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Body, Soul, and Pole: A Challenge Worth Taking

-Jennifer Belcher

Body, Soul and Pole is located on the 3rd floor of the Brunswick Center in Jersey City.

That was not easy.  It was not easy at all.  Every video I had ever seen of someone doing pole fitness made it look graceful and elegant: spiraling women, fit and strong, twirling effortlessly around a pole. That’s what was supposed to happen, right? Not hardly.  I learned very quickly that pole fitness is hard. Instead of resembling the ease at which my instructor demonstrated each new step we would try out, spinning multiple times without demand, I approached my pole, took my grip, and did my best imitation of a flying squirrel hitting a tree face on.  Ouch.

Why had I been so eager to try this in the first place, anyway?  Basically, I’m all for workouts that are fun, artistic, and let me challenge myself in ways that don’t feel like, well, a workout.  Having danced my whole life, I figured it should ideally not come as too much of a challenge. In addition to something more creative and fun that didn’t involve massive amounts of sweat and dumbbells, I had heard nothing but rave reviews about what pole fitness could do for one’s physique.

When I found out a new studio was opening up on the 3rd floor of the Brunswick Center, I was excited and anxious to try it.  At first I worried about what people might think. Pole fitness can be a little controversial given its provocative and risque origins.  Some people I’ve met have strong opinions on the dance classes saying they are demeaning to women and support a culture of sleaze and degradation. However, women using a highly rigorous form of body control and strength to combine fitness and art in a unique way is, in my opinion, empowering.

After a few months I talked myself into trying it out.  Having done my research I knew that I was in for quite the strenuous exercise.  According to Shape.Com, pole classes are a combination of workouts that incorporate the use of your own body weight, strength training and flexibility in one.  A few intro lessons in, I can tell you that it is so much more than that. Each class requires a significant amount of coordination, body control and focus.

Two days after my first class, my body was as sore as if I had completed a double gym workout.  My arms were killing me, which was no surprise. I’ve always been someone who has significantly lacked upper body strength.  The results of one pole class alerted me to the fact that this may, indeed, be the kryptonite class to my scrawny, under-toned limbs.  I am not kidding you, there were a few points in the days that followed when I could not even lift my arms.  

It wasn’t the incredible upper arm workout that had me going back to another introduction class, however.  The dancer inside of me could not deal with the fact that I was not able to look like a beautiful spinning siren after day 1.  The learning curve necessary to achieve the few moves taught in the class was steep, and I was determined to get them quickly. Flapping and flailing against the pole was not going to be how I went down.  This was an entirely new and frustrating experience for me, someone who had always picked up on anything dance rather quickly.

Needless to say, even after the second class, I still looked more like an out of control animal than I did someone who should have been up there.  However, my climbing skills (which require a tremendous amount of upper body strength) were already improving and the coordination necessary to achieve a whirl around the pole was steadily increasing.

If you are interested in trying a pole fitness class, do not let it overwhelm you.  It is NOT easy and it is not something you are going to achieve overnight. Unlike many forms of fitness which have you achieving the basics rather quickly, Pole Fitness is going to ask of you patience, determination, and the willingness to be okay with looking like a complete jerk crashing into a metal pole.  The good news is the women (and men) inside that class will do nothing but support you, lift you up, help you achieve body and mind confidence and stand next to you doing weird and awkward things around their poles as well.

So put all your reservations aside, find your best pair of biker shorts (the more skin exposed the better your grip on the pole) and try it out.  It will definitely challenge you, but it will also help you carve out a lean physique, and more importantly a strong will and self-belief.

In addition to offering introduction and intermediate pole fitness classes, Body Pole and Soul offers lyra and silks classes.  I recommend trying it with a friend.  You can have fun laughing at, I mean with, each other.  The studio also offers parties for events such as bachelorettes, birthdays, divorce parties (yes-that is a thing!).

Jersey City Ballet: Celebrating Five Years of Excellence

-Jennifer Belcher

The Jersey City Ballet Theater Company dancers rehearse their combinations for their May performance.

As I stepped into the Jersey City Ballet studio, the sounds of classical music coupled with the tapping of pointe shoes traversing across the wooden floor flooded my senses.  I was immediately transported back to my childhood where I spent several days a week in my local dance studio.  Lacking flexibility and grace, I stuck to jazz and tap classes.  However, I always found myself pressing my nose against the glass of the other studios, studying the long-limbed and elegant ballerinas.

