New Carmel Valley studio raises the ‘barre’ on fitness


The line on Brooke Tigh’s tank top may read “So this girl walks into a barre,” but her new fitness boutique, Studio Barre Carmel Valley, is no joke. Infectiously energetic, her voice hoarse from leading 15 to 20 classes a week, the happily exhausted Tigh has watched her business grow steadily since it opened Aug. 1, 2014 in Torrey Highlands Village off Camino Del Sur.

Young moms, teachers, scientists and “Barre Buddies” who help each other stick with their workout routines are just some of the people who have been coming regularly to Studio Barre for classes that focus on digging deep into the core, improving posture and sculpting a dancer-like body.

“Some people think barre is scary. I want to tell people that trying something new is good for you, and it’s not scary. It is hard, but it works,” said Tigh, who lives in Del Mar. “And no dance experience is required.”

Dance, in some form, has always been a part of Tigh’s life.

She started in ballet as a 3-year-old and continued through high school, performing in “Nutcrackers” and “Swan Lakes” with the California Ballet Company in her native Fresno. Tigh also competed nationally with her high school cheer team.

She moved to San Diego in 1997 to attend San Diego State and performed with several professional dance teams in college such as Fire and Ice USA, the San Diego Sockers and the San Diego Stingrays — “sparkly tops and pom-poms,” Tigh recalled.

After graduating with a degree in journalism, she worked many jobs she didn’t like and maintained her fitness, always working out. Things changed when she found a barre studio in La Costa seven years ago.

She had stopped classical dance training at 21 but the barre class was a way to get back into dance, tapping into those familiar ballet positions and extensions to “super, awesome, fun” music, all while not dressed in the pink tights and black leotards of her youth.

It was a “grown-up” ballet workout — and she was hooked.

A few months in, her instructor suggested that she begin teaching classes herself. She trained in Los Angeles and started teaching classes at the studio, which eventually became known as Studio Barre.

Owner Shannon Higgins began to franchise her studios and it has become “the little studio that could”: Studio Barres have popped up in Mission Hills, Newbury Park, South Carolina and Rhode Island. The Birdrock La Jolla location opened two weeks ago, and one will open in the spring in San Juan Capistrano.

Tigh leapt at the chance to become one of those franchise owners.

“I always knew I wanted to own some kind of dance or fitness studio,” she said. “It was always in the back of my mind, because if you love what you do, you’re not really going to work.”

It was challenging at first, figuring out how she would make it work, finding investors and a good location. A former client, Melissa Chang, became her partner, and the pieces began to click into place. After going through the city’s “grueling” permit process, they built out a former “vanilla box” Sprint store into a “stunning, classy and clean” boutique studio.

“It was a very long time coming in realizing a dream come true,” Tigh said. “I love what we’ve created here.”

Tigh still teaches those 15 to 20 classes a week and has a team of Barre-tenders who handle the rest of the classes offered throughout the day.

All classes are an hour long, and all feature upbeat, motivating music as the Barre-tender leads the group in small, isolation-based movements. Sometimes they use exercise balls and resistance bands.

“What separates us from other barre studios is that there’s lots of personality from the instructors and tons of hands-on instruction and help with alignment,” Tigh said.

Barre-istas, as the clients are called, wear socks with grips on the bottom during the workout to help stay grounded to the floor and to keep feet warm.

“We work to fatigue each muscle group, and then lengthen with each stretch to create those long, lean dancer muscles,” Tigh said.

The head-to-toe workout causes muscles to “burn and shake” and results in a chiseled and contoured body, Tigh said. Clients such as NFL quarterback Drew Brees, Navy SEALs, Ironman triathletes and ex-professional ballet dancers have reported that the class is a great workout.

“It doesn’t matter what level you are, you’re going to be challenged, you’re going to have fun and you’re going to see noticeable results,” Tigh said.

In her first five months of business, hearing the thank-yous and compliments from clients about their results has been the coolest part of running the studio for Tigh.

Jessica Kinsella, a client turned teacher and a mother of three, said her body has never looked better since coming to the Barre.

“One client told me, ‘You have changed my life and I feel like I can do anything,’” Tigh said. “I’ve seen her level of strength go from a two to a 10, and it’s so rewarding and satisfying as an owner and an instructor to know that I can give that to people.”

Classes can be purchased alone ($20 per class) or in a package, and there are also monthly rates. New clients can get one month for $99, which includes a free pair of socks.

Walk-ins are welcome and attendees only need to register in advance for the 6 a.m. classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Friday night classes, at 4:15 p.m. and 5:30 p.m., are only $5. For a schedule of classes, visit