Darien fitness studio has a special flair

It's only natural that a business based on movement would want to make a move.

On Wednesday, Jan. 16, Flair Fitness Studio started enjoying a larger, more accessible space in the Goodwives Shopping Center, at the former location of Rugged Bear. The homespun workout business will continue hosting a variety of Zumba classes and other exercise disciplines, led by a team made up largely of fit Darien moms.

"The thing that's really interesting about us, seven of our instructors are Darien moms," said Amy Shelton, who co-founded Flair in 2010.

"I opened it with my friend Peg Perez when Zumba was just becoming popular," said Shelton, who's lived in town for more than 20 years.

"Zumba has swept the world," Shelton said, describing it as dance-type movements done to contemporary Latin-based hip-hop music. "It started over 10 years ago and it has not lost its popularity."

She added, "I think that the reason that it's so successful is every woman who leaves a Zumba class has a smile on her face. You are just dancing to upbeat music and burning a lot of calories ... The time goes by so quickly, you don't even realize you're exercising."

After feeling out the waters of Zumba interest via classes at the Darien Community Association for several months, Shelton and Perez opened the first studio on the Post Road.

"We've outgrown that space and parking became a real issue," Shelton said.

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The new location is almost three times larger. Each of the two studios has a roomy feel, with high ceilings and dancers barres along one mirrored wall.

Along with the various offerings, which include yoga, piloxing (Pilates and boxing) and Shape It Up classes, Flair also hosts parties for both adults and children, both onsite and off.

Dina Fay, a Darien mom who teaches multiple programs, including after-school workouts for young people, is thrilled with the move. "I just think it's going to be fabulous," she said. "Aside from offering us more space and more state-of-the-art studios, it's just much better visibility for us."

She said part of the hope is to attract more clients in the evening, although the studio is open to starting at times that may show increased demand. "We're going to see what works for people," Fay said.

"They're doing it right," said customer Sue Russo, of Darien. "It's not a gym. They know you. They listen. They just run a beautiful operation.

"It's more like a big family," said Russo, who, active at 68, emphasized that classes are suitable for everyone. "It doesn't matter your age."

"I'm in awe over this space," said Amber Allen, who has led classes since the start.

"The sound system's going to be great," she said, and an authentic disco ball will be available for parties.

Unlike some programs, Shelton said, clients are welcome to pay as they go. They can come for one class, or come intermittently, with no obligation to limited time.

Martha Guttuso, another instructor and local mom, said Shelton runs an establishment that makes both clients and staff feel welcome.

"I love what I do," she said. "I love the women who come to my classes. ... And it's really good energy in this studio. People here feel at home."

For information, visit www.flairfitnessstudio.com or call 203-202-9200.