Teacher Feature: Aniela Finch

Aniela Finch has over 25 years of dance experience. Her ballet training began at a young age and she had teachers and mentors who trained with the New York City Ballet, the Joffrey Ballet, the Danish Royal Ballet and the Royal Ballet. Aniela left her dance training behind when she entered the adult world. Now married and a mom of three, she has found a new passion through teaching barre. Aniela received her barre certification last November and is working hard to spread her love for barre to her community in Greeley, CO. Her creativity shines through her classes. Aniela loves finding new exercises to introduce to her classes, she creates playlists and shares them on her Instagram account and she throws some seriously fun barre parties.

What was your dance or fitness experience prior to getting certified?

When I was about six [years old], I started to do ballet. From there, I had a classical ballet training from Boulder Ballet in Boulder, CO. I quit ballet my junior year of high school then took classes in college, and that allowed me to start ballet again. I stopped again after college. I kept exercising, but it wasn’t until I had my third baby that I wanted to get back into ballet and [Barre Certification] was a great avenue for me to do so.

Why do you love teaching barre?

I love barre because I get to use my passion for ballet, health and fitness, and it’s fun to be able to encourage people. Using [barre] as a form of low-impact exercise, I just love it. I love the joy that it brings to people. It’s a new way to workout and a fun way to workout. I love this style of exercise to gain strength and flexibility and to tone your muscles in new ways.

What’s your favorite part of class?

I have three things. I love doing the weights and finding new ways to work with the light weights. I’ve added in some towel movements. We use towels kind of as gliders, so that’s been fun. The call it the torturous towels now in my class. The third is at the barre, we put our feet on the barre and do some bridges, so bridges on the barre— I have a video of that for you! And adding fun music makes those exercises even more fun!

 

How has barre impacted your community?

I teach at our local recreation center here in Greeley, CO– the Greeley Family Funplex and the Greeley Rec. Center and it’s actually though our dance studio, Northern Colorado Academy of Dance Arts. We partnered with the City of Greeley and we’ve been able to extend it to the city. [The studio] has enabled me to teach and do my own thing, in terms of barre. At the end of each session, and I spoke about this in the [BarreCast] podcast, but I do a barre party. We have done 80s, 90s, Girl Power, Country, Sports themes, the next one is going to be the Roaring 20s. The barre parties are a fun way to have people invite their friends and bring joy to the community. I have a heart for each of my students. I believe that they were brought into my life for a reason, and I just want to love and encourage my students and community. I’m just so blessed by that.

You’ve been dancing since you were six years old. How great is it to continue your ballet passion through ballet-based fitness?

I just love that I am able to continue my passion for ballet and fitness and combining those through barre. It has been such a blessing and a joy for me, and I would say for my family too, because it’s given me an avenue for something I have a passion for and given me an outlet to go and do that.

Any current goals?

I’d say more current goals would be to learn more about barre, teaching and group fitness, even personal training, things like that, so I can continue to grow in my knowledge. I always want to learn more, and I always want to encourage people more.

Ballet etymology: Arabesque

Learning the etymology of ballet words can help you visualize the intention of the position or exercise. It also makes for great trivia for your next class! Let’s dissect the word Arabesque [air-uh-besk].

IMG_4935What it looks like in ballet: A classical position in which the dancer is balanced on one supporting leg with the working leg lifted behind them. 

Etymology: According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, the word arabesque originated in 1610 and takes its name from a form of Moorish ornament. From there, the word became the French arabesque, then into Italian arabesco, both referring to an Arabic decoration or design. It wasn’t used as a ballet term until 1830. In 1853, the Robert Schumman, a German composer, titled a song “Arabeske” for its meaning of elaborate decoration.  

How to use it in barre: Arabesque battements using the barre (see Chapter 8 of the IBBFA Barre Certification Level 1 manual).

Other meanings of the word today: According to Dictionary.com, the word defines a short, elaborate music piece for piano, a spiraling literary motif, and any ornament (rug, mosaic, etc.) with fanciful patterns of flowers, fruits, animals, and figures.

