As professional dancers at the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre for 13 and nine seasons, respectively, Julia Erickson and Aaron Ingley know the physical and nutritional demands of being a full-time athlete. One of Erickson’s most difficult roles was “Odette/Odile” in Swan Lake, which she portrayed at PBT in 2010. During a rehearsal break for that show, she snacked on a bag of homemade trail mix, then managed to spill crumbs all over her tutu and the rehearsal studio floor.
“That was my ‘aha moment,’” says Erickson, co-founder and president of Barre. “I needed some kind of bar that would provide quick and sustained energy. Something that would fuel me through rehearsals but not weigh me down or make me too full.”
She whipped up a nutritious and delicious concoction that night, and tested it during the next day’s rehearsal. Impressed with the amount of energy the bar gave, she shared her snack with her fellow dancers and Ingley, who was studying at the University of Pittsburgh at the time.
“We’re very familiar with dance merchandise,” says Ingley, co-founder and CEO of Barre. “It seemed strange to us, as foodies and athletes, that there wasn’t anything nutritionally specific for dancers. There was definitely a need in the market.” Hitting that market, the pair was sure to keep two things in mind: using real, whole ingredients and giving back to the dance world.
Real Food, Real Athletes
While not a professionally trained chef, Erickson was that kid who asked for Bon Appétit magazine subscriptions for her birthday. Because of her passion for food and her need to stay in shape, Erickson embraced the whole foods movement. “I was buying bars all the time because it was convenient, but I stopped because I wasn’t getting satiation from them, nor did I feel like they were healthy,” she says. “I said, ‘If I’m making something healthy, it has to contain healthy ingredients in their pure, unadulterated form. I’m only using ingredients I can pronounce.’” The pair also relays with Leslie J. Bonci, MPH, RD, the director of the Sports Nutrition Program at the UPMC Center for Sports Medicine and Department of Orthopedic Surgery, and PBT’s nutrition consultant. She’s given her seal of approval for Barre and serves as a great resource when Erickson is creating new recipes.
The three flavors as of now are: Pirouette Cinnamon Pecan, a spiced bar compared to the likes of coffee cake; Ballerina Spirulina, a green bar with surprisingly sweet coconut; and Black Swan Chocolate Berry, a decadent blend of cocoa and cranberries. High in Omega-3s and free of refined sugar, their colleagues have studio-tested Barre and confirmed all three flavors are good for pre-, post-, and during workouts. Ingley also recommends pairing the Black Swan with an afternoon cup of coffee or getting creative with Barre. (Press Pirouette Cinnamon Pecan into a pie crust, or mix bits into yogurt!)
Produced at a co-packing plant in Youngstown, Ohio, Barre is sold at 25 Whole Foods Market stores in the Mid-Atlantic region, 30 Giant Eagles and Market Districts in Pittsburgh and Eastern Ohio, East End Food Co-op, Marty’s Market, and other independent national food stores. Barre is also available at Amazon.com, RealFoodBarre.com, and local barre fitness and dance studios, including PBT. To give back to the dance community, proceeds from Barre are donated to local and national art education and outreach programs. “Dance is our passion,” says Erickson. “And it definitely — in a weird path — helped create Barre, so we want to share dance with the world.”
Barre’s “cross-pollination” includes introducing dancers to the product and using the company’s social media to promote upcoming performances. Erickson says it’s fun to see her two passions — food and dance — performing so perfectly together. “We’re just along for the ride,” she says. “Enjoying all the twists and turns of this happy treat.”