I met Melody Smith at Dance 101 in Atlanta when I ventured to take one of her Beginning Ballet Fit classes. It was one of first ballet classes I had taken as an adult, and though it’s been a while and the details of the class are fuzzy, I absolutely do remember watching Melody teach and thinking “How is she so stunning and how does she make it look so effortless and why am I not seething with jealousy?” I don’t know about the answers to the first and second questions. But I have a theory about the third – she’s a genuinely warm person that makes ballet seem less like an ice castle in the sky and more like a sport you show up to, get better at, and enjoy.
So a couple months ago, I was down in San Diego at Dailey Fest – a day of music, barre, meditation, and shopping – sponsored by the local Dailey Method studios. gwenyth had a booth there and as a result, I had the chance to meet so many of the barre goers in that community as they dropped by.
Keyword – “Community”. As I met each new woman, it occurred to me that this was a community and that barre is community. It’s not a novel thought. But that day reinforced it. Each new woman I met referenced a previous one or a future one I would meet. They were each connected to barre. And an overwhelming number were connected to each other through the Dailey Method Rancho Bernardo Poway studio.
So of course I had to talk to owner Stephanie Firenze about the vibrant community she’s created and how it’s all done.
Building a Community
How did you get started with The Dailey Method and become a studio owner?
I was introduced to The Dailey Method (TDM) by my Bay Area friends. I was addicted and it quickly became my dream to own my own studio! Now I am living my dream!
Can you talk a little bit about how the community aspect of Dailey Method RB Poway supports the life and fitness goals of the women you serve?
The women in our community encourage, inspire and lift each other up! It is really a unique setting where women want to see other women succeed. “A flower doesn’t think about competing with the flower next to it, it blooms.” This quote rings true for our studio and community!
How did you build your barre community?
Teamwork. I definitely didn’t do it alone. Everyone contributes to our amazing community of women and children!
Many of the women I met from your community were moms with young children. Why is barre such a popular workout for busy and vibrant mommies?
Most moms don’t have much time for themselves. If they do, they need something efficient and effective. And that is what TDM is! Plus, we have childcare! TDM helps bring balance to mommies!
Now back to you. Studio owners are some of the busiest and highest-energy people I know. How do you get it all done?
Lots of coffee and kombucha! Haha.
“All done”? Not nearly! Always stuff to do! Right now I just strive to maintain balance between my career and friends and family! But I will say we get a lot done because I am surrounded by good people!
What does “movement” mean to you?
It’s a component of physical well-being. Movement contributes to a healthy and happy lifestyle. Movement releases endorphins making us better people, partners and parents…and more patient! But rest is just as important as movement!
Life is a matter of balance between rest and movement!
As I sit here writing the intro to this interview, my behind feels little more lifted, my legs a little tighter, and my body a bit longer. I attribute this to the barre class I took from Sarah Porter in Orlando on Monday. I am now in LA and today is Friday. I got trained (worked) by the trainer.
I met Sarah when she inquired about our Modern Classic Top + Tunic, at which point I learned that she was not only a barre instructor, but a national trainer for the Bar Method organization. I’ve long been impressed by barre instructors and their passion and discipline. But the woman who coaches and evaluates the instructors? That’s a whole different level. And so of course I had to learn more.
Today I talk with Tiffany Moore, the founder of MOORE Dancing in Brentwood, CA. You may remember how her hip hop class pulled me out of a little slump. Since then, I’ve been back a few more times and have been impressed by the number of dancers and non-dancers alike that fill her very large studio with some amazing energy.
Some days, I end the day and think, “Wow. I got a lot done!” And then I meet someone like Amanda P. and think, “Wow. She got A LOT done.”
Amanda P. works full-time as pediatric cardiology nurse, runs and does all the writing for her popular lifestyle blog Meet at the Barre, teaches an online pharmacology class for the University of South Florida, and instructs at Pure Barre Tampa. And those are just the jobs. She’s also a newlywed wife!
I was a little hesitant as I am sometimes wary of the term “dancefit”. For me, it conjures imagery of 80’s and 90’s aerobicizing queens in an LA Fitness class, where the instructor is dumbing down the moves to make sure every one gets them. Classes where you end up doing an hour of grapevines, kneelifts, toe touchbacks with “attitude” to Top 40 music, and they call it dance.
Warning: This post is admittedly biased, from the perspective of someone who prefers pilates to weight lifting these days.
So it’s been over 3 years since I’ve been to a traditional gym – you know, the kind with treadmills and weight machines. But the other night I was convinced to give it a go again, if only for old time’s sake and to keep a friend company.
I walked in and immediately felt like a foreigner, which was odd, given how many hours I had logged in at gyms in a past lifetime. The two things that immediately struck my present-day senses were:
- How masculine the environment felt
- The self-serve nature of the whole operation
Where My Ladies At?
I’ve spent most of my workouts over the last few years in settings that are almost 100% female. As someone who used to play sports and has spent plenty of time in the weight room, I would have laughed ten years ago if you told me that mostly-female classes would dominate my fitness future.
Maybe it was the color scheme, but when I walked in, the place just screamed “Dude”. It was probably 80% men, and 20% women, if that. Back in the day, it seemed more like 50/50 or 60/40. Where my ladies at? Of course, there are high-end clubs like Equinox that sport these more traditional ratios. But that’s a whole other story.
