Local musician and dancer Marina Cornelius makes fitness fun at Floor Polish
By Laura Horley
“My vision for the space is definitely disco roller rink,” Marina Cornelius, the founder of Floor Polish says. “I’ve always thought of it as a place that can have a little bit of showbiz, a little bit of glamour to it.”
And as the name would suggest, that is exactly what she has created—a place that feels curated for fun as well as fitness. A far cry from a traditional gym, Floor Polish, the new dance studio at 215 N. Hoff Avenue, has colorful lights, a disco ball, a gold wall and distinctive handmade signs.
The studio, which Cornelius rented in April, has been open for business since May 2. Dance fitness classes are offered Monday through Friday, with occasional special events and workshops on weekends, but offerings are sure to expand.
Cornelius, who, it’s worth noting, is also one of the two sisters behind powerful Tucson rock duo Acorn Bcorn, started dancing in earnest five years ago, and taught Zumba and Salsa classes at the downtown YMCA before designing her own class, Cardio Party-o. Cardio Party-o, a high-energy dancerobix class that features many different styles of dance and fosters a house party or community atmosphere, is still taught at Floor Polish alongside other classes. Some, such as Extend, PiYo and Strong Butt, focus on building strength, while others—Rhythm Blast, Zumba and Intro to House—are more dance-focused.
Floor Polish is located on Hoff, next to Ermanos’ back patio and across from Public Brew House. This location is important to Cornelius.
“If I had rented a warehouse, I would have been asking people to drive or bike to one spot, do their thing, and leave. This place encourages more socializing,” she says. “I hate the idea of driving, sweating and getting back in your car and driving home.”
Though the space is well suited for a small dance studio in many ways—including location, mirrors and size—it needed some work before classes could take place. Most essentially, it needed a flat floor. The original had a huge step in it—not great for dancing—so Cornelius leveled it out herself by building a new floor. Cornelius’ commitment is apparent in every detail of the space, and those familiar with Acorn Bcorn and/or Cardio Party-o will recognize her aesthetic immediately. Floor Polish is being run as a sole proprietorship: it’s an extension of Cornelius, at least for tax purposes. She wanted to keep the business side of things as simple as possible so that she would have plenty of time to be actively involved in her passion.
“I didn’t want to jump into being a boss and a manager, and that’s it. I really wanted to make that side of it as simple as possible so that I could still focus on dance and still teach my classes and make them good,” says Cornelius.
Before she was able to take the leap into business ownership, though, she had to make sure the business would have enough support. She quickly found that many of the dancers and musicians she’d met over the years were thrilled for the opportunity to teach classes in a new, flexible setting.
Right now, Floor Polish has eight teachers, though Cornelius hopes to expand their offerings and is also open to renting the space out for teachers who want to host workshops and other events.
Sarah Osborne and Abigail Plano, two friends Cornelius met through dance, weren’t teaching at the time, but had strong dance backgrounds and had taught before. Cornelius approached them about teaching at Floor Polish and they both jumped at the opportunity to design their own dance classes. Plano teaches Intro to House, alongside fellow dancer Daymeon Rembert, and Osborne teaches Rhythm Blast, a cardio dance class that builds up a fun and engaging progression of African and modern inspired moves.
Cornelius met Kimberly Card while teaching Zumba at the downtown YMCA. Card is one of her favorite Zumba teachers, and she was thrilled that she wanted to teach the class twice a week at Floor Polish.
Tasha Bundy, Lola Torch and Bradford Trojan are Tucson musicians with fitness, dance and yoga backgrounds, respectively. They, too, were excited about the potential of a new space. Torch teaches Extend and Strong Butt, Bundy teaches PiYo and Trojan teaches Slo-mo Yoga.
It’s important to Cornelius that Floor Polish offer a wide range of class styles and events. In addition to weekly classes, she hopes to host workshops, art events and dance parties.
“I definitely want it to be a hang out place. I would love to have choreography shows. I would love for this to be a venue, to have a Floor Polish recital every so often,” Cornelius says.
Floor Polish is designed to be more than just a place to work out. It’s a place to gather over something positive.
“Physical activity is such a good part of life,” Cornelius says. “[Creating Floor Polish] is the most natural way for me to be a good force in the community.”
Every class at the studio is open to everybody. There are beginners and advanced participants, and so far the mix has been working, especially for those who shy away from more traditional fitness environments.
“I’ve always thought this could be a good alternative space for people. We have a lot of different age groups, a lot of different walks of life. There are absolutely no stigmas,” Cornelius says.
In a time of constant distraction and overstimulation, people are attracted to yoga and meditation as a way to get grounded. In the same way, in a time of violence—rhetorical, sexual, homicidal and otherwise—people often feel powerless and seek ways to move through the world with strength and confidence.
“People want to get strong because they don’t feel strong,” Cornelius says. “Feeling out of shape is one thing, but people also feel like they want to be able to do what they want with their bodies.”
She sees herself surrounded by a diverse community of people not worried about being thin, but just desiring the physical strength to match the mental fortitude required to get though the world.
“We have classes that build strength and going to them has been helping me deal with the stress of opening a business,” Cornelius says. “It’s about self-growth, being a stronger version of who you are rather than changing who you are.”
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