5 self-care tips for instructors

As an instructor, you are dedicated to your clients and to your facility. However, the biggest cause of injury and burnout for instructors is when they don’t take enough time for themselves. Some instructors feel guilty about taking time off or saying “no” to another responsibility, but taking on more than you should usually does more harm than good. Taking care of yourself is imperative to not only your health, but the health of your clients and the success of your studio. Here are five self-care tips to keep in mind.

Do some deep stretching once a week

DSC_0427You encourage your clients to stretch, but sometimes you forget or are too busy to stretch. Stretching can prevent injury and release stress. Take one day a week to really focus on stretching tight or sore muscles. Always remember to do a quick stretch after a workout.

Don’t be afraid to call in sick

If you feel like you are coming down with a cold or you are really not feeling well, call in sick as soon as you can. It’s tempting to want to work through sickness, especially if you catch it in its early stages, but that actually only prolongs your sickness. The quicker you rest and take care of yourself, the quicker you can get back to teaching.

Make sure you are eating regular meals

healthy-lunch-meal-fruitsEating healthy can really help you stay alert, energized and feeling good. If you know you are going to be busy all day long, pack meals and snacks to help you stay on track. Remember to drink plenty of water too!

Take time to do something else you love

IMG_3656You love barre and teaching barre, but it’s important to carve some time out of your week to work on projects you love that are separate from your job as an instructor. Finish reading that book you started or start that art project that you’ve been talking about doing. Take a hike and be one with nature! When you take time to work on other passions, you will feel happy, fulfilled and refreshed!

Don’t be afraid to say “no”

Sometimes you have to say “no.” If taking on another class or project at the studio will eliminate your personal time, don’t be afraid to say you can’t do it. Of course, you can do it— you’re amazing— but don’t overwork yourself. It is important to set limitations for your health, happiness and sanity.

5 special promotions to offer at your studio

Getting people through the door can be a challenge for studio owners and instructors. Sometimes all you need is a special offer to do the trick. Once the newcomers are in your class, we know you (as an IBBFA barre-certified instructor) will be the reason they want to come back for more! Here is a list of some of our favorite special offers to bring to your studio.

Man week

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Let’s face it, ballet and ballet-based fitness is still generally considered a “female workout,” when truth is it can benefit anyone regardless of age or gender! One way to help change this stereotype is to offer a free week of classes to men in the community. IBBFA Barre Certification Co-Founder Lisa Juliet’s Studio BFF in Mesa, AZ hosted man week the week of Valentine’s Day. Let your client’s bring in husbands, boyfriends, friends, brothers and sons to show them just what ballet-based fitness is all about! Man week is not only fun, it changes people’s perspective about ballet-based fitness and unites the community rather than divides.

$2 Tuesdays

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Offer certain classes for just a $2 drop-in fee on Tuesdays. You can customize this one to make it work for your studio and budget, for example, you may not want to offer this every Tuesday but every first Tuesday of the month. IBBFA-certified barre-tender Charlene Causey [LINK TO BLOG POST] offers this special at her studio Brilliant Balance in Pueblo, CO.

Bring your friends to the Barre

Client’s love this one because they want more of their friends to understand the benefits of ballet-based fitness. Try a month special when clients can bring one of two friends in for a free trial class.

Booty camp

IMG_0067Booty camps are pretty popular among dance and fitness studios. The idea is a package of classes that extends over several weeks, usually before summer or the holiday season. These packages are popular among people who want to get in shape for a specific event, like a wedding or vacation. Price the booty camp package according to other packages at your studio. You can even offer a discounted, early bird special for those eager to sign up!

Discounted unlimited-week

Offer a special that includes an unlimited class week at a discounted price for newcomers that runs for an entire month. Pick a month that means something to your studio and community. Maybe it’s the studio owner’s birthday month, the studio’s anniversary or the town’s or state’s birthday. Get your community excited about joining a great studio!

Now that you have some fresh specials to offer at your studio, it is important to remember to promote, promote, promote! Train your instructors to end class with announcements regarding studio information and any kind of weekly or monthly special. Create an ad on Groupon. Post fliers around the studio and update the studio’s website with the special on the homepage. Lastly, post social media accounts and encourage your client’s to share!

