As we entered lockdown I found it difficult to try and keep up with my exercise routine, especially living in a top floor apartment the exercises I could do were limited. A lot of online sessions on offer included jumping in some form so I was ecstatic when I saw a friend on Instagram sharing classes called Panorama Barre. Run by Olivia in East London, Panorama Barre bridges together my two loves, music and fitness. A DJ herself, Olivia combines fun, bouncy and ‘fruity’ (as she would describe it) mixes with a low impact / high-intensity Barre workout. For those unsure of what Barre is, it’s an exercise which includes movements taken from ballet and would usually involve a ballet barre – for people at home, the barre is usually replaced by a dining chair.
Olivia first launched Panorama Barre at a studio she previously worked at and has since adapted the sessions for the socially distanced world, launching online workouts which include the signature Barre classes as well as HIIT and singular stretching sessions. It’s easy to get hooked as Olivia is a ray of sunshine, beaming positivity throughout the workouts and is one of the only online classes that I’ve done which felt personable as she talks directly to you and pushes you to maximum effort whilst also reminding to listen to your body and go at your own pace. There’s been a lot of discussions around methods of keeping your mental health in check during these times and alongside running, the Panorama Barre classes have been one of my saving graces. Also, fun to do on a Sunday to keep some normality in my life when I would usually be at the OG P Bar.
For this edition of The Lowdown, I speak to Olivia about her beginnings as a DJ and music lover as well as her introduction and journey into the fitness world, keeping motivated and the ups and downs of adapting to the digital world. There’s also a free session of Panorama Barre included which I encourage you to check out.
What was your first introduction to music? Did you grow up listening to your parent’s record collection / have it playing around the house?
My parents were big into raving in the ’90s but it’s not something they really talked about or exposed me to until I was a little older and started partying with Dad ha! He was going to the early raves in Manchester and was frequent in Ibiza, so was really into club music but growing up I’d say the music I was mostly exposed to and remember most was folk from my mum. She loved Leonard Cohen and Joni Mitchell and we’d dance around the living room together singing the words as loud as we could. When I was 13 I started singing, playing the guitar and writing my own music and I went on to study Popular Music as a subject for 7 years after graduating High School.
And how did your relationship begin with electronic music and partying?
I was super into dubstep in 2010 and after graduating from school I started music college in Kendal and started going to forest raves in the Lake District. I fell in love with dubstep, bassline and drum and bass at about 16 years old until I was 20. I ended up going to like 5 festivals a year before I was even allowed into clubs!
Could you talk us through one of the formative clubbing experiences?
There weren’t any decent clubs in the Lake District so I didn’t go to any good club nights until I moved to Bristol. My first ever club experience was going to a club called Motion in Bristol to a drum and bass night called Shit The Bed. I remember just being totally taken aback by the huge space and throwing some really intense skanky shapes with my mates that I would look back and laugh at haha. My memory is pretty blurred from most of these early rave nights but I can vouch that I had a lot of fun.
What inspired the launch of Panorama Barre? What made you choose Barre as your choice of workout?
I’ve been a total fitness fanatic and have been regularly going to classes since I was 18 but have always felt that no class has ever cut the mustard when it comes to playing good tunes. I started learning how to mix records at Uni and was becoming more and more interested in finding and collecting tunes. My favourite classes were always ones that move with the music as I find it really motivates you to push harder and makes it fun at the same time, but the music that is played at most of these classes in London is terrible. I think this is partly why loads of people who are into raving don’t really bother with exercise classes. It’s hard to motivate yourself to exercise without an instructor though, especially if you’re new as you just want to be told what to do. If you’re having lots of heavy weekends, I think it’s so important to have a balance between both of these things. I wanted to create a space and solve this problem for people like myself; space where people who are into good tunes can arrive and challenge their fitness levels to the music they love in a fun, inclusive, and non-intimidating environment. The idea of combining my own mixes came a little later down the line but is now a very important part of my brand and it makes it way more fun for me to create.
I love Barre for so many reasons. It’s a style of workout that works to the beat of the music and has become extremely popular over the years. It’s low impact/high intensity, so even though it’s super sweaty and challenging, the risk of injury is reduced. I find the burn and shake you get from a class so addictive and the moves can be sexy and strong. Creating the choreography is so fun as it’s a flow of connected moves and I like mixing and matching things I’ve seen and making up new moves. To top it off, Barre has had the best results for my body than any other workout I’ve tried!
