Meet our Muse(s) : Jill Belland and Kristi Stuart, founders of Barre Belle studios in Calgary, Canada

Talk about a power couple.

In just over a year, these friends and business partners have created their own workout method, opened three gorgeous fitness studios, and built a fiercely loyal, passionate, and loving community of women. When we launched our first campaign to nominate a favorite instructor, we were inundated with messages from their “belles,” sharing such genuine admiration and appreciation for their fearless leaders – we knew they had created something special. 

Below we share a peek into their background and their Barre Belle method – Meet our Muse(s) : Jill Belland and Kristi Stuart



How did you two meet, and how / when did you decide to launch BarreBelle?

Kristi and I met through friends and instantly bonded through our love of dance as we competed at the same time growing up and had many shared experiences.  We were each teaching other methods but dreamed of creating our own system.  We wanted to offer something different that we really believed in and something we created together.  We decided to stop wishing and start doing one year later, Barre Belle was born!

Tell us about the Barre Belle method. What makes your studios unique?

Our love of dance is at the heart of Barre Belle! We took the strength and conditioning we learned as former dancers and developed a program for all fitness levels. The biggest difference in our method is that we include impact in the majority of our classes where most "traditional" barre programs are rooted in low impact.  Our signature Barre X class is a HIIT version of a barre class which we feel offers a complete fitness package to our clients.

You both have dance backgrounds, and you’re also both runners! How has this shaped the workouts?

Any marathon is a great lesson in breaking down a big goal down into small pieces. You can achieve anything if you take it one step at a time.  Running also instills a sense of determination and competition to aim for your personal best.  Having said that neither of us really run anymore other than on vacation! 

What would you tell someone with no dance experience considering a BarreBelle class?

Absolutely!  My dad is 67 and he kept up in his first class.  Choreography is the last thing you have to worry about - all of our instructors are formerly trained in dance so they are the experts in setting up positions and patterns properly - clients just come to sweat and have a blast doing it.

What would you tell a trained ballerina considering a BarreBelle class?

Great question!  We honestly feel in some ways we are stronger now than when we were competing as dancers.  You can't rely on flexibility or momentum as much. Our strength conditioning is very challenging and comprehensive even for trained ballerinas.  We also plan all of our classes on an 8 count and so if musicality is something that matters to you, we move to the beat vs having music as a background metronome where the movement doesn't match.

In addition to opening your 3 (gorgeous) studios, you’ve also recently launched the online workout program “the BelleBod.” What was the motivation behind this, and who do you envision taking advantage of this offering?

We were interested in expanding and sharing our program outside our four walls and this is the best way to do it!  Not everyone has the luxury of being able to attend a studio and so this is a great way to get a workout anywhere that is based in what we teach in class.  We've had great feedback from all over North America so the #bellenation is expanding!  We'll also be releasing a monthly subscription system in the fall so stay tuned 😊

You have cultivated such an enthusiastic and supportive community. What’s it like to be one of your “belles”?

Honestly our community is the happiest gift and result of building our studios.  Our belles are participating in a community that helps people aspire toward goals, transform themselves, and work toward change while holding each other accountable to make positive changes. They are inspiring creativity in us and and inspiring each other to become stronger.  We have a sense of collective purpose to improve, be a positive force, and hold each other up.  The belle community is a beautiful thing!

In your opinion, what’s the most important thing to remember as an instructor? What’s the most challenging part, and what’s the most rewarding?

It's most important to remember that we have an opportunity to help people feel good when they leave the room.  We feel it is our gift to share our love of dance, music, movement, and strength but it's the connection that people remember.  That is the challenge and the reward.  If we can affect a positive change by really seeing every person who enters the room and what they need to grow, we've done our job.  

How DO you handle it all? You both must be so busy! Any secrets to share? Can’t-live-without morning routines or magical power snacks? Any mantras or practices that keep you going?

You handle it with a good business partner ;) it has been essential and the secret to our success to have a complimentary person who fills the spaces that you lack because one person can't do all things.  Kristi and I are truly are a great team because we each come to the table with skills that are aligned.  Aside from that, I drink at least 3 coffees a day and snack on peanut butter on anything and Kristi eats peanut M&Ms.  We're pretty healthy otherwise!  I think we try to help each other with work life balance because otherwise we both tend to happily eat sleep and breath Barre Belle 24/7.  

What’s one thing you wish people knew about barre / BarreBelle? Any misconceptions you’ve encountered?

You don't need to be flexible or coordinated!  SO much of our program is centered around strength and endurance.  We have NHL guys who have to take a knee because they can't make it through a set.  But everyone starts from scratch in their first class and it really only takes 4-5 to notice a significant difference.  

Obviously, we share an appreciation for embracing our feminine fortitude and encouraging that in other women! We like to use the motto “be the belle” as a reminder to be the very best version of ourselves that we can each day. What does “be the belle” mean to you?

Our motto is be your strongest self!  Strength is an individual definition - whether it is a sense of purpose, self care, or a desire to physically become your strongest self, it defines why we keep coming back to the barre.  We can always evolve and grow and become stronger than the last time.  

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