Nancy Smith chose the ideal name for her fitness studio in Calabash, N.C.
Movement Works not only motivates people to exercise, it expands their view of what exercise includes.
“Movement is for everyone,” Smith says. “It’s not an elite thing. No matter your fitness level, we have something for you here in a noncompetitive supporting, uplifting environment.”
True to her philosophy, the dance-yoga-fitness expert accentuates her words with graceful arm and hand movements, stretches her legs forward to emphasize a point, swoops to retrieve a brochure and proves that movement is part of everyday activity, not a specialized pastime. Smith offers all age groups a multitude of choices at her studio. Mommy & Me Yoga classes accept 6-18 month olds. Karate for children are for those 6-12, while young Samurai cover ages 9-12. The senior population may enjoy chair yoga.
Zumba, Pilates, shag, tap, ballet, modern dance, jazz and other dance genres are part of Smith’s repertoire. Piloxing? Pump? These trademarked activities are included at this studio. Piloxing is a combination of boxing, Pilates and dance for the highly energetic. Pump involves barbells, weights, resistance training and various exercises.
One popular class is Yoga in the Park. Saturday mornings through the summer until Labor Day, a certified teacher leads all ages in a gentle yoga routine at Sunset Beach Park. At least two dozen people of all ages gather each week.
One Saturday, teacher Jennifer Murphy worked the class through a variety of poses, giving specific directions with each one. “Left knee over the mat. Open the hip. Deep breath. Exhale. Switch,” she says. “Push out toward the water, open the shoulder, enjoy the breeze.”
Her gentle, melodic voice aids in relaxation. The chirping birds overhead and lapping water from the Intracoastal Waterway set an idyllic mood. Tina Ward of Ocean Isle Beach, N.C. said it was her first time at the class, but she’d return. Leslie Hansbarger of Sunset Beach said she’s a regular attendee. Jackie Hetnick of Sunset Beach brought her daughter, Abbie, 9.
“I like everything about it,” Abbie says and adds that she takes yoga at Movement Works.
David and Jennifer Leonard of Calabash, N.C. bring their daughter, Mia, 8, to the class. “It’s her time to learn to stretch, to learn to be healthy and get into a routine of exercising,” David says. “It’s a very kid friendly class.”
“They let me try out different things,” Mia adds. “It’s very casual.”
In the Yoga session of Mini Dance Camp for those 4-7, Smith coordinated sounds with movements to reinforce memory. Students talked to their toes, pretended they were waves in the ocean and made short, soft barks during down dog. “I try to use images they know,” Smith says.
Smith, 38, began her dance career at age three when she took ballet and tap at Brunswick School of Dance in Supply, N.C. She was a founding member of the West Brunswick High School dance team and went on to earn her bachelor’s degree in dance education from Meredith College in Raleigh, N.C. and her master’s degree in dance in higher education at New York University in Manhattan, N.Y.
Included in her resume are dance specialist at the United Nations International School, dance instructor and administrator at the Brooklyn Ballet and at the prestigious Peridance Capezio Center in New York City. After 11 years in New York, she came back to Calabash for a respite with the intention of returning there.
She experienced a light-bulb moment, though, while inspecting the vacant building her grandfather build in the ’80s on U.S. 17. “I realized this was an opportunity,” she says. With her experience and specialties in yoga and tap dancing, she could offer an abundance of classes. She opened her studio in 2014.
Because of her interest in teaching children, she became a volunteer tutor in the after-school program at Shallotte Middle School. She explains that when she read a story about Harriet Tubman to third graders, she demonstrated Harriet’s life of running, hiding, digging and spying by showing how this is done through movement.
“Going into the school has a greater impact [than teaching students at the studio] because you can connect dance education to all subjects they are learning,” she says.
She is convinced that when children become passionate about an activity, they will channel all of their energy to succeed in that endeavor. Thus in February 2016 she founded Community Movement Alliance, a 501(c)3 nonprofit. It purpose is to provide movement-based education to marginalized youth and their families. Although Yoga in the Park is a free class, she requests a voluntary donation for the nonprofit, ideally $7.
“Education and resources are super important to get ahead,” she says. “I aspire to provide resources and education so [students] can rise above. I want to teach kids there’s a whole new world out there.”
Nancy’s mother, Paula Smith, is an active participant in the nonprofit as well as in fitness classes. “We’ve build a community through Movement Works and [Community Movement Alliance],” she says. “I think it’s a great opportunity for us and the community. We try to offer something for all ages.”
“I work all the time, but this [studio] is my baby, my child,” Paula Smith said. “For me it’s all about one body, one soul, one mind and one heart, proof that we are all connected.”
At A Glance
Movement Works, 9500 Ocean Hwy W (U.S. 17), Calabash, N.C.
910-579- 4845; www.mvmtworks.com; Nonprofit: www.communitymoves.org
Yoga in the Park
9:30-10:30 a.m. Saturdays through Labor Day weekend
Sunset Beach Park, 206 Sunset Beach Blvd., Sunset Beach, N.C.
Carolina Soul Festival
10 a.m.- 6 p.m. Sept. 10; Movement Works field; 9840 Ocean Highway W (U.S. 17), Calabash, N.C.; http://www.carolinasoulfestival.com
Health screenings, fitness demos, kids zone, live performances, foods, vendors, giveaways
Community Movement Alliance Gala Fundraiser
6-10 p.m. Dec. 3; Silver Coast Winery; 6680 Barbeque Road; Ocean Isle Beach, N.C.