Lotte Berk

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Lotte Berk (January 13, 1913 - November 4, 2003) was a dancer and teacher.

Berk was born Liselotte Heymansohn in Cologne, Germany to a German mother and Russian-born father, both of whom were Jewish. Her father owned a chain of menswear shops. Berk grew up to become a ballet dancer, dancing with several prominent companies. She later developed her own method of exercise that concentrated on the idea of building "core stability."

With the rise of Nazism in the '30s she fled Germany with her husband Ernst, who was also a dancer, and her daughter. Because her husband had a British passport, the family was able to live in England, where Berk worked as a model at Heatherley School of Fine Art and danced at Covent Garden for Marie Rambert. Her style of dancing did not appeal to the British and she knew she would have to change careers to make a living. In the 1950s, with the help of an osteopath, she developed a series of exercises based on her experience with dancing. Similar to pilates and yoga, the Lotte Berk method concentrates on targeting specific areas for strength and flexibility training.

At the age of 46, Berk opened an exercise studio for women-only: the Manchester Street Studio for Exercise. She gave certain exercises unusual names, such as "the Prostitute", "the Peeing Dog" and the "French Lavatory".

In her forties she moved in with a painter, with the permission of her husband, who suggested that she do so for two years, after which he would take her back. At age 50, her 30-year marriage came to an end. She married again; the second marriage lasted three weeks.

Berk continued to teach her method of exercise well into her 80s. Her famous clients included Joan Collins, Britt Ekland, Barbra Streisand, Siân Phillips, Edna O'Brien and Yasmin Le Bon.

She died at the age of 90. She is survived by her daughter, Esther Fairfax, who continues to teach her mother's method from a studio at Hungerford, in Berkshire.


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