After 10 years dancing professionally around the world, Russell Lepley made a return to Columbus –– not to perform, but to teach.
While working at Gärtnerplatztheater in Munich, Germany, he met Filippo Pelacchi, a dancer born and raised in Florence, Italy. After marrying, they came to Columbus to open Flux + Flow, a studio that embodies their shared outlook on dance and movement.
“Our general philosophy for the space is that it’s really nonjudgmental,” Lepley said. “We really want people to come and think of it as a way to just practice and enjoy their body, enjoy movement in their body and not worrying about what they look like.”
Flux + Flow began offering a full schedule of classes on July 5, but the studio will be adjusting its schedule on Labor Day –– adding new classes and teachers. The studio will also be opening a second dance room later in September.
The movement center, based on classes that cover a wide range of dance and movement forms, is located on the corner of Crestview Avenue and Calumet Street in the building that formerly housed the Clintonville Community Market, a natural-foods co-op. Lepley said he wants Flux + Flow to be a continuation of bringing the community into that space.
“We just hope that we can be a space where people can come and meet and potentially just take a class together [and] find ways to collaborate,” Lepley said. “We’re really interested in collaboration and having a place that fosters a sense of community.”
The studio currently offers a variety of classes ranging from contemporary dance and hip-hop to Vinyasa flow. Both Lepley and Pelacchi are classically trained in ballet and contemporary dance –– an expressive dance form that incorporates aspects of jazz, lyrical and ballet. In opening the studio, they aimed to offer a wider variety of movement types for different levels of experience.
For Lepley and Pelacchi, dance is about the experience rather than just achieving perfection.
“Our approach to dance is not like getting to the perfect position or being a perfect ballerina,” Pelacchi said. “We teach it in a way that’s to use your body in a way that’s safe and is going to put you in alignment and a way that’s more about transitions and moving and feeling expressive.”
Along with dance, Lepley has been practicing yoga for 12 years. He said yoga is one way he believes the classes at Flux + Flow can be less intimidating to non-dancers.
“We have things that aren’t just dance, and we have a full yoga schedule, also because apart from the fact that we’re genuinely interested, we just thought that that was a nice entry point for people to access movement,” Lepley said. “So many people are comfortable doing yoga, but are maybe a little self-conscious taking a dance class.”
Along with providing dance and other movement classes to beginners, Lepley and Pelacchi said they hope to provide a space for former dancers who might not want to dance professionally once they come to college, but still want the opportunity to practice what they love.
“You don’t have to just stop dancing, you took that seriously all through high school, just because you go to college and do something different doesn’t mean that you can’t go into a dance class,” Lepley said. “I think there’s a stigma in our culture that like after a certain age it’s kind of silly to be taking dance classes, even within the dance community.”
While Lepley and Pelacchi enjoy the art of teaching and sharing what they’ve learned throughout their careers, they said they also are hoping to bring some of their own artistic voices to the Columbus dance community.
Although they have been focusing on teaching more than performing since opening Flux + Flow, Pelacchi and Lepley said they have had a few opportunities to engage audiences with the art form that brought them together and led them to Columbus.
“It felt really nice to like perform again, even if it was something small, getting lost in the moment and feel the connection with each other is something for sure that we want to keep up,” Pelacchi said.
Memberships at Flux + Flow cost $95 a month, but students can join at a discounted rate of $69 a month. A schedule of classes and more information on the studio can be found on its website.