The Park Cities’ new fitness studio, The Ballet Burn, is not like your average barre workout.
Here, groups of women with limited dance backgrounds learn to dance and pose in eclectic styles, barre-free, in socks or bare feet to the tunes of the Notorious B.I.G., Outkast, or the Pointer Sisters.
Classes are taught by instructors with professional and collegiate ballet backgrounds, many of whom still dance. Clients build strength and coordination over time through a unique combination of ballet, yoga, and physical therapy. The studio also offers lessons in ballet technique and restorative yoga classes, as well as private lessons.
The mastermind behind the concept is Margot Martin, an Ursuline Academy alum and retired professional ballerina who turned to yoga after a career-changing injury.
Martin, who grew up in Richardson, began taking ballet lessons when she was eight years old. She spent her summers dancing at Pacific Northwest Ballet in Seattle, and after high school, joined Carolina Ballet in North Carolina as a founding member.
Martin had ankle issues throughout her career, but never missed significant time from the stage until suffering a knee injury during a rehearsal for Swan Lake.
“The way I danced was with really fast and strong movements. I felt like I couldn’t execute things the way I had. I didn’t want to ‘dumb down’ my skill or style that I had been doing for 13 years just to keep going,” Martin said.
For the next ten months she had to sacrifice the stage for regular physical therapy, but during her recovery she injured her knee again. Martin was met with a challenge most retiring dancers face: what to do next?
Martin turned her focus to yoga, a passion of hers since she was 16. In 2005 she received a grant from Career Transitions for Dancers to complete her yoga teaching certification in New York City.
“I think what I really loved most about yoga was that it is not an aesthetic practice. It’s not about what your pose looks like, necessarily, but about what things feel like. You kind of let go of ego and just work with what you’ve got. That really spoke to me, especially that point in my career. I needed that,” she said.
One day at the gym, a friend jokingly commented on the unique moves and odd poses that combined Martin’s dance background, love of yoga, and need for therapy. He suggested she package it and make the funky routine into a class.
As a retired professional ballerina with no business knowledge, the project seemed daunting. However, over the course of three years, her classes were incorporated at around 11 locations across North Carolina.
After more than 16 years in Raleigh, Martin made her way back to Dallas.
“Dallas was everything I needed as far as inspiration and motivation to push me to the next level, which is where we are now,” she said.
A regular client who works in commercial real estate was able to help her look at potential spaces for the studio, while another client’s husband, a lawyer, was able to walk her through the leasing agreement.
“I’m learning something new every day. I’m not a college grad,” Martin said. “Every day is like I go to school and I figure something out, or I find a friend who can help me figure it out. It is really scary being the new kid on the block.”
After getting turned down for numerous bank loans, Martin was approached by two women who offered to invest in her studio and lent her the money she needed without asking for equity or interest.
“It was just a true miracle, and I loved that it came from women. A lot of my help came from my regulars, people who wanted to see this happen just as much as I did, maybe even more,” she said.
The Ballet Burn opened its doors Sept. 10.
Martin said she was attracted to the Preston Center location because it is close to a lot of regular clients she taught at Park Cities Studios before and has a parking garage in back.
“Having my vision become a reality has been really cool. I wanted it to feel like when you go to your mom’s house and there are pictures on the wall — that kind of comfort and authenticity,” Martin said, pointing to black-and-white photos of instructors and attendees on the wall near the entrance.
The studio attracts a wide variety of mostly women, with moms frequenting during the day and young professionals after work. The oldest “ballet burner” is 76.
“I have several come to my beginning ballet classes that have never danced. They just want to learn, and have fun, and move. And this is the space, there’s no judgment,” Martin said.
She joked that some attendees seem to be most excited about playing with her French bulldog, Squirt, who tags along to classes most mornings.
“Everything has happened so fast that I just have to believe that I’m doing the right thing. The people that are involved are so incredible, they are the true motivation behind this.”