Switching Up the Barre Game With Nini Gueco of Avant-Barre

There has been a recent influx in the public's obsession with finding new ways to get fit. From yoga/hip hop hybrid classes to cult-faves like Soul Cycle, traditional workouts and gyms just aren't cutting it anymore.

Barre classes are also at the forefront of this new fitness revolution, but even as a new form of exercise, they can feel a bit boring. Nini Gueco of Avant-Barre is changing the typical barre experience by adding an artistic spin, incorporating cross-functional techniques and focusing on music as an important element. In doing so, Gueco has created a unique studio that offers more than just your average barre class. Read our interview with her below to learn about what sets Avant-Barre apart from the rest.

What inspired you to create Avant-Barre?
After becoming a fan of traditional “barre fitness” classes, I realized that nothing really varied between studios. I wanted something more. After a lot of trial and error, Avant-Barre was born. Avant-Barre brings athleticism, dynamic movement, and artistry to barre exercise in a way that feels authentic, approachable, and fun.

We believe that being fit and flexible is integral to living a healthier life, not an end-goal. We draw inspiration from dance, barre, pilates, and modified plyometrics resulting in strength and balance with “real-life” benefits, not just vanity muscles. We are also music-obsessed. I’ve always believed that music is a medium that should do one of two things (or both): speak to your soul or make you move your body.  When we plan our classes at Avant-Barre, we choreograph moves and combinations to help us feel the music instead of just letting it play in the background.

Run us through a typical day at Avant-Barre.
I’m sure everyone on my team will say this: there is no typical day at Avant-Barre. Our only focus is to make sure each person walking through our doors has the best experience with us. Before and after classes, you’ll notice our instructors and staff engaged in conversations with our clients and each other. We’ve built a pretty tight-knit community in a city that can feel pretty crazy at times, and we’re proud of that.

What drives you to get up to work out, and how do you stay motivated?
When I hear good music, the first thing I want to do is move my body, so working out to good music is a match made in heaven for me. Our clients and my team motivate me. I see the dedication of all of our clients, and I want to be able to challenge them and give them the experience that I would want at a fitness studio. The most rewarding thing is seeing their physical progress and witnessing how they’ve successfully incorporated fitness into their busy lives.

What's next for Avant-Barre?
We’ve gotten so many requests to open more spaces in San Francisco, so a second location may be in the works. I’m also working with a few friends to bring the signature features of Avant-Barre to our online community. Stay tuned!

What do you like to do when you're not working out?
I listen to music. A lot. When I’m not working out, I’m probably listening to Apple Music or Spotify trying to discover more artists and songs to include in my playlists for the studio. I also love going to live shows to immerse myself in the performance art of artists that I admire.

“...being fit and flexible is integral to living a healthier life, not an end-goal."

Some people may feel intimidated by barre. What advice can you give to those starting out?
It’s easy to feel intimidated when you’re trying something new, but it’s all about the attitude. If you’re open to learning the technique, willing to trust the instructor, and approach the class with a positivity, you’ll have a great experience.

What sets Avant-Barre apart?
Barre technique usually remains the same across the board, so to differentiate their class from everyone else, many studios end up layering more elements - weights, resistance bands, platforms, etc. -which can feel gimmicky. Avant Barre has done the opposite - we’ve limited ourselves to the barre, mats, and yoga straps. The focus now shifts to the creativity of bodyweight exercises, inventive choreography, and musical connection.

What are some major challenges you face as an entrepreneur?
My biggest challenge as an entrepreneur is remembering to celebrate how much the business has flourished over the past 2.5 years. It’s so easy to get distracted by the million things you want to do to expand your business that you forget just how much you’ve already grown and achieved. Knowing how and when to celebrate your accomplishments is necessary so that you have the energy and confidence to build the type of company you want to leave as your legacy.

What are three hidden gems in San Francisco?
Souvla - Greek fast-casual spot in Hayes Valley and NOPA. Their roasted meats are amazing, but my go-to is their roasted sweet potato salad. Their Greek froyo is also off the hook. I prefer mine with olive oil and sea salt.
Andytown - Hands down the best coffee in SF, located in Outer Sunset (also the best neighborhood in SF in my opinion). Roasty, robust, and a lot less tannic than other coffee shops.
Garaje - This is definitely not traditional Mexican food, but their tacos and burritos are delicious and perfectly balanced. I’m here at least once a week. My go-to is the fiery prawn taco.

What does MISSBISH mean to you?
To me, MISSBISH means celebrating diversity in our unique stories, empowering women by encouraging progress and challenging the status quo. It means revolutionizing beauty by highlighting females of all shapes, sizes, colors, and backgrounds, and silencing self-doubt by unapologetically celebrating our achievements.

Photos by: Quoc NgoEncarnacion Photography