Belly up to the barre on Shelter Island

Shelter Island Pilates owner Suzette Smith and her niece, Saron Smith Hardin, inside the studio. (Credit: Annette Hinkle)

Shelter Island Pilates owner Suzette Smith and her niece, Saron Smith Hardin, inside the studio. (Credit: Annette Hinkle)

For the past 12 years, Suzette Smith has been teaching Pilates on Shelter Island — she started by offering mat classes at a church, then she moved over to the American Legion Hall and for the last nine years, she has offered private and semi-private sessions at her own studio — Shelter Island Pilates — in the Heights.
Now Ms. Smith is branching out and has created a new barre studio in Shelter Island’s Center and over the Fourth of July weekend, began offering an exercise form that has become very popular in recent years but has not been available on Shelter Island in the past.

“Barre is hot right now… It’s really popular,” says Ms. Smith, a former professional dancer who took barre classes in New York 25 years ago but finds that it has now gained quite a bit of traction amongst the wider population.

She adds that barre classes are often paired with Pilates studios, which makes complete sense when you consider that both Pilates and barre are exercise forms that were initially designed for or by ballet dancers.

Both Pilates and barre are grounded in proper body alignment with the ultimate goal of building a stronger core — and both forms consist of small, isolated movements that look deceptively easy, but are, in fact, very difficult and highly effective.

“It’s perfect synergy and the same idea. Barre is taking ballet moves and fusing them with Pilates,” explains Ms. Smith. “It kicks your butt and is fun to music.”

“What’s great about barre is it’s a full body workout and low impact,” she said. “It’s all about lengthening and strengthening to make muscles long and flexible.”

An exercise with benefits that include developing a long, lean dancer’s body? What’s not to love?

The creation of the new barre studio also provides Ms. Smith with the opportunity to create group classes, which many people enjoy and are not available at her Pilates studio. Though there are many different styles of barre, but the basic routine begins with a warm up followed an intense arm workout and then a move to the barre, where the goal is to work the thighs, legs and core area.

The exercises involve pulsing movements that look subtle, but are quite intense. Barre workouts also incorporate ballet moves as well as Pilates and cardio exercises.

“We also do work on floor mats with abs, resistance bands, balls and small weights,” explains Saron Smith-Hardin, general manager of Shelter Island Pilates & Barre and Ms. Smith’s niece.

Though barre has long been a dancer’s workout, she adds that no dance experience is required to reap the benefits of barre.

“I’m not a dancer, only in my heart,” smiles Ms. Smith-Hardin. “The way it’s taught, Suzette gives a briefing on the positions — all that simple, but precise, movement. It’s not wild choreography.”

But like Pilates, this is a serious workout and one focused on building the core and strengthening the muscles that support the back.

“To enhance the intensity, we end with floor work and Pilates core work,” says Ms. Smith. “It’s about moving from your core to give you a longer, leaner body but it definitely uses your legs. And like Pilates, it gives you a strong back and proper alignment.”

“The barre never gets easier,” she adds. “You just get stronger.”

New York City based barre and Pilate’s instructor Laura Winelander has joined Shelter Island Pilates & Barre for the summer season. Barre classes are offered at the studio at 57 North Ferry Road, Shelter Island, on Friday, Saturday and Sunday at 8:15 a.m., 9:30 a.m. and 10:45 a.m. each day. Classes can be booked online at and the schedule may expand based on demand. Pilates training is offered at Shelter Island Pilates, 8 Grand Avenue, Shelter Island Heights. For more information call (631) 749-5042 or email