Watching the Jersey City Ballet Theater company dancers rehearse their combinations for an upcoming performance, I am much like my younger self: in complete awe.  There is something about ballerinas that has not only fascinated me my entire life, but continues to be an obsession for many in our society and a highlight of pop culture.  Ballet is considered the pinnacle of the dance world, with ballerinas being our finest examples of artistry combined with sheer athleticism. 

Judith Elins Palacio, director of Jersey City Ballet and Jersey City Ballet Theater, has over twenty years of experience in our community.  Judith has studied in NYC at The Alvin Ailey School, New Dance Group, City Center, Cecchetti School, New Jersey Ballet and Broadway Dance Center.  With an extensive list of professional performances as a dancer, instructor, and choreographer, Judith brings a high level of expertise to our local Jersey City community.

Judith Elins Palacio, director of Jersey City Ballet and Jersey City Ballet Theater

Judith Elins Palacio and Laurel Zaleski, instructor and company member, invited me to the studio to watch one of the company rehearsals and learn more about what this Jersey City gem has to offer our community. Judith first opened the studio in November 2013 and has seen her company expand and grow ever since.

“We started out in a tiny space on 7th street and now have a larger facility in the Brunswick Center community building. Our professional company now has a core group of members and has collaborated with many other local groups in our shows. Our school continues to grow as our next generation of ballerinas goes on pointe! Additionally our adult program has a robust group of regulars who enjoy learning classical ballet technique,” says director Elins-Palacio.

This year the studio is proudly celebrating its fifth year anniversary by continuing to offer premiere ballet instruction for the community while sharing the experience of ballet with audiences across the area.

Zaleski states, “We are planning a fundraiser in May, a Festival in October and our annual Holiday performance in December. Also, we have a few additional dates for shows that are tentative.”

Additionally, in its fifth year, the studio has been able to witness the evolution of its dancers over time.  

Photo by Jennifer Belcher

“It’s really nice seeing our students continuously improve and go away to prestigious summer training programs and competitive high school programs as well,” explains Zaleski.

One of the most unique things about Jersey City Ballet is the range of classical ballet training offered to community members of all ages and experience levels.  Available opportunities range from the most beginner levels to advanced adult ballet and the professional company.  Additionally, the ages for class offerings span from 4-5 years to adult, meaning Jersey City Ballet really has something to offer everyone in our area. 

What truly sets Jersey City Ballet apart from other studios is the quality of instruction students receive for the value students pay.  

“We offer small class sizes, professional faculty, competitive pricing and performance opportunities in a supportive environment,” Elins Palacio says.

As someone who has personally taken the studio’s adult beginner class, I can attest to this.  I was surprised at the affordability of their drop-in rates compared to other places in the area, especially with the quality of instruction I knew I was receiving.  Even as a true beginner, Judith was able to enhance my dancing with personalized attention as she suggested small changes in my foot and spine placement.  The beginner class not only let me work on the fundamentals of ballet but let me live out my childhood dreams of feeling like a beautiful ballerina.

In addition to offering ballet classes for Jersey City’s youth, Jersey City Ballet offers classes for beginner to professional adults.

For more information on what Jersey City Ballet has to offer, please check out their website: and follow them on social media @jerseycityballet for the most up to date information and class schedules.

On May 5th Jersey City Ballet will be hosting a fundraiser at Grace Church Van Vorst to support their 2019 Season. For tickets and information visit

You’re Going to Put That Where? Going Deep with Doody Free Girl!

-Jennifer Belcher


Is it going to smell?  What underwear do I wear? Is it going to feel like a torture device? These were just a few of the many questions I had before undergoing a colonics treatment with Doody Free Girl at the Brunswick Center a few weekends ago. Colonics is something that has always equally interested me and scared me. Having a feeling that there were many people out there who, like me, have a lot of questions about what it is and what it isn’t, I decided to take one for the Jersey City team and blog about my experience.  If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to have….well, let’s be real….your poop sucked out of you, here’s my first hand (or should I say first bum) experience.

Before My Appointment:

The minute I scheduled my session with Jen Gonzalez, owner of Doody Free Girl, I knew I was in good hands.  She immediately emailed me a comprehensive informational document with everything I needed to know in order to have the best session possible and to help ease my fears.  In addition to providing information on pre-colonics diet recommendations, she also sent me some great information on probiotics and where to find them.  To help calm my own anxiety and to guarantee the best results possible, I was very careful to do a lot of research and follow Jen’s suggested pre-cleanse guidelines.  Having suffered from chronic IