Mandie French brought a new exercise trend to the Mississippi Coast four years ago, and her classes have grown and prospered outside of a gym.
“Barre is a low impact workout. It infuses palates, yoga and stems from ballet,” the Waveland native said. “We use the ballet bar for balance. It’s a workout that’s easy on the joints. Any one can take it. Any age, any fitness level.”
French said she learned the workout in Mandeville, Louisiana, and planned on teaching there, but instead decided to open up a studio on the Coast in 2015.
“There’s about 4-5 gyms between here and Pass Christian, Bay St. Louis and Waveland,” French said. “I knew this would really set us apart from the gym because gyms are intimidating. With barre, it’s almost like a personal trainer because I’m there looking at your form, correcting your form and making sure you get the best workout.”
She debuted a new barre class last Monday night, leading a full house at 100 Men Hall in Bay St. Louis. She had been searching for .a venue to start night classes, and that’s when she met Rachael Dangermond, owner of the historic music venue.
Dangermond also partakes in French’s classes.
French had two special guests on Monday to make the debut class special. The music and playlist for the one-hour workout was produced by DJ Carlos Estrella. Alabama drag queen Zamareyah Dawn was there to assist French and the class. French learned about Dawn’s skills when she performed at a drag brunch hosted by the hall.
“I didn’t come to the brunch, but I did see her dive-roll off the stage and I was like, ‘Got to have her,’” French said.
Dawn didn’t disappoint, wearing a shimmering one-piece body suit, silver heels and hot pink leg warmers as she walked around the room and provided encouragement and lots of laughs throughout the workout.
French said the class has something for anyone, whether you’re looking to get in shape or become stronger.
“I think everyone should give it a try,” French said. “It compliments anything you’re doing. It’s a core workout ... and you’re focusing on your inner muscles and on your core. I think people think that you have to be a dancer and that’s not the case at all. I played soccer.
“It is just a workout for everyone, whether you’re coming out of an injury or pregnancy or even if you just haven’t worked out in forever. ...There’s plenty of modifications and I will help you. You’ll leave feeling uplifted, strong and like you have all-new friends.”