{The truth about the Lotte Berk technique}

by | Nov 3, 2020 | Blog

It has taken years to put all the pieces together, but after much research and getting to know the stories of many who were involved when Lotte Berk first began. The puzzle is now complete, and today we want to share it with you all. Last week I was in England with Esther Fairfax, daughter of Lotte Berk, who after five years of knowing has truly become like family to me.  We did an interview which you can watch on this channel where we talk about how the method was born and learned about the thought process behind Lotte creating it. 


However, that is not what this is about today.  Today, I am telling the story of what happened after Lotte signed her name away so many years ago.  It will explain why and how no one really knew the ORIGINAL technique until we met Esther out in the countryside of England in 2015.  The history that has been told to us about Lotte Berk begins here in America, when in actuality there was much that went on prior to that and most of it was left behind on English soil.


Let’s begin with Lotte, who developed her technique after not an accident of any sort, but an “incident” where she was helping a man stretch by wrapping her arms around him to lengthen his spine and in doing so slipped a disc.  This brought her to Dr. Apple, an osteopath, who was responsible for teaching her how to tilt the pelvis by engaging her abdominal muscles. Lotte then used this in tandem with the ballet exercises she had already been successfully teaching.  Lotte did not tilt in every exercise she designed.  It is used in different sections of the class and does not involve squeezing the glute muscles at all. 


After the discovery of the tilt, a woman trained with Lotte Berk who would change the course of history for Lotte forever.  The woman’s name is Lydia Bach.  Lydia trained with Lotte and fell in love with the idea of her work.  Lotte was already quite famous at this point and had been written about in key magazines such as Vogue and Queen. Lotte was already working with famous actresses, both English and American yet was only known in England at this time.  Lydia came to Lotte with an idea of bringing her name to the U.S. and Lotte signed a document that gave Lydia the rights to her name in America and in Canada (we actually have a copy of this agreement). 


From that point on Lydia was able to mold the technique however she wanted since there was no further directions in this very simple agreement.  Lydia had her own ideas about what the method would be, but wanted to give credit to the woman who inspired her and so the Americanized version of the Lotte Berk Method was born.  America learned what Lydia saw and wanted to be “Lotte Berk” and not what Lotte was actually teaching in her London studio. From then on, you have probably heard the history which began at that infamous Lotte Berk Method studio in New York City.  Many teachers came through this studio and then started to change Lydia’s work, which is how we have so many different styles of Barre studios in America today. Some even took this changed work back to London, so now they were even teaching the Americanized versions there as well. 


Another key woman during this time was named Callan Pinkerly.  Callan also trained with Lotte and worked at the first Lotte Berk Method studio in NYC. Right away she did not agree with how Lotte’s work had been altered and left to begin what we now know today as Callanetics.  Due to trade mark issues Callan was never allowed to say that the origin of her beloved work was actually based on what she had learned from the Original work of Lotte Berk.  Callan went on to sell one of the most successful exercise books and exercise programs of all time which is still true to this day. 


So now we have Lotte’s work being taught in America under the Lotte Berk Method name, but not actually being Lotte’s work, and then we have her work being taught in a version that was closer to what she invented, but still not exactly the same under another name.  Lotte at this time is, of course, not very happy with us Americans (as I am sure you can imagine) and decides to change the name of her own method she is still teaching in London to be the Lotte Berk Technique. Lotte’s daughter Esther continued this on and until we found her in 2015 had been teaching her mother’s work under the Lotte Berk Technique name for fifty seven years. 


So now we have the Lydia version being taught under the Lotte Berk Method name and the Original version being taught under the Lotte Berk Technique name.  It is no wonder we have all been so confused for so long.  Esther has lived in anguish over watching what her mother had to deal with regarding this, and believe it or not, the threats to the family on what she can and can’t do with their family name still lives on today.  Esther was supposed to speak with me in an interview at a huge summit in our industry, but after threats came in that if she did, a lawsuit would ensue, and the interview was dropped. 


I decided to still continue on my journey “Back to Berk”, which began unknowingly a little over five years ago and do the interview with Esther as I had promised.  We left this part out of our talk, but after spending a fortnight with Esther in a global pandemic (after being tested as Covid free both here in America and then again once I had quarantined in England), I asked her point blank if the threats and the trademark issues still got to her and the look in her eyes alone told me my answer. “I’ve been pushing it down inside of me since the 80’s” she said. 


Now that you know the family’s side of the story, I ask all of you.  Where do you believe the Lotte Berk name should live? My plea is this.  If you own a trademark with the Lotte Berk name and you are not using it for profit, why not let the family restore the work of Lotte Berk and let the beautiful technique live on with the name it was always meant to have.  Barre is still ours, and can live on as it does, but let Lotte live with her daughter right where she belongs.


            Esther is still teaching the technique today and wants the work of her mother to be shared with all that are interested in learning it.  Esther has given the technique a format we can follow and wants the legacy of Lotte Berk to live on.  This is not your average fitness program, but rather an artistic endeavor which contains the most effective shape building moves we have ever seen.  Lotte was a not only a genius, but a living legend during her time for the waist slimming, core strengthening, and body lengthening technique she created.  There was a reason for this, and we are so thankful to Esther for keeping them safe and sharing them with us all today.

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