Teacher Feature: Tiffin Bennett

From gymnastics, to theater arts, to ballet and now barre, Tiffin Bennett’s eclectic background has shaped the kind of dance and fitness teacher she’s become. She wanted to become a certified barre instructor to broaden the classes she could bring to her clients. After years of teaching at large dance studios, Tiffin recently decided to start her own small studio. Tiffin completed her IBBFA barre certification in May of last year and since has completed her Level 2, Level 3 and Prenatal certifications. We asked her some questions about her barre journey, her studio and how she is sharing her barre knowledge with her community in Idaho.

tiffinWhat was your dance or fitness experience prior to getting certified?

I danced as a child, switched to gymnastics, and was a competitive gymnast for six years— achieving national ranking on the Floor Exercise in college (NAIA Division). I switched back to dance, and earned a degree in theater arts with an emphasis in dance education. I was also fortunate enough to dance professionally with a small company, Burch Mann’s American Folk Ballet, including their tour of Russia, which can be seen in the documentary, Distant Dance. I’ve been teaching dance (primarily ballet and tap) professionally for over 25 years. Among other positions in several companies, I held the position of Lower School Director (ages 4-11) with Ballet Idaho Academy of Dance and Eagle Performing Arts Center, where — in addition to teaching students — I was responsible for creating syllabi and training teachers. I’ve also had the opportunity to work freelance as a choreographer within the musical theatre world.

Why do you love teaching barre?

Teaching barre has allowed me to take skills I’ve developed and honed over many years and adapt them to an entirely new setting and purpose. In addition to allowing me to work with a very different demographic than in the past, it has also given me tools to help dancers improve technique and overall strength, as well as assist in recovery from injury. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity it has afforded me to challenge myself and learn new techniques and exercises.

What’s your favorite part of class? A favorite exercise? Routine? Warmup? Cooldown?

Let’s begin with a couple of my favorite exercises: I love the Pulse Backs, as they are an excellent way to improve overall core strength while targeting the abs. They are easily adaptable to all fitness/strength levels, and give quick feedback — which encourages continued work. Another favorite of mine is the Attitude Leg Lift, with which I’ve put together a routine to Postmodern Jukebox‘s cover of “All About That Bass” which has become a class favorite (after all, we are working on our bases)! Because I have students covering a wide range of ages and abilities, I really appreciate the modifications, which let me tailor routines to all individuals, allowing them to feel successful and continue to be challenged. The great thing about barre fitness, and what I tell my clients, is that this is a maintainable exercise program, no matter the initial fitness level, physical challenges, or age. How wonderful is that?

However, the part of class that is my most favorite is easily the end, when I get comments like, “I feel so much taller, and more graceful!” or, “Thank you so much! I’m ready to start my day!” or “Miss Tiffin, I need you to know my back is feeling so much better since starting to take your class!” or “This is the best stress reliever I’ve ever had!” I love knowing that they feel better — both physically, and about themselves — after they’ve taken class.

How has barre impacted you and your community?

As mentioned earlier, I’ve enjoyed challenging myself with new techniques and learning new approaches to things I’ve already known. This has come with the added benefit of increased personal fitness. In addition, it has given me greater tools for spotting and correcting weaknesses in my dance students.

As for my community, my initial clients were largely made up of the mothers of my young ballerinas, and barre fitness has allowed me to connect with them on a much different level, developing relationships that extend beyond the standard teacher/parent paradigm. Through word-of-mouth, others have joined us, and I’ve witnessed a support system and community develop among my ladies that didn’t exist previously, through which we share in each other’s triumphs and bolster in times of difficulty.

How is your studio doing? Any advice for other barre-tenders looking to open their own studios?

My studio continues to slowly build. In all my years of teaching, this is the first I’ve gone out on my own. Adding barre fitness classes has added depth to my offerings, and a more robust increase in clientele. My advice would be to pay close attention to your specific (and individual) clientele, paying attention to their needs, likes, and areas of difficulty. Being sensitive to these elements will help you design more effective classes, allowing your clients to feel and be more successful, which is the ultimate goal, and which, in turn, encourages loyalty. Clients who are enjoying class, seeing positive results, and feeling successful, are the best advertisement you could hope for.

