Meet the woman who teaches barre classes inside one of North Salem’s most historic buildings
Lori Laub is sitting under the shade of an umbrella outside The Market at Union Hall, the North Salem hub for good coffee and community chit chat. She just finished teaching her Friday morning barre class inside the airy, blush-walled ballet studio that occupies the third floor of Union Hall and is now rehydrating with coffee and a mineral water. She looks like a regular, trim and stylish in her athleisure, but were it not for pandemic serendipity she may never have arrived here.
“I live nine minutes from North Salem, but I always went south; I never came North,” Laub, a 25-year resident of Goldens Bridge, said. “During the pandemic, my husband and I went north, walking Baxter and Keeler,” she explained, referring to the well-trod open lands of North Salem that served as a soothing balm to innumerable COVID-anxious souls. As so many locals do, the couple quickly made a habit of stopping in at The Market at Union Hall for a post-walk hot coffee. Before long, fate presented itself in the form of a yoga mat.
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“I saw girls coming down the steps with mats, and I was like, wait, there’s something happening in this beautiful barn,” Laub said. Laub began asking around and soon found out that Union Hall’s third floor studio space was available for rent. Laub had been teaching barre for a few years prior to the pandemic but floated among a few different studios in Westchester. When the pandemic forced everything closed, she had pivoted to livestreaming virtual classes which helped raise money for local heroes.
Last October, Laub quietly began renting studio space inside the historic North Salem building and launched LL Country Barre. She taught small-group Pilates barre classes while following strict COVID protocols. “We became a beautiful safe haven and pod, and helped people get through COVID,” Laub said.
Laub’s younger self might be shocked to see what she is doing today. “I have nightmares of 7th grade,” she recalled with a shudder. “Of not being able to do a pushup or a situp in proper form. I was never flexible. I had no upper body strength. I always felt that that wasn’t for me.”
As a young adult, Laub found physical empowerment in the form of Jack LaLanne workout videos. “It was a high that I never could find anywhere in life. I loved that I was able to make that choice, and it was a sense of accomplishment and a sense of well-being that carried me throughout the day.”
At 33, Laub was introduced to barre. By then she was a mom to two young children, still seeking that same sense of accomplishment and empowerment that exercise could bring, and that young motherhood often does not. “With barre, I realized that I can be that flexible person. I can touch my toes or do a split,” Laub said. “I realized that barre is actually the fountain of youth.”
According to Laub, aging gracefully involves keeping our ligaments and joints lubricated. “You do that through stretching,” Laub said. “In barre, every time we work a muscle, we lengthen it and stretch it. That’s where flexibility comes in. We stretch throughout class.”
Laub’s 60-minute pilates barre classes are a unique combination of slow muscle burning agony, graceful lifts and soulful meditation. One minute your thighs are jiggling like un-set Jell-O and the next you’re in a Zen-like state, your mind somehow wiped clean of the stressors you carried with you up the steep flight of stairs into class. There’s very little sweat, but two days after the class is over a satisfying burning feeling persists in muscles you forgot you had.
In her classes, Laub says she sees joy, smiles and people getting stronger. “This is almost like standing meditation for an hour. You forget everything and feel lighter after class. You didn’t think of your to-do list. You went inside,” she said, gesturing to her heart.
Laub draws much of her inspiration from her late father, who was a holocaust survivor. “He taught me that your responsibility on this earth is to use your God-given gifts to help others.”
For Laub, her gifts are less about helping clients land perfect relevés and pliés, and more about connecting with people on a deeper level. “Teaching is truly just a vehicle for me to be able to have the opportunity to transport souls where they need to be—their happy place or their place where they can find peace and harmony within themselves.”
Laub, who considers herself a healer, said she sometimes thinks of herself as a ‘bus driver’ of sorts, taking passengers on a journey of personal discovery. “As I pick up these incredible souls along my route and I have them on my bus, I get to reach them on a deep soul connection. That’s where real change happens.”