, clients find that the only person they’re competing with is themselves, Filocco says. “The clients who keep coming back to our classes tell us, ‘I see the difference in my body, but more than that, I feel more confident.’”