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Let's fruity up our booties in this 60 min P Barre fiesta 🍇🍉🍈 P BARRE JUNE mix is up on the Soundcloudio for those wanting to pump dat ass outside of class 🍑 Try-before-u-buy and let me know how you got on 💦 If u loved it tell ur m8s, if u hated it keep it to yourself 🙂 IT'S FREE BBY!!!!! (hopefully the vid stays up but if not I'll upload to my U-Screen website via link in bio)
What is your aim and ethos for the brand and classes?
To provide a space, whether online or in a studio, for people that are into good electronic club music and partying to really enjoy exercising. Really enjoying it to the point that they look forward to it and it becomes ingrained in their weekly routine. For this audience to feel totally comfortable attending classes, and for them to notice a difference in their mental health, confidence and appearance. For the classes to make them healthier and happier on a whole.
One of the messages in your class bio is that P Barre aims to be inclusive and avoid the intimidating atmosphere of usual gyms/classes – how do you think you achieve this?
I always make sure I create this atmosphere before anybody enters the studio. The welcome music I play is fun and I’m always super friendly! If I see new faces I introduce myself and discuss what level they are at and their experience with Barre. During the classes, I encourage people to push themselves but not in a military way! I always give lots of modifications and reiterate that people should take what feels good, listen to their bodies and not compare themselves to their neighbours. Although the workouts are hard I want to make sure that everyone feels that they could join in the class and work up to being a pro.
Going from studio sessions to online classes and creating a whole new model for the way you work, what have been some of the most challenging and rewarding aspects of this so far?
The most challenging aspect has definitely been getting used to watching myself on camera. Teaching to a camera on a tripod is a completely different ball game to teaching and interacting with people. To be a good fitness instructor there is always a bit of cheese involved and sometimes it can be cringey to watch back.
I decided to go down the route of pre-recording classes and overdubbing the music for crystal clear sound. This means I have to spend quite some time editing every class. I’m such a perfectionist that it’s difficult not to pick at myself and how I look apart. My perfectionism has stopped me from excelling at things in the past as I’ve spent too long trying to perfect and missed opportunities, so I’ve tried to view this as a great opportunity for me to explore letting things go instead of obsessing about it.
The most rewarding aspect is hearing of people doing my classes from all over the UK and overseas during lockdown and it keeping them sane! The response I’ve had during this period has also made me feel so sure that the market for this concept is there and, with the advances of online, can grow into something huge. Seeing how far I’ve come since I first started doing these classes at the start of lockdown makes me feel so proud and is rewarding for that reason.
Do you think the global lockdown will have a longstanding impact on the way we interact with gyms and exercise classes? Do you see yourself continuing with the online sessions once things return to ‘normal’?
I think people are always going to find value in going to studios for a number of reasons (social aspect, motivation to work harder, personal corrections, etc.), but I think since lockdown the majority of gym/studio goers have realised that they can take a class that still works them hard and makes them feel great without having to pay loads and travel to and from a studio. If the instructor is good enough, I know the experience from at home can be just as good.
I personally have fallen in love with doing my workouts from home now so I think I’ll stick with this unless the time of a studio class is really convenient for me. However, I’ve noticed the music on all the workouts I’ve done online is often out of sync with the movement or bad quality. I’ve spent a lot of time during lockdown learning how to add the music over my classes so the sound of the music is perfect. If you whack it through a decent speaker it’s the real deal, which I think is pretty special. I’ve finally got to a place where I am finding so much joy in creating P Barre’s on-demand classes and I will absolutely be continuing to offer this after lockdown is lifted and studios reopen.
How do you approach the mixes that accompany the sessions? Do you choose tracks based on the exercises that you’ll be doing with it? Do you feel that your approach to P Barre mixes differ from radio / DJ sets?
For my P Barre mixes I go for bouncy and fun tracks that make you feel fruity! This is pretty much my style anyways but in my DJ sets I’ll often dip into darker sounding tracks and moments of heavier techno which I try not to do as much for P Barre. Although it’s important to use club music I don’t want to scare off the people that maybe aren’t Berghain regulars by putting loads of stonking slammers into my fitness mixers. The aim is for it to be sick tunes but also accessible for people that aren’t absolute ravers too.
I start by creating the mixes without thinking too much about the choreography but remembering it’s for a fitness class. Once it’s done I listen to it back and certain sounds in tracks or the mood of a specific track will inspire the moves that I choreograph with it. For e.g., I always choose a warm-up track that’s garage or house with some sexy lil vocals to get people in the mood when the exercise is less intense. The heaviest tracks in the mix I’ll choreograph exercises that are dynamic and expansive so you can really go for it and get the heart rate up during those sections. Some tracks that are sexy I’ll create little silly isolated moves for the deep burn. As I listen to tunes I always hop out of my chair and try something out to see if it works, it’s so fun!
