Four years ago, with a post-baby body that she couldn’t quite shake despite the help of popular workout classes like Pure Barre and the Tracy Anderson Method, the “Girls” actor Jemima Kirke stumbled upon Brooklyn Strength, a Pilates and fitness studio in Brooklyn Heights, near her home in Carroll Gardens, N.Y.
The 800-square-foot space drew her in with its unassuming vibe (recently, the front windows were decorated with hand-drawn tulips) and its 32-year-old owner Cadence Dubus’s curvaceous, muscular frame — one that Kirke wanted for herself and would later paint in the nude for her solo show, “Platforms.” “She was thick,” Kirke recalls. “Rather than aspirational, it was inspirational.”
Kirke has since worked with Dubus on twice-weekly personal training sessions, supplementing with 50-minute Pilates and kettlebell group classes at Brooklyn Strength’s second location, which opened in Cobble Hill this past September. “The concern here is with your health — it’s not about ‘Lift your butt! Squeeze those thighs!’” she says. “It took me a little while to accept that I could get a tough workout and not be suffering” — and, grabbing the flesh between her derriere and upper thigh, she adds, “be okay with certain annoying bits that just aren’t going to go away.”
It’s not easy to take the shaming out of the fitness world, but Dubus, who has studied holistic health and nutrition for the past 17 years, is somewhat of an evangelist for the every girl. “The impetus is always to get skinny,” she says, alluding to trending barre regimes and group workout programs. “My focus is to get you strong.” And also: to have fun. At a Pilates class earlier this month, as Johnny Cash and June Carter floated through the speakers, Dubus instructed the eight girls in mid-plié to “exhale, and engage your abdominals like you’re drawing water up through your vagina.” Everyone in the room smiled, not a single one in Lululemon.
In the below slideshow, Kirke brings T into a personal training session with Dubus, who shares tips for completing the exercises at home.