I'm warning you...don't slack off in Tina Thompson's Tutu Fresh class at Crunch NYC. She's one fierce ballet instructor. She moves fast, doesn't sugar-coat ballet and doesn't tolerate lazy calves. Tina dishes out tough love, mad style and lots of inspiring words in 45 minutes of ballet fitness. Her intense, Juilliard-style instruction is awesome and by the end of class you really hope that you've pleased her. Check out my interview with Tina below.
MizzFIT: Tina, what drew you to ballet? If you weren't wearing a bun and didn't have such amazing posture, I would've never guessed.
Tina T: I was drawn to ballet from the Dance Theatre of Harlem. Virginia Johnson was the first black ballerina I ever saw that was famous! Arthur Mitchell handpicked me for a scholarship while at Juilliard and I returned every summer thereafter. He was a great influence as well as Bessie Elmer and Walter Raines.
MizzFIT: You have really really really long nails - I love them. Have they been with you throughout your dance career?
Tina T: I have had long nails on and off since High School. I was always dressing different or slightly eccentric back then. Nothing has changed. I had a modern teacher at Juilliard call me a witch when I was doing a Graham technique class! I smiled and kept contracting because I had been a Full scholarsip student at the Graham School long before Juilliard and performed works with the repertory ensemble at age 16 and at the Metropolitan Opera House with the Graham company and Baryshnikov. So her calling me out only showed that she feared me! lol...besides I'd never seen her on stage with the Graham company so she didnt matter.
MizzFIT: Your confidence is contagious and it definitely keeps your Tutu Fresh students coming back for more. The first time I came to your class you talked about always being proud of who you are. You preached self-confidence, individuality and courage...how does this philosophy connect to staying fit?
Tina T: We are athletes of spirit and all forms of exercise must start with spirit first. You are empty and not whole without some form of energy or inspiration. Life is too short for low self esteem. BE YOURSELF...everyone else is already taken!
MizzFIT: It's so important to think that way! You don't get that kind of wisdom in most fitness classes. So how did you end up teaching at Crunch gyms?
Tina T: I was in transition from leaving a sports club where I worked for 10 years, and finally had enough. They were breeding cookie-cutter workouts and instructors. I had a massive following and they just wanted me to water everything down. Crunch let me raise the bar and be the signature that I am. NO JUDGEMENTS! I loved it! Its what I stand for.
MizzFIT: Well, you definitely have a signature look. Like the pants you wear with only 1 pant leg. What's that all about?
Tina T: YES! I am legendary for that. Its one of my signature looks. I'm actually working on my signature one-legged and one-armed designs for Sansha worldwide.
MizzFIT: So you're a fitness fashion designer too...and I hear you have a dance shoe. Tell me more.
Tina T: It's a flexible energetic hi-top with ankle support. The ultimate pillow support for all dance and fitness divas!
MizzFIT: I'm dying to know where you shop for cardio-dance clothes.
Tina T: I like to wear comfortable yet sexy clothing when I move. Nothing contraption-like but just fabulous and light! I advise women to take a look at Sansha newyork and scan the racks. There are one-of-a-kind pieces that other general dance brands dont have! This is why I love the Sansha brand. Phillipe [of Sansha] stays in touch and personal with all of his products and everything he supports and sells.
MizzFIT: Can you tell my readers about your dance bootcamp?
Tina T: My dance Bootcamp is every year at my FIT CAMP. Its a 3-day workout empowerment retreat. We teach 2 hour workshops on performance and cardio techniques including pilates, conditioning, outdoors, nutrition, and self empowerment seminars.
MizzFIT: Your 2 role models, Richard Simmons and Michelle Obama, couldn't be more different. Explain.
Tina T: Richard represents why I teach: To touch others lives, to share our lives and to make eachother better! He never had outstanding muscles on the outside but his biggest muscle was his heart! Impressive! First Lady Michele Obama, yes, i see a reflection of myself in her being shown as a positive role model and not the stereotypical - I AM BLACK WOMAN hear me roar. Women of any color can be intelligent, respected and recognized as well as marketable! This is what I am waiting for the fitness arena to see!
MizzFIT: Ballet was created for the elite and now, in many ways, it continues to be most accessible to the wealthy. You've shaken up the ballet scene for sure. But how do you think you've made your mark?
Tina T: I did not feel inferior for one moment as a woman of color [in ballet]. I actually felt more blessed. I rose from the area of a tough neighborhood after my fathers death and I know he would be very proud of how far I've come. He always stressed learning and being your best. I made my mark at the Ms. Fitness USA competitions by being the first fitness routine ever to be done en pointe...so off I went making my mark in the world of fitness as a dancer! Today, my dance company SKIN exudes the spirit of defying the stereotypes of what dancers should look like or appear to be technically. We are an intergrated group of talented athletes who connect in the spirit of dance.
If you live in Manhattan, you really must check out Tutu Fresh. Here's a complimentary gym pass to Crunch to motivate you. Below you'll find my recommendations for what to wear to a dance fitness class to inspire you. AND DON'T FORGET TO LEAVE A COMMENT!