Boutique Exercise Studios Flourish on Capitol Hill

A class at Pure Barre DC

I love to see new gyms open in my neighborhood. It means there are more choices to fit individual tastes and budgets and less excuses for not exercising. Recently, four boutique exercise studios flexed their muscles within walking distance of Eastern Market. They give residents a variety of workout regimes to get them moving and to have fun.

Niche players in the fitness industry like Momentum Dance and Fitness Studio, Pure Barre, BMarchai Studio and Jade Fitness represent one of the hottest trends in the $21.8 billion fitness field dominated by big box gyms like Washington Sports Club, Vida, Results and Gold’s Gym. But for people who eschew crowds and feel uncomfortable navigating several floors full of equipment and a multitude of class choices, specialty fitness studios fit the bill.

Boutique fitness studios have come full circle. Their resurgence gives credence to the adage, “What’s old becomes new.” In the 80s when I began my journey in the fitness world we had few choices on the Hill – jazzercising barefoot in a school gym and Capitol Hill Squash Club that converted a squash court into a high impact aerobics studio. The crème de la crème location for exercise was Somebody’s in Georgetown – a lovely, plush exercise studio with mirrors that catered to a somewhat elite and dedicated exerciser. Thirty years later, boutique studios have evolved. High impact is no longer an option. Safer, more effective and creative workouts have taken their place.

Momentum Dance and Fitness Studio

Momentum Dance and Fitness Studio, at 534 8th St. SE among the many trendy Barracks Row restaurants, offers residents a unique opportunity to kick their heels, pump their hearts and strengthen their cores in a variety of dance and fitness classes that include jazz, ballet, Bollywood, Zumba, Pilates and Barre Fitness as well as a children’s dance class.

“We cater to people who want to learn to dance but also want to work out,” said Roberta Rothstein, owner of Momentum. “We want to keep students moving in dance classes as well as learn technique and patterning. We want students to use their body and their brain.” 

Roberta, who is also licensed clinical social worker with a private psychotherapy practice, has lived on the Hill for 30 years.  She emphasizes one doesn’t have to be a dancer or any age to enjoy classes at Momentum, but “has to want to work, have fun and learn something new.” She has been teaching dance and fitness classes for much of her life and has had a hip replacement. She personally knows what it is like to have to return to exercising after an injury.  “Our classes are for people of every age and physical ability.”

Pure Bare DC

Pure Barre DC, open since March, sits atop Metro Mutts at 407 8th Street, SE, just up the street from Momentum. It is Michelle Davidson’s second DC location of this nationwide franchise. Michelle first experienced Pure Barre in Manhattan where she fell in love with the technique. “I was practicing law which I enjoyed, but I missed having passion for my work. Then, I guess the stars aligned – my husband got a job offer in DC, we moved here, I became pregnant and applied for my first Pure Barre franchise (which is in Dupont Circle).” 

The Pure Barre technique is low-impact with strength and stretch portions of class that use light weights, a ball and tubing. “It is a total body workout that lifts your seat, tones your thighs, abs, and arms and burns fat.” Pure Barre contains elements of Pilates, ballet and core exercises.

BMarchai Studio

BMarchai Studio moved from Capitol Hill Fitness on 8th Street and opened its doors at 1451 Pennsylvania Ave, SE last January. Breelaun Marchai, owner, created a low impact circuit workout with 15 different exercises each week designed to be done in 30 minutes. “Our clients can come in any time during our three time slots, jump into a station and start working out. There’s no waiting.” 

Convenience is the key at BMarchai. If you pushed the snooze button one too many times or if you worked overtime you can still get your full workout between 6:00 and 9:30am, 11:00-1, 4:30 to 8:30 five days a week. Saturdays it is open from 7:30 until 3p.m.

Breelaun has an eclectic background that includes working as a sculpture model for 17 years, practicing martial arts, doing a stint in the Air Force and working as an EMT.

Jade Fitness

Jade Fitness is just up the street from BMarchai at 1310 Pennsylvania Ave. SE. Its inception came from collaboration between co-owners Drew McNeil and Ellen Heier. “I lived on the Hill since 1999 and selfishly wanted a place near my home where I can work out and get personalized attention as well as group classes,” said Ellen.

Jade offers both group classes that include Zumba, yoga and Jade’s own, “ABC workout” (abs, butt and core) and its signature class, “Correctfit” a class that Drew describes as “getting your body back to function – it’s functional training with a little physical therapy, but it’s a total body workout.”  Class numbers are small and Drew said often another instructor assisting in class provides personalized attention to students.

Jade also offers small group personal training sessions that Drew said, “offers the benefits of one-on-one personal training at an affordable price.”


Boutique fitness studios can be pricey. However, packages can be purchased to lower the cost. One class at Momentum costs $17/class; at Pure Barre $25/class or $125/month for new students; BMarchai is $20 per class or $80/month and Jade Fitness is $23/class ($79/month unlimited classes for new students).

Opportunities to learn new ways to move your body abound on the Hill. You can get effective, unique and fun workouts and a social connection in an intimate setting in a boutique fitness studio. Be adventurous. Take a class. See what you like. 

BMarchai Studio
Momentum Dance and Fitness owner Roberta Rothstein (in pink) and staff.
Drew McNeil and Ellen Heier, owners of Jade Fitness

Pattie Cinelli is a fitness consultant and personal trainer who has been exercising and teaching exercise on the Hill for more than 25 years. To contact Pattie with column ideas or with fitness questions email her at:

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