The Bar Method is based on the technique of Lotte Berk, a German dancer who fled the Nazi's in the late 1930's and came to London with her British husband.
After injuring her back, Lotte got the idea of combining her ballet bar routines with her rehabilitative therapy to form an exercise system. In 1959 she opened The Lotte Berk Studio in her West End basement. There, she changed the bodies of her students, among them Brooke Shields, Joan Collins and Brit Ekland, as she entertained them with bawdy humor and tips on love.
One of her students, an American named Lydia Bach, was so impressed with the technique that she bought the rights to Lotte's name and in 1971 opened The Lotte Berk Method studio in Manhattan.
Ten years later, two sisters, Burr Leonard and Mimi Fleischman took their first Lotte Berk Method class and also fell in love with the technique. In 1991, Burr along with her new husband Carl Diehl bought a license to operate Lotte Berk Method studios in Southern Connecticut.
Burr spent a year studying and teaching The Lotte Berk Method at the Manhattan studio, then opened her first Lotte Berk studio in Greenwich, Connecticut. Almost immediately, Burr noticed that some of her clients' knee, backs and shoulders were not responding well to the exercises and thought the help of a physical therapist. Under his guidance she reworked the exercises so that they would target students' muscles without impacting their joints.
During the 90s, Burr and Carl opened three more Lotte Berk Method studios in New Canaan, Darien and Westport, Connecticut. At the end of their ten-year license term, their four studios were thriving, but their version of The Lotte Berk Method had become so unlike their licensor's that they made the decision not to renew. In 2001, they founded The Bar Method, sold their Connecticut studios and opened their flagship Bar Method studio in San Francisco, California. Two years later, Burr's sister Mimi Leonard Fleischman opened the first Los Angeles Bar Method studio in partnership with her husband Mark.
Since then, Burr and Carl have franchised more than 20 Bar Method studios in California, New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, Illinois and Washington. They divide their time between guiding their franchisees and producing Bar Method media products, among them two exercise dvds, "Change Your Body!" and "Accelerated Workout", that came on the market in 2009.
During the same period that Burr and Carl were opening their first Bar Method studios, other former Lotte Berk Method teachers began to develop their own versions of the technique. In 2003, Lotte Berk managers Fred DeVito and Elisabeth Haffpapp attended up eight of their fellow teachers and left to join Exhale Spa, located ten blocks away from their former studio, where they now teach a version of Lotte Berk called Core Fusion.
The departure of so many key teachers caused the Lotte Berk Method itself to fold in 2005. The next year another off-shoot sprang up when Tanya Becker, a former Lotte Berk Method teacher, became the director of Physique 57, a Lotte Berk-styled studio on West 57th Street. Other current Lotte Berk Method spin-offs include Pure Barre, Fluidity, The Dailey Method, BarrePhysique, Barre3, Karve, PopPhysique, Go Figure, Body Fit, The Debbie Frank Studio, and Bodd.