“I just want to get the whole world dancing.-
It’s healing – physically emotionally and spiritually
Turn out the lights in your living room, put on the music and dance!”
– Emma Ridley
Emma Ridley’s mother was an artist who taught yoga. Her father was a businessman. She grew up with a holistic approach to health and wellness. A classically trained ballerina, dancer, actress, singer, performer and the proud mother of three, Emma knows it sounds crazy, but she wants to be an angel – and she has tattooed wings on her back to symbolize her wild ambition.
One thing’s for sure – the charming and charismatic British born entertainer and entrepreneur has been a true godsend for thousands of women in Southern California since she launched her empowering and gloriously feminine Goddess Fitness Dance studio in Santa Clarita in 2005. After years of expansion that included a second location in Woodland Hills, the facility – in all its delightfully pink, red velvet, mirrored wall and dance pole centered glory – is now based in an ideal central location in the Sherman Oaks section of Los Angeles, on the bustling Ventura Boulevard in the San Fernando Valley.
Truly changing the way women think about fitness, Goddess Fitness Dance takes a revolutionary, easy-paced and effortlessly sensual approach to movement based on feminine ancient philosophy and modern dance techniques. The studio and its classes are designed to invigorate women of all shapes and sizes with a total mind-body workout/work-in which Emma calls “meditation in motion” and physical emotional therapy for them. Driven by her long-held belief that dance is the ultimate form of fitness, she is committed to using it as a vehicle to help everyone find their purpose and joy – through self-discovery, self-expression and self acceptance, in a lighthearted, non competitive, non judgmental atmosphere. The unique movement style leaves students feeling exited, elated, sexy and energized.
Invigorating, never exhausting and wonderfully transcending the drudgery of a typical, masculine styled workout, Emma’s classes – she and her staff currently conduct 30 per week – include variations of yoga, ballet, belly dancing, cardio, burlesque, hip-hop, aerial circus fitness and pole dancing. In the free movement world of “Emma-cise”, women of all ages, shapes and sizes hang, twirl and sway on chairs and poles in ballet and burlesque dance routines – all for fun and fitness. “We love being the place where women who think they can’t do these things suddenly break through and find their spirits unleashed, their health never better and joy every step of the way” says Emma. “And recently, more and more men have signed up and found it equally exciting and invigorating.”
Though Goddess Fitness Dance has evolved, the founding mission remains the same: to take people out of their element and the demands of their lives and schedules and allow them to move more freely. Emma is dedicated to bringing all “Goddesses” to a place inside themselves where they can fully enjoy being who they are. The class names are as colorful and provocative as the main wood floor and mirror laden room of the studio itself, and truly must be experienced to fully embrace their scope: Hula Hoop, B.C.P (Booty, Cardio, Pole, Conditioning), Burlesque (Chairs + Pole), Circus, Pole (Bronze Boote), Belly Dance, Hot Ballet, Twerk Werk, Circus, Circus with Hammock and Aerial Hoop, Goddess Fusion (featuring the Yoga Belly Pole), Silver Star Pole (with a Belly Dance warm-up), Aerial Hoop and Silver Star Pole (with a Belly Dance Warmup).
Students are free to mix and match classes as they wish, but for those with specific fitness and weight-loss goals, Emma has devised an innovative Makeover Program custom designed for personal training. Its nutrition plan is simple to follow because it’s not a diet. It’s a lifestyle that involves eating good, healthy fresh food often enough to curb hunger. These choices help cleanse the body and speed up the metabolism by digesting constantly. The Makeover Program offers unlimited classes, private sessions and a “makeover kit” that includes a folder and a book which helps the student execute the plan, as well as journals which chronicle one’s daily food intake.
Though Emma has streamlined Goddess Fitness Dance to a single physical location in recent years, she is currently implementing a state of the art webcam system in the studio which will allow her to bring her holistic, empowering fitness aesthetic and individual classes to the world. Soon she will launch www.godessfitnesslive.com, which is designed to create a global community and allow people across the U.S. and world to be part of the Goddess lifestyle and experience the same self-love and inner and outer transformations that Emma’s thousands of SoCal based students have for years. She also has wide scale plans to create shops, studios and merchandising as well as special performances, shows, videos and a burlesque restaurant/bar night club!
“Goddess is a life style – to be lived! For me, Goddess Fitness Dance began with my own transformation of living – loving and learning to eat well, dance, party and be grateful for every moment of every day! All with the image of a ballerina on a pole in mind! The beauty of the pole is that it helps create curves, and our students move in a way so that the booty is lifted and shaped, and so they won’t lose their bust. They use their arms to keep everything lifted. I teach them how to hold on and let go, the perfect metaphor for the safe environment we provide for them to let go of their inhibitions”, says Emma, who found her passion for dance as a toddler, trained in ballet at the Royal Ballet School in London (chosen at age 6 to enroll as part of a group of 22 students out of over 5,000 hopefuls) and later sang and danced in swanky burlesque shows and night clubs around the world.
During her childhood, Emma also appeared on the British stage in many dance and dramatic productions including Neil Simon’s “Last of the Red Hot Lovers” and on film and TV, including playing “Ozma, the Queen of Oz” in the Disney cult classic movie “Return To Oz”. Her Renaissance Woman resume also includes appearing on “Boy Meets World”, studying piano and voice at Musicians Institute in L.A., and writing and recording pop songs. After moving to Los Angeles, Emma has always taught classical ballet and yoga. But at 29, after having three children in a relatively short time, she gained over 100 lbs. The rigorous demands of motherhood and neglecting a regular fitness routine had taken its toll on her physically and emotionally.
Emma’s inspiration for Goddess Fitness Dance emerged from her frustration in realizing that the only choices of fitness regimens out there were mundane, boring and decidedly masculine. “I created Goddess Fitness for selfish reasons”, she admits. “I wanted to reconnect with my dancing and ultimately get back in shape but I also wanted to create a more feminine approach to fitness that did not include punching or kicking or anything masculine, I think women are meant to be soft and curvaceous to touch but strong, confident and empowered in all of who we are.”
Goddess is a state of mind not a body type. The original class started as a mixture of yoga, pilates, abdominal and floor work along with some Booty Burlesque. “From the first day we opened in Santa Clarita”, she adds, “our message has been the same: If you lead with your heart, your body will follow with beautiful movement and grace, regardless of experience level. Every class suits everyone’s level, whether you are a beginner or advanced… it’’s just plain fun to dance and we do it mostly in the dark!
When we move gently, we move all pain and discomfort and emotional baggage away, freeing our spirits and giving ourselves permission to be self-expressed through our movement. This provides self discovery, self healing and ultimately self love. As we dance in the dark, we are literally stripping away the layers of judgment and self doubt, leaving us with the permission to give our self the freedom to let go and live in gratitude and ultimately live in joy. Goddess is a celebration and a lifestyle where we do it all – Live, Love, Dance, Eat, Sleep and Party! It’s the most fun you’ll ever have in life and fitness.”
“If I can be of service by inspiring at least one person a day to live their life more freely by being totally self accepting and self expressed in art, in dance or in any way they choose, then I have done my job ;)”