Next, the equipment no longer called to me like it used to. Don’t get me wrong. I am all about the leg press machine and the ab tower and the benefits of strength training for women. But knowing that I can pack toning, cardio, flexibility, balance, and core strengthening into 60-minutes at a barre or pilates class made an hour with a bunch of dudes working on getting bigger muscles or treadmill jogging feel not all that efficient or edifying.
I settled into a elliptical machine. And after about 5 minutes, I got totally bored and thought to myself “What am I doing here?” I wanted something to engage my mind as well as body. More than ever, I began to think maybe modern day gym utility is mostly for men. That women want different emotional as well as physical things from their fitness experience. In a very neutral way, we’re just different and so we have different needs. I felt a little grown up for recognizing women don’t need to play the same fitness game as men.
Perhaps my perspective is skewed, as I live in the Los Angeles, boutique fitness mecca to the world. But staring at the free weights rack just sitting there, I thought “Is this the best I can do for my body with my time?”
Having had a personal trainer once, I learned within 15 minutes of my first session with him how much more effective my workout was with an expert guiding me on correct form and a planned set of moves. This was years ago, but I realized that I was getting more out of 2 sessions per week with him than 3-4 self-serve wanderings about the gym.
That’s why I love going to classes – there’s an expert to guide you on specific moves, correct form, and make sure all the muscle groups we ladies tend to care about are addressed.
Yes, there is a cost to trainers and barre and pilates and dance classes. But I figure there is also a cost for my time and there are now inventions like Classpass and Groupons to lower the per class cost.
So Gym No More?
At the moment, I don’t see myself going back to the gym. But who knows. Maybe in another 10 years, with a few tweaks, the gym will become the new new feminine fitness haven!
So the topic of this post presents a bit of a “behind the curtain” dilemma. As you know, these posts are always signed “xo gwenyth”, with gwenyth being the human embodiment of a life elevated by movement. But even gwenyth is imperfect and has flaws, because the person who writes for/as gwenyth is an actual person, which you will get to see in the video series I discuss below.
When Kate Horwood of Body Edit in London contacted me about being interviewed among the ranks of online fitness and nutrition stars and major barre franchise owners, I was admittedly a little confused. “Why does she want to interview me?” And then it occurred to me how much my life has changed in the last few years since I discovered movement and that in the question lay the answer.
As someone who has been at a student at over 50 different barre, pilates, dance, yoga, and aerial studios (and counting) and has studied bodies with the purpose of designing something for movement, I realized I could have something to say if I compared and contrasted my accumulated experience. So maybe I am a “fitness expert” of sorts, but very much from a student’s perspective.
Access to the Interviews
The interview series is structured as an online summit, wherein one video is released per day via e-mail starting August 17th to those who have signed up for the summit. Access if free (see below.)
Each interview stays live for 48 hours once it airs and then at the end of the series there is a 3-day reply period where you can watch all of the videos for 3 extra days.
TO ACCESS THE INTERVIEWS: Go to www.yourbestbodyyetfree.com and sign up with your e-mail address.
Full Disclosure: We weren’t paid or incented to promote this, and I have confirmed with Kate that your e-mails will not be sold or shared. I’m sharing about this because I applaud her proactivity in pulling something like this together and pulling together perspectives on the related topics of body image, fitness and nutrition. I also wanted to give those who were interested a little peek behind the curtain if you ever wondered who I was…
In Front of the Curtain
So I did the interview, which was a fun conversation with Kate about movement fitness and what I think disciplines like barre, pilates, dance, and aerial do for women. I’m not sure which day it will air. You’ll have to sign up to find out!
But to be clear, gwenyth is not gwenyth Founder Michele Braxton. But maybe Michele Braxton can be gwenyth on one of Michele’s better days when she remembers to move and be moved. Perhaps you can say the same for yourself?
Enjoy the interview series.
PS: Speaking about yourself in third person – odd but sometimes necessary!
So a few weeks again, I knew I didn’t have time to get a full class in, but my body needed something. So off to Youtube I went with the search term: ballet barre workout. And this is what I ended up finding and doing:
A classical ballet barre workout that takes you through the various positions and standard ballet movements. It lasted about 30 minutes. I used the railing of my balcony as my barre. I worked up a little sweat. And I felt a little taller after.
I loved the analogy of the body as a flower with it’s roots. A useful one I hadn’t heard before, which kept me focused on my core strength and grounded my lower body while encouraging my arms to be more “flowery”. I thought about it repeatedly and I think it really helped!
The quick, specific workout was exactly what I wanted for a busy day where I still needed some classic movement. Bravo Estelle Shaw!
PS: The video was part of the AthletiCulture channel on Youtube that has all sorts of video workouts!
So I have been absent. But I am back. And dance brought me back.
I’ve been feeling a little harried and blue lately and realized that I haven’t been to a dance class in ages. My husband surprised me just this last week with a Classpass subscription. So I looked up at the sky and said “Okay. I see the signs”, scrolled through Classpass, and found a class called “Pop Hip-Hop Choreography” at a studio called Moore Dancing (get it?) and signed up.