Exercising can be such a challenge, what has your fitness journey been like so far? Do you find it easy to stick to a routine?
It’s been a rocky road for sure. I started off by losing lots of weight when I was 18 and I was exercising for all of the wrong reasons. I would just run on a treadmill for ages, watch the number of calories go up, and wouldn’t stop until I got to a certain number. I thought if I wasn’t doing intense cardio then it was pointless because the goal was just to lose weight all the time. I wish I could give the old me a bit of a shake but it is just part of learning and growing up. You don’t need to be absolutely destroying yourself in the gym to stay fit and look good- I think doing this can turn working out into something negative that you end up forcing yourself to do and then will easily lose the motivation. I’ve dipped into so many different fitness styles and I’ve found what works for me- something I enjoy and look forward to. I focus on how I feel during the exercise and how good my mentals are afterwards, which makes it easy to stick to as part of a routine. I view exercise as something that I need to do rather than what I should do. My routine does often change as I can get bored easily but as long as I’m building strength, sweating and moving my body, I’m happy!
What keeps you motivated?
The benefits exercise has on my mental wellbeing. It doesn’t matter if I’m working out for 15 minutes or 50 minutes, I don’t think I’ve ever regretted working out. My mood can just totally shift from a right neggy nancy to a nice pleasant woman immediately after. I feel like I have more clarity and can think more rationally when I’ve done exercise. I have more energy and feel grateful and lucky to be able to move my body in the way I am able to.
In your pre-Covid world, how were you finding the balance between fitness and partying?
Since going full-time freelance I decided to take Mondays off as, believe it or not, I just didn’t feel that productive or my best on a Monday. I use Mondays for business and life admin, as well as planning choreography and finding new tunes. In terms of working out, I try to do some gentle exercise on the Monday after a big one to get my body moving and ease myself into the week. I’ll be teaching on Tuesdays so that means I’m pretty active and then I do a whopper of a workout on Wednesday to really sweat out the weekend’s toxins (cos they deffo still there ha!) To be honest I’m still trying to strike the balance between these lifestyles myself as partying can sometimes feel it’s taken over a bit.
Your positive energy beams through the classes and I know we’ve previously touched on mental health and its struggles, what are your tips for self-care and keeping positive?
A good morning routine. It’s so simple but doing things that make you feel good in the morning can really impact how you feel for the rest of the day. And also really noticing when things make you feel good- practising gratitude for what you have. My morning routine is wake up, do my skincare routine, meditate, coffee, exercise, walk outside for 10 minutes and shower, before starting work. I really try to be mindful as I do these tasks in the morning, and also incorporate little snippets of mindfulness throughout my day. I often get so in my own head about things and it brings me back to the now and gives me some perspective.
What do you think you’d be doing right now if you hadn’t launched P Barre?
I was working as Head of Events at a yoga studio and events space in East London. The job was nice but I didn’t feel it pushed me creatively. Prior to this I was working in cafes and writing music as much as I could squeeze in but it was exhausting and I was so broke. I think I would have gone back to singing and writing music but then the idea of P Barre came up and it was so exciting. I actually started Panorama Barre by teaching the class once a week in the studio I worked for and then eventually quit my job to take it full time.
Where would you like to see the brand in 5 years time?
In 5 years time, I’d like to own a studio in East London that is a really sick space with decks and a big sound system. I’d be running a variety of classes (Barre, Yoga, HIIT, etc.) so that there would be something for everybody that is into decent club music. The signature classes would be the classes that are choreographed to the music but even those that aren’t would still have music at the forefront of the experience (e.g. yoga classes with ambient sets). Ideally, the instructors would also be DJs and could create their own mixes for their classes – I would train them in the method. Alongside this, I would be hoping that the business has taken off online and the company is able to continue creating content every week for people to join in anywhere in the world. It’s a lot but I’ve gotta dream big, right?!
Ending on a positive note, what has been the most rewarding part about founding Panorama Barre?
Easily the response I’ve had from clients and the way that these workouts have changed their approach to exercise and wellbeing. They’ve gone from people that dreaded exercising or felt they weren’t fit enough and now look forward to sweating and getting stronger to make long-lasting changes in their health. I can’t ask for more than that!