Any current goals?

I’m currently working on integrating the elements learned in higher certifications into new classes…. More to come!

The difference between franchise and independent certifications

When looking for a program to receive your barre certification, it is important to consider what where you want to teach and how you want to use the certification.

Some certifications, like the one you get from IBBFA Barre Certification, are independent while others are a part of a franchise company, like Pure Barre.

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So, what’s the difference?

An independent barre certification gives you more freedom. With an independent certification you are free from licensing fees and franchise limitations. As long as you have a current IBBFA certification, you can teach anywhere. You can teach at a gym, private studio or as a private instructor. As an independent contractor, you can teach anywhere you want. If you are an employee of a private studio or gym, make sure your contract includes wording that you are an IBBFA-Certified Barre Instructor, and that you are the only one certified to teach barre– this usually is not a problem. Wherever you are teaching, you can design the classes how you want. IBBFA Barre Certification encourages their certified instructors to be creative when creating class outlines, while keeping in mind that a safe and effective barre-based workout is the goal.

When you go through a franchise company to receive your barre certification, you may have to pay additional fees to the franchise company and you may be only allowed to teach at the company’s studios. If you ever decided to part ways from the company, you would be no longer certified to teach barre at other companies/studios because that franchise company owns the materials and resources you used to get certified.

There’s no right and wrong way to becoming certified; it simply depends on what you are looking to get out of the certification process. If your dream is to own and run your own studio as creatively as possible, then an independent certification is better for your needs. If you crave the big company atmosphere then a franchise certification may be what you’re looking for. What’s most important is you following your passion to bring ballet based-fitness to your community.

Is it okay to teach barre to pregnant clients?

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We get this question a lot. Which means that our IBBFA-certified instructors are committed to teaching the best quality exercise with safety in mind. So proud! So let’s chat.

Most women who actively workout continue to do so while pregnant through their first trimester. IBBFA-certified instructor Tammy Fourcier, who has been through two pregnancies since taking and teaching barre, offers more insight. “Unless a doctor has given a patient specific instructions or limitations during the first trimester (usually for high-risk pregnancies), there are really very few limitations during the first trimester,” she says. “If there are limitations, your student would most likely know and disclose it, so I don’t think you need to worry about it if a student of yours does not disclose it during their first trimester.”

IBFFA designed the certification course to teach instructors how to give modifications for all physical limitations. If you notice a pregnant student in your barre class who may appreciate some additional modifications, don’t be afraid to show them!

That being said, the Barre Level 1 program is a foundational course; we do not train you to teach pre-natal and post-natal women at this level. To safely teach pregnant women (especially those further along than the first trimester), you need an additional Prenatal Barre Certification, which can be completed after you have passed the Barre Level 1 Course. If you have an existing certification for teaching pregnant women, you can easily incorporate a majority of our barre program into a class using specific modifications that are provided in the training materials.

“It is awesome to take the pre-natal certification [course] as it does provide you with an arsenal of knowledge, modifications, and exercises for your pregnant clients,” Tammy says. “And you can design an entire prenatal class which is a valuable offering for your studio!”

Ballet etymology: Tendu

Learning the etymology of ballet words can help you visualize the intention of the position or exercise. It also makes for great trivia for your next class! Let’s dissect the word Tendu [tahn-DEW].

IMG_4765What it looks like in ballet: A tendu refers to a movement in which the working foot  is stretched and usually held. In a tendu, the working foot slides from the first or fifth position to the second or fourth position respectively without lifting the toe from the ground. Both knees must be kept straight. The working leg is fully extended and the foot reaches away from the body (extending to the front, side, or back) and is fully pointed and turned out.

Etymology: Tendu, in French, is the past participle of the verb tendre meaning “to stretch.” Dictionary.com says it was originated in the French language between 1920-195.

How to use it in barre: In the Barre Certification exercises, the tendu is used in exercises like à la sebesque tendu lifts and arabesque battements. (See Chapter 8 of the IBBFA Barre Certification Level 1 manual).

