When 24-year-old Angie Gunner graduated from Marymount Manhattan College in New York City, she returned to the Central Valley with more than a diploma.
The personal trainer and award-winning dancer had an idea that combined her passion for fitness and ballet — become American Barre Technique-certified instructors with her older sister, 27-year-old Hillery Gunner.
They recently released a 45-minute DVD, Ballet Body, and started teaching barre classes at LiveFit at Copper and Maple avenues.
Barre classes involve a mixture of yoga, Pilates and ballet to give you sculpted, lean muscles by performing slow, controlled movements while improving flexibility and increasing extension.
Although the sisters became ABT-certified instructors less than two years ago, they have been dancers for more than 20 years. In fact, they were born to be dancers. As soon as they were “out of the womb,” Angie said, they were drawn to the beauty and uniqueness of a dancer.
“Our mom was a dancer,” Angie said.
The sisters took gymnastic classes at Clovis Academy of Gymnastics, but spent a majority of their childhood at The Dance Studio of Fresno.
“It was our first home,” Angie said. “And then we went to our second home to sleep.”
The Clovis natives continued to dance while they attended Alta Sierra Middle School and Buchanan High School.
In 2007, Hillery graduated from Buchanan and moved to Santa Barbara to study at Westmont College. The private liberal arts college gave Hillery a chance to broaden her horizons.
She was part of a hip-hop team that performed at basketball games, but developed a love for acting and modeling while living in Southern California. She lived in Los Angeles for two years before returning to the Central Valley.
Meanwhile, Angie started taking ballet classes with Grethel Raypon. Raypon, a dancer and choreographer from the Philippines, teaches a variety of ballet classes at The Dance Studio of Fresno.
Hillery said Angie learned discipline from Raypon — shaping her into a well-rounded dancer.
In 2009, shortly after graduating from Buchanan, Angie traveled to Alabama to train with the American Ballet Theatre. Afterward, she was invited to attend an intensive program with the Ostrava Ballet in the Czech Republic.
And then Angie received an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to spend three years with the Bolshoi Ballet in Moscow, Russia.
The Bolshoi Ballet is a world-renowned classical ballet company that dates back to the late 1700s.
Ultimately, after talking to her parents, Angie decided to attend college instead of moving to Russia. She continued to dance — taking classes at Steps on Broadway and Broadway Dance Center — while studying at Marymount Manhattan College.
“It was cool because the New York City Ballet takes classes at Steps [on Broadway],” Angie said.
When Angie returned to the Central Valley, she and Hillery knew the next step was to become ABT-certified instructors.
In addition to teaching barre classes at LiveFit, Hillery hosts Open Barre — a free 45-minute class that starts with a brisk walk followed by a modified barre-inspired class.
Angie said Open Barre, which focuses on stretching your hamstrings, quadriceps and obliques, has been “blowing up like crazy.”
Hillery said Open Barre is designed to be completed while standing or holding onto a counter, chair or bench.
“You don’t have to bring a mat,” she said.
Open Barre currently meets at the Copper River Trailhead on Copper and Friant roads in northeast Fresno. (Search for Open Barre on Facebook, click “join” and you’ll be added by Angie or Hillery).
But if you can’t attend Open Barre, don’t worry. Hillery also added a virtual component to Open Barre through LiveStream — allowing you to follow along with her from home.
“We love what we do,” Angie said.
“We want to help people with what they want to do,” Hillery added.
▪ Ballet Body is available for purchase at www.angiegunner.com.
2042 E. Copper Ave., Suite 107, Fresno
Times and dates of barre classes vary depending on day
Details: (559) 908-2700, www.livefitfresno.com