At The Mane Barre Studio in North Salem and the Barre at the Green in Guilford, owner/teacher Simone Gell combines her study of ballet and modern dance with 20 years of dressage training into a core-centric workout designed for riders and nonriders alike.
“Ten years ago, I discovered this method of exercise that helped my riding,” says Gell, a Chappaqua resident. “I really enjoyed it and thought one day I’d like to teach it.”
Through Exhale New York City, a boutique fitness studio, Gell not only received her certification, but also went deeper into her own practice. At her summer home in Guilford, a picturesque coastal town, she taught that practice to people she knew. Such was the interest that the Barre at the Green was born three years ago. But Gell “wanted to work with the riding community” in northern Westchester County, too. She founded The Mane Barre Studio almost a year ago.
The method Gell teaches — “a full-body workout targeting arms, thighs, glutes and abs through a series of small movements” — is based on one created by Lotte Berk (1913-2003), the German-born ballet dancer. Working with an osteopath in the 1950s, she designed a series of exercises that emphasized core stability and flexibility.
“This method… builds strength and makes you long and lean,” Gell says. “The cornerstone is the core. I’m also a stickler for alignment.”
Gell helps her students — mostly women in their 20s to 80s, about half of whom are equestrians — with their posture, which is key to daily life and any sport but particularly equestrian sports. And this is what separates Gell from other fitness instructors: She also works with riders to adjust their alignment as they’re seated on the horse.
“The focus is on creating harmony between the horse and the rider so the rider becomes one with the horse,” she says.
Gell’s mother insisted that she take ballet and horseback riding, both of which gave her a certain grace. As she grew up, Gell’s interest shifted from ballet to jazz dance, and she studied at The Ailey School, the official school of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.
Her love for horses continued as well and led her to compete. (It was Gell’s husband who bought her first horse.) Today, however, she doesn’t ride. “Life has its ebbs and flows,” she says.
Besides, she’s heavily vested in her students building on their practice.
“Many of them tell me it helps them with their confidence,” she says. “They take that mental strength with them out into the world.”