Hug your belly back,” instructs fitness instructor Hanna Satterlee as she descends into a perfect 90-degree squat.
“Deep lift,” she follows, lifting out of it with the elegance, flow, and control of the professionally trained dancer she is.
“Deep lift?” she suddenly questions, recognizing the oxymoron. “Interesting!”
So goes the opening moments of Satterlee’s new Zoom-based “Barre Fusion” classes, running through January and February, and perhaps more.
For Vermonters unacquainted with the barre fad sweeping fitness classes across the country, the term is not a reference to Central Vermont’s Granite City, but rather the barre (pronounced “bar”) that ballet students use to warm up at the start of class. This “barre” combines dance exercises with elements of yoga and Pilates in a dynamic and energetic flow in the space of a yoga mat and with no more equipment than a few hand weights.
Satterlee calls her classes “Barre Fusion,” which not only allows her to skirt the patented set structure (a la hot yoga versus Bikram yoga) but also create a more flexible routine drawn from her extensive experience as a dancer and yoga instructor and training in fitness and Pilates.
“That’s part of the reason I use ‘fusion,’” she explains. “You are traveling through all these forms of exercise for strengthening. Sometimes they are combined; sometimes they are specific.”
The 30-minute sessions now offered Tuesdays and Thursdays on Zoom take students through a relatively fast-paced sequence of squats, lunges, lifts, crunches, folds, and are designed to target the entire body, not just a specific part. “I try to go in and out of different muscle groups quickly, so at the end you feel it’s a full-body experience.”
The changes also ensure that any exercises students may find challenging — or downright unpleasant — are quickly left behind. That’s particularly important for Satterlee, who aims for pleasure in conscious pushback on certain pressures of the workout industry.
“Sometimes I think the workout culture has a tendency to push for perfection of certain outcomes,” she explains. “My emphasis is really just to feel good.”
It also allows her to further share her passion for dance and tap into 14 years of professional experience in several U.S. dance companies and collaborative performance groups. “I always love when dance can be opened up to a broader audience or population and shift the mindset that it’s a specific form only for people who choose to study it intensively,” she explains. “This breaks that barrier by calling it an exercise class, but it allows a lot more expression of the upper body.”
While Satterlee may sketch out a rough outline for each session, she generally follows her intuition, which she believes serves her — and her students — well. “I’ve done various forms of teaching for so long that I actually have found the less that I plan and the more in tune that I am with the students, the weather, world, and my own body, the better teacher I am.”
That matters all the more in a Zoom-based world, where she must only interact with students on a computer screen. It makes it a lot more difficult to pay close attention to the nuances of the movements and making sure people are properly aligned. Plus, because students can’t see or interact with each other, they lose the additional reference points.
Nevertheless, she describes the response to the classes as “huge” and is considering continuing the series past February if all goes well. Plus, the new landscape of Zoom classes actually frees up the time and energy to do just that. “I used to drive around all over the place to different classes and different studios,” she explains. “For me and my own personal life and energy, it’s been such a relief to not have to do the commuting, set-up, and clean-up in every space.”
As enthusiastic as Satterlee is for her sessions, she’s quick to point out that the classes alone are not enough for significant improvements in health. “I’m a huge believer in a holistic lifestyle, so if you are looking for a body change, that has to be inclusive — how much you sleep, how much you are active, how many breaks you take when you are at your desk, balance of water and caffeine, and so on,” she explains. But there’s one improvement she is sure her classes can bring, and bring quickly. “In one class, it will help lift your spirits; that’s the goal.”
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