In one hour, Megan Castranio Berryhill can teach a dance class to a group of students in El Salvador or Turkey or Qatar. During the next hour, she’s helping a student in Brussels through a one-on-one fitness class. And she does it all from her home via BalléNess, the online dance studio she founded in August of 2013.
“BalléNess is where ballet meets fitness,” she says. “We allow students to dance and work out from the comfort of their own homes—or wherever they might be that day.”
Berryhill, who majored in dance and psychology at Denison, founded BalléNess after teaching classes in New York City and Port-au-Prince, Haiti. While in Haiti with her husband, who works for the U.S. Department of State, Berryhill started performing and teaching with the Institut de Danse Lynn Williams Rouzier.
“It was such an enriching opportunity for me,” she says. “I became best friends with the director there, and I thought to myself, 'Dance is universal. How cool would it be to work with people all over the world?’”
Within nine months of founding BalléNess, she began teaching both private and group classes to students in 10 different countries. Video technology and the Internet have allowed Berryhill to conduct classes live and in real time. Students can log in from anywhere they happen to be.
People who travel often have found that BalléNess is easier to manage than a gym membership that would keep them rooted to one physical spot. “This week, one of my students took a class from a hotel room in Cincinnati. The next day, she was taking a class from a hotel room in Chicago,” Berryhill says.
But it’s about more than ease for travelers. Berryhill also has found that BalléNess is home to those who may shy away from joining a gym due to feeling insecure about their bodies.
“There are a lot of fitness addicts,” Berryhill says. “But there are also beginners who have not yet felt comfortable joining a gym or taking classes at one. They’re more confident taking class in the privacy of their homes. Once they get into the routine and build up their confidence, I might lose them as students, but their growth makes me happy.”
So it’s no surprise that Berryhill has made a lot of fitness friends all over the world. “There are so many people I teach weekly whom I have never met in person,” she says. “Through the Internet and our classes together, I now consider them my close friends. I know them to a tee. I am astonished by what technology— and dance—can do.”