New dance and fitness studio finds its rhythm in Manayunk

Dancer and Manayunk’s Merge Dance Studio founder Christa Campbell doesn’t think working a full day at the office followed by teaching five dance classes back-to-back is an especially tiring proposition. Rather, since she sits at a desk during the day, she calls her schedule “a nice balance”.

With her inaugural classes underway this week at the upstairs studio on Cresson Street, Campbell has been pleased with the turnout.

“There’s lots of interest, lots of phone calls,” she said. On Wednesday, six people, including a few young women, a teenage boy and a tattooed mother-daughter duo, gathered for her 7 p.m. Jazz, Funk and Hip-Hop class.

Campbell’s boyfriend, Mike Smahol, made himself comfortable in the studio’s furnished waiting room as class got underway. But he did get moving on Tuesday for the 8:30 p.m. Piloxing class – not that he needs the exercise. He estimated that he walked 15 miles on Sunday, helping to distribute studio flyers.

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Smahol has been helping Campbell launch her dream studio, coming in particularly handy as Campbell faced the challenge of getting 400 pounds of gray marley floor up the steep and narrow staircase.

Campbell offers classes for a range of ages, including Pre-ballet & Tap, Ballet, Jazz & Tap, and Jazz Funk/Hip Hop for ages 4-9 beginning at 4:30 p.m. on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from now through August 2, and from August 14 through August 23. Classes later in the evening include the above dance genres as well as Modern/Contemporary, Piloxing, Zumba, Musical Theatre, and Pointe for ages 14 and up. 

In cropped leggings and a pink-tee shirt, the aggressively fit Campbell led Wednesday’s adult Hip-Hop class with an exuberant smile, pointing her toes elegantly in black sneakers. Dancers spent about 15 minutes in a thorough warm-up, and then began criss-crossing the floor to Campbell’s choreography.

The hour-long class involved some independent thinking as well: after leading her dancers in moves across one direction, Campbell asked students to work out the reverse movements on their own.

“In dance, you have to do both sides of everything,” she explained.

The challenge of her methods was evident, but so was her students’ enthusiasm, in line with the last rule of a posted list that also includes no gum-chewing, no whining, and respect for others: “Have Fun!!”.

For more information, go to the studio’s website

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