Other meanings of the word today: Tendu is known only as a ballet term in English, but is still used as the past participle of tendre (to stretch) in French. It is also an adjective in French meaning “tight; taut” which can help us dancers and barre-tenders understand the intent of the movement even more so.

From instructor to studio owner, what you need to know

We see a lot of barre instructors who go through our program with dreams of starting their own studio; Charlene Causey was one of them. Her studio, Brilliant Balance, opened its doors to the Pueblo, CO community in January. As a former registered nurse, Charlene integrates her natural health and personal training certifications into her services at her studio and calls Brilliant Balance “a barre fitness and wellness studio.”

Opening a studio can be as challenging as it is exciting. Charlene recommends finding a good counsel. She consulted with Lisa Juliet, co-founder of IBBFA Barre Certification, among others. After being open for few months now, Charlene says she’s learned that there’s so much more to opening a studio than what’s on the surface level. “I’ve learned so much, and I feel like I’m really getting ready to take off now after getting some of the pieces in place,” Charlene says. We talked to Charlene about her journey to opening Brilliant Balance and what advice she has for others looking to open a studio.

When did you first start the process of opening a studio?

It had been my idea when I first signed up for Barre Certification [December 2014]. I was working at the YMCA and a yoga studio for a while. I had very limited hours at the Y and the yoga studio. I really wasn’t working much. So, it was always in the back of my mind, but I was really busy with going in and out of town. My mother was in Utah and my mother-in-law lives in California, so we were always going to visit them. It just wasn’t the right timing for me to do that.

In September, mother passed away. When I came back, I wasn’t getting more hours as I hoped and I decided I was going to start looking around. I was very casual about it at first. Some places were outrageously expensive, others were not suitable to be a studio. I decided I wanted a place close to home, and one Saturday I found a location without even looking. It felt like everything fell into place. It’s only four minutes driving time away from my house.

So,  that’s how it came about. It came together quick! I kind of wish I had more planning time because I needed to get moving. I really only had from the middle of October to the middle of January to do everything; three months. I think I would have taken four or five months, maybe even six.  

Why would have liked to have more time?

I’m struggling now with other things, like marketing. There are so many things to do and you have to really count the costs. When I say, count the costs, I’m not just speaking about money. It’s the emotional, mental and physical ramifications to opening any business. I got a point where I just said, “All I want to do is teach barre!” But there’s the facility, the scheduling, the paperwork, and the marketing–oh my!

The administration side took a lot of my energy. And that’s with getting some counsel. I contacted the local business development center. I contacted website builders just to pick their brains a little, get some advice and get quotes. And I know it’s just part of the process, but if I had time to do all of that before I even opened, it would have been nice to have that out of the way.

There are so many little decisions to make? Where did you start and how did you get through them?

Well, I got a little bit of friendly criticism from my mentor in California (a dear friend with a marketing and business background) because I belabored every decision. I was just very particular in selecting the colors, the motif, the layout. I suppose I over think things, but every decision was important to me because my studio is a reflection of who I am. When I consulted with Lise Juliet–who is so gracious and so sweet and so easy to talk to– she said early on, “Create an environment people will want to return to.” So that is echoing in my mind all the time. Every decision I make I take that into consideration.

I also made a spreadsheet, this is something Lisa and my mentor both recommended, with surrounding studios, their demographics, the amount they charge, and how their packages are broken up and that helped me set my prices.

Was there anything that helped you stay on track?

You need to have a “why.” Why are you doing this? Whenever you take on a new endeavor you take one whether it be a business or a goal you set, you need to have you “why” firmly in place. Remembering my “why” is what kept me moving forward. There are no other barre studios in town, so first of all, I wanted to give something back to my community. I have to forge ahead because there are so many great things about barre fitness and people may not know what that is. Then, my love of ballet goes back to my preschool years. Barre reinforced my love for the art and the grace of ballet, while I see anyone– no matter what age– can benefit from its principles.

Once you decide you’re going to do it, hang on to the “why.” Maybe sometimes you’ll be directed to change it or to tweak it, but that’s all part of the process.  

How did you know what classes to design for your studio?

It’s mostly from the clients. I had a request to do a barre-only class, no mat work, because some people were having difficulty getting up and down from the mat. It’s a total body workout, but everything is at the barre. I came up with a class designed specifically for seniors called, “Golden Slippers.” At the Y, they have “Silver Sneakers.” It’s just tailor-made for seniors, a little more frail or less balanced, but they can still benefit greatly from the principles of ballet. Then, I have a 6-week “Booty Camp” coming up after Easter. Along, with that I will offer nutrition guidance for people who want that too.

What resources would you recommend to those looking to open their own studios?

I had a lot of good counsel between my mentor and Lisa and even my landlord. Plus my husband did a lot of the leg work. I think that’s an important part of it, getting good people around you who are willing to lend you their ear and give some good advice and helping. It’s important to feel supported. I think a good counsel really crucial. I love the IBBFA forum because I can turn to that when I have questions that only barre-tenders would understand. I love having that at my fingertips!

What would you say to encourage others who are looking to open their own studio?

It’s really about gathering information and then really thinking about what you want to do. Every studio has it’s own design, it’s own flavor, so to speak. Try to have a business plan. That’s something Lisa suggested. I had one of sorts, then I reworked it into a simple, one-page business plan. Lisa gave me back her critique, which was really helpful. That mentor or confidant who has the experience to go to was a big help. I think Lisa told me this, but also I’d recommend, don’t try to be all things to all people.

Teacher Feature: Season Mitzel

Season Mitzel calls barre her “soulmate workout.” Two years ago, Season endured a series of surgeries. Being an avid runner and having 15 years of dance training under her belt, Season couldn’t keep still but her recovery set her back. She tried a few different workouts before finding something that would stick. 

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“I remember the day I said to my husband, ‘You know, I’ve been hearing a lot about this barre workout. It’s a ballet-inspired workout. I’m going to do some research,’ Season said. Not only did barre give Season the low-impact and effective workout she was looking for, it also gave her a zen-like peace of mind. She’s been sharing her love of barre as the only certified barre instructor in her small community of Gillette, WY since she was certified in October 2015.

When Season is not feeling the sweet burn of a barre workout, she is homeschooling her daughters. As a self-proclaimed “history nerd”, she’s always had a passion for teaching– who knew it would translate to fitness too!

You called barre your soul mate. Why do you love teaching barre?

There’s so much more to it than just teaching it; it is experiencing it. Ever since I’ve been taking barre and teaching barre, I have found my center. I’m not as easily irritable, I’m a lot calmer and I see the world differently. One of the things that I love about teaching is bringing that [zen feeling] to my clients. And seeing their results and their happiness. I’ve had a couple of ladies recently who walk in, and you can tell that they’ve been crying and that they are dealing with some heavy stuff outside of class. They’ll do the workout and thank me and say, “Oh my gosh! This is what I needed. I can go and conquer the world now.” That, to me, is so important. The confidence and the strength and, again, the zen-like feeling you get from barre. I love seeing that in other people.

What’s your favorite part of class? A favorite exercise? Routine? Warmup? Cooldown?

Oh, you had to ask that! I think bridge lifts are some of my favorite exercises to do because there are so many things you can do with them. You got that calm up top but you’re really working and shaking at the bottom!

How have you seen barre impact your community?

We have such a small town, as far as I know I am the only certified barre instructor. I’ve had a lot of people come in who suffer from rheumatoid arthritis or who have had knee surgeries or who have problems with the sciatic nerve in their lower back who, since taking the class, said they haven’t had any problems or flare ups or any pain. I have a woman who had a major back injury in high school and they weren’t even sure if she was ever going to walk again. She’s been going to this class faithfully for over a year, and she hasn’t had any back issues since then. It helps her so much!

Do you have any current goals?

My dream is to own my own barre studio someday. Right now,  with the current climate of this community that we have, it’s difficult to do that here so we talk about if we moved somewhere, could we do it? That’s a long-term goal! My current goal would be to continue practicing barre. I’d like to get a Level 3 certification. I’d like to get all the certifications that I don’t have from you guys! I’m constantly trying to stay fresh and stay focused. So that is part of my goal- to keep current, to keep going and to keep trying to get barre out there in the community.