Former Ballet Dancer fuses Barre, Yoga & Pilates at New Union City Fitness Studio
By Sally Deering
Photo by Diana Zuluaga/@dmz75
After blowing out her knee in freshman year of college, ballet dancer Melissa Morin-Stewart turned pirouettes into Pilates. Owner and founder of Clarity Fitness in Union City, Morin-Stewart offers her years of athletic prowess in ballet, her Bachelor of Science and Master’s degrees in fitness and nutrition; and her expertise designing fitness programs for corporate America, to her new role as owner of Clarity Fitness, Morin-Stewart’s new health & wellness studio in Union City.
Offering choices beyond the gym, and just a few blocks north of the Lincoln Tunnel, Morin-Stewart’s Clarity Fitness is a storefront studio on a somewhat gloomy strip of Park Avenue. But that shouldn’t deter visitors from venturing in to take a class. Once inside the open space, visitors will find refuge from the wear and tear of city life, a calm and Zen-like atmosphere to stretch, sweat and get in touch with your inner self and outer flab.
Morin-Stewart brings a trifecta of experience and knowhow to her studio and each of her classes – Fusion, Barre, HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) and Zumba® offer a total body workout. And she knows her stuff. Morin-Stewart holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Nutrition from Rutgers University and a Master’s in Exercise Physiology from the University of Rhode Island. After 15 years managing and teaching fitness programs in New York City, Morin-Stewart decided to bring her expertise to Union City where she resides with her husband Teno Stewart who helps her run the studio.
Morin-Stewart’s Fusion class is the studio’s signature workout, a mix of yoga and Pilates with strength and flexibility movements. Barre class incorporates core training with traditional Barre choreography to help people achieve a long, lean, sculpted look. HIIT uses “minimal equipment to maximize the use of body weight and functional movements,” and Zumba® blends exercise with dance. Morin-Stewart offers solo classes at $15 a pop; and for $99 a month, you go as often as you like.
On a recent Thursday morning, Morin-Stewart was preparing to teach Barre when she took a moment to share a little about her experiences transitioning from dancer to fitness instructor and opening her first studio in Union City.
RVO: Hot did you get into fitness and nutrition?
MMS: I’m a classically-trained ballet dancer. That was my extra-curricular. I danced from 3 till I graduated from high school. When I went to Rutgers, I tried out for the dance team. During the audition I hurt my knee badly — I couldn’t walk and was on crutches. Once I recovered and was able to function, I realized dancing wasn’t going to be my career. For rehab, I had to go to the gym. I walked in and didn’t know what I was doing, but I kept going, I asked people at the gym what exercises I should do. It became a weekly routine. It was through that I started to feel better, keep off a little weight. That’s how I got into health and wellness and declared my major in nutrition.
RVO: Why did you choose to teach this group of classes at Clarity?
MMS: I have been managing group exercise programs in Manhattan and as the years evolve new classes are introduced in the industry, People in New York City love Barre classes. There’s no question about it. Strengthening, yoga, body training and Pilates are popular, too. For the Fusion class, I wanted to fuse all that together, so that people sweat, get a bit of yoga, mind and body strengthening and have an experience.
RVO: In your opinion, why is it important to exercise?
MMS: The stronger you are the better you are protecting your organs, decreasing your risks for injury, and decreasing your stress. We live in the most stressful area in the world. Exercise does decrease stress and increase serotonin and make us happier. The more we can participate in activities like this, we‘re better setting ourselves up for the future.
RVO: How do you choose your staff at your studio?
MMS: I teach most of the classes. The reason is I’m a small business owner. I do have two Zumba instructors, and I let them take the wheel for Zumba. I have another Barre instructor who lives in Hoboken. That was one of the things that was important to me, to use local instructors.
RVO: Why did you choose Union City and not some trendy town to open Clarity Fitness?
MMS: I wanted to keep it local and get away from the drama from New York City fitness studios. It’s very competitive in New York, and it can be over-sexualized. In New York City it’s all about what you look like, how many clients you can draw. That’s what I love about this neighborhood and the space. Nobody’s competing and everybody just wants to feel good and have fun. One of the things I wanted to create is not just, a place to work out, but a place to have an experience.
RVO: What is your fitness/health philosophy?
MMS: It’s not all about how you look, it’s about how you feel. That’s the great thing about the studio. We attract a clientele who are trying something new. We have all shapes and sizes, male and female, and everybody starts at the same place and now they’re getting more fit and feeling better about themselves.
If you go:
Clarity Fitness Studio
3515 Park Ave