Art of Movement Thrives at Workhouse

Art of Movement Thrives at Workhouse

Lesley Spalding runs 15 exercise classes for 250 people a week.

Art of Movement Program Director Lesley Spalding practices side twist pilates at the Workhouse Arts Center.

Art of Movement Program Director Lesley Spalding practices side twist pilates at the Workhouse Arts Center. Photo by Steve Hibbard.


(From left): Christine Heckel teaches a pilates barre class to Ashley Patrican, 27, and her mom Eileen, 51, of Clifton, at the Workhouse Arts Center.

A Sampling of Art of Movement Classes

BUMPERS: Open-studio format for exploring the Art of the Sword. A forum for master teachers, researchers and movement artists to learn fight techniques and historical traditions.

YOGA: Hatha yoga focuses on asanas or poses, for beginners and intermediates, with seven experienced instructors.

GENTLE YOGA: Chair-based, low-impact yoga, appropriate for wheelchair or ambulatory. Good for people with hip replacements, multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia and cancer patients.

PILATES: Team of nine Stott-certified instructors focuses on core stability, strength, flexibility, coordination, balance, posture.

GENTLE PILATES: Chair-based, low-impact, gentle to benefit posture and body alignment. For wheelchair-bound or challenged people.

STRONG, GRACEFUL BODY: Fuses training techniques with traditional movement such as Pilates, yoga, dance and fitness. Develops core strength and muscular endurance.

TAI CHI (yang style): Ancient form of movement (5,000 years old), martial arts movement coined as “meditation in motion.” Great for balance and chronic pain.

NIA: Neuromuscular Integrative Action, draws upon dance, martial arts and healing arts. It’s a cardiovascular whole body workout done in your bare feet.

HULAU HULA: Hula dance, music, history, culture and Hawaiian traditions taught by Cherry Nutting.

CHILDREN’S HULA: For ages 3-15, basic hula steps and hand motions are taught separately using Hawaiian language words, games and chants.

HULA HOOP FITNESS: Called “hooping,” it uses a weighted hula hoop focusing on core muscles, toning arms, lower body, upper body, cardiovascular, from head to toe.

BALLROOM: Learn to cha-cha, waltz, foxtrot, swing and more. No partner is necessary. Appropriate for beginner and intermediate.

PILATES BARRE: Fusion class that combines principles of pilates and ballet barre in a standing workout using a bar from head to toe.

ZUMBA: Latin-dance routine that burns calories to South-American music; very popular class.

JAZZERCISE: A 40-year tradition—dance fitness classes that combine dance-based cardio with strength training and stretching to sculpt, tone and lengthen music for maximum fat burn.


Students practice stretching in the chair-based Gentle Pilates class at the Workhouse Arts Center’s Art of Movement program.

The Workhouse Arts Center in Lorton offers Art of Movement classes in vibrant formats that are “off the beaten path.” The fall season started Sept. 16 with 19 certified instructors teaching everything from Pilates to yoga to hula to zumba to jazzercise to “strong graceful body.” About 250 people of all ages can sign up for eight-week classes, six days a week, between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. The next session starts Nov. 11.

“We’re always seeking and reaching out to make sure we’re on top of our game with the latest information,” said Program Director Lesley Spalding, 51, of Rolling Valley in Springfield. “We’re all certified in every aspect.”

Spalding brought her own posse of 35 fitness pros to the Workhouse five years ago and it was an instant hit and profit-making venture. “It grew pretty strong and quick from the get-go.” Now, she’s looking to branch out further by offering reiki, shiatsu, massage therapy, and muscle action technique. Spalding has 20 years in the health and wellness movement.

Five room spaces at Workhouse are set up for group-type settings for 10 or 12 people to do hula or tai chi or yoga. There are 50 Pilates classes per week taught by nine certified “Stott Pilate’s” instructors in three spaces containing $40,000 worth of Joseph Pilates equipment (the inventor). “We are ground-zero for Pilates,” she said.

The Art of Movement classes occupy eight rooms in building W-11, which is 7,729 square feet. The center serves not only tri-athletes, marathon runners and the super-fit, but novices as well. “We get high-level athletes who want to strengthen their core. We have high-level ballet dancers who want to rehab a sprained ankle,” she said. Classes can be geared for every level: gentle movement, improving balance or strengthen core.

Prices range from $110 for eight weeks of group classes up to 12 people. The Pilates classes are $210 for eight weeks for three people in a group. Private and semi-private training is $80 per class. “Enthusiastic members” get $10 off each class registration.

This is also the place that Pilates instructors go for their own advanced training. “When we get together, we tackle the advanced-level repertoires,” she said. “It turns into Cirque d’Soleil at that point—but it’s fun.” Workhouse CEO and former Mayor of Fairfax John Mason does Pilates twice a week with Spalding.


Instructor Cherry Nutting demonstrates hula dancing based on Hawaiian culture.

Classes are also perfect for beginners: “We are an environment where a person who has never done a structured movement or exercise program to feel safe and successful for tackling a new piece that they’d like to add,” said Spalding.

She suggests beginners start with Pilates or yoga. “You might finally begin to understand why certain things have been a challenge to you in your movement, as your instructor leads you in safe patterns of exercise,” she said.

Since 2008, Eileen Patrican, 51, of Clifton has done yoga, belly dancing, Pilates and the reformer class. “I love it. The instructors here are the very best you can come across,” she said. “If you have a problem, they work with you. These people are very mindful of you.”

Her daughter Ashley, 27, agrees: “It’s its own oasis for fitness,” she said. “It’s like a family. They challenge you in every class.”

For nine years, Wendell Mickens, 36, of Lorton, has had multiple sclerosis and was not able to exercise. He discovered Spalding’s classes, which he calls “revolutionary,” and now takes sit-down Pilates, general yoga, and reformer training. “Her program is remarkable,” he said. “I’m able to actually move and build strength, because I had no muscle mass before going there.” Workhouse partners with the National Multiple Sclerosis Society and Back in Motion Physical Therapy.

Alex Ibarra, 50, of Old Town Alexandria, originally from Ecuador, suffers from herniated cervical discs along her neck (C2-C5). After taking a “cocktail of medicines,” she decided to try classes with Spalding. For three years now, she’s been taking Pilates and yoga six times a week. “I was introduced to Lesley and I just fell in love with her,” she said. “Every hour for me is a challenge, and my condition is getting much better.” Ibarra no longer takes medicine and her pain just melts away after the workouts, she says.

The center attracts people from as far away as Fredericksburg, Vienna, the district, La Plata, Md., and Berryville.

Last spring, Spalding taught yoga to the boys’ varsity lacrosse team at South County High School. “They were great and really receptive,” she said.

Spalding is married to husband Doug and the couple has two grown daughters, ages 26 and 23. For more details on the Art of Movement classes, email Lesley Spalding at or call 703-584-2965.