Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background.
I am a single mama living in New York City; I’ve been here for two years. I grew up in a very small town called Romeo, Michigan and I lived in Michigan for most of my life. When I was 18 years old, I had the opportunity to get my first professional dance job. I started dancing with Disney and that took me all over the world; it was then that I had this itch to really leave Michigan, find a new path and a new avenue. And eventually it brought me to New York City; it was always my dream to live here and finally make it happen. In that time between transitioning from Michigan to New York City, I lived in south Florida for 15 years and that is where I developed the Xtend Barre project and that is also where I had two kids.
Can you explain what exactly Xtend Barre is?
Absolutely. Xtend Barre launched out of a true passion for the Pilates industry and my dance foundation. I really wanted to marry those two foundations together and find a workout that, selfishly, I wanted to do every single day that would work on my body that would keep my body in shape that was high intensity but low impact. And that’s really what Xtend Barre is: a high-impact, low-intensity workout that combines the fundamentals of dance and Pilates. And you do not need to be a dancer to do the workout. You can have two left feet, you can be incredibly inflexible, all those excuses are out the door; anyone can do this workout. That’s my number one preach: there’s no barrier to entry. Everyone gets intimidated when they hear the word dance or they think “dance: ballet, coordination, flexibility.” You can do this workout no matter what your age, gender, background or fitness level is; it’s for everyone.
Can you tell us a little about how Xtend Barre came to be?
I launched Xtend Barre as I was working as a professional classical Pilates instructor. I was teaching Pilates five, six days a week. I had just come off of my professional dance career, I had just graduated from college and I was a little bewildered. I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life and I thought I needed to be in that creative sector. I got a job in advertising, but it didn’t fulfill my purpose and I [realized] “I need to get back to movement, movement is where my heart is.”
So I started practicing and learning Pilates and became a classical Pilates instructor and started teaching. And after about three or four years of teaching and falling in love with the Pilates repertoire, I started to miss the freedom of choreography that dance allowed me and I started to integrate some dance moves into my private Pilates session classes. And my private clients were like “Woah, what did you do? That was amazing!” I just took the principles that you do in a mat class and took it to a vertical position and added a little dance to it. And it was resonating with the clients, they were seeing results, they were coming back in the next session and saying, “Do more of that dance stuff that you did with me!” and I thought “All right.” I knew there were barre classes out there but I also knew that I wanted to do it in a way that was more true to my dance roots and also representative of all of the Pilates training that I had and kinesiology training. I wanted to apply those principles and create this cool barre workout. And that’s what we did.
We launched in South Florida and within a couple of weeks we had waitlisted classes. And I thought, “All right, we’re onto something here.” So I took some time to develop some curriculum, to develop a training manual; the goal was really just to be able to train other instructors in my studio to be able to teach the class because we had waitlisted classes and I couldn’t teach them all. And it just snowballed from there.
Eventually a member came up to me and said, “I’m moving back to New Orleans.” She was relocated from hurricane Katrina and she said, “I want to bring Xtend Barre with me. How do I do that?” I thought, “I have no idea. But let me figure it out,” and I looked into licensing. That’s how the brand started to grow. I started licensing the Xtend Barre method to Pilates studios, gyms, other facilities that wanted to implement the program in their timetable and then from there it eventually snowballed into franchising. And so now we are focused mostly internationally on franchising in the brick-and-mortar space and domestically on online programming.
What is your favorite part about taking Xtend Barre classes? What about leading them?
The answer is probably similar: it’s community, it’s connecting with the people. So as you know, that’s so powerful to be part of something that is not just a one-onone type of workout or session. So when I am participating in the class, number one, I am getting a total body workout so I know that when I’m done with that class I don’t have to now go do my cardio or go to my mind-body class or go do stretching because I get all of it; it’s like a one stop shop. What I love while I’m actually in the class, in the movement, is looking next to me and seeing other individuals taking part in the class with me. Even if we’re doing an online class, that’s a group element; I feel like I’m connecting to the people I’m watching or connecting to the people I’m working out with and so it really provides this sense of encouragement, empowerment and support in the classes.
What I love about leading the class is watching people push through the barriers that they’ve set for themselves or the ceilings they’ve set for themselves. And I watch them go from more timid and shy, insecure and not sure how to move their body in that way and not sure if this is for them to owning that workout, to feeling so confident in their bodies, to feeling strength and power in movements that once felt a little foreign or a little funky on their bodies. Now they are starting to feel like “I’ve got this.” And when that starts to happen, you start to see that power of movement trickle into all other areas of their life. It’s been a joy, and my purpose in life is to empower women to feel good about movement and to feel good and powerful and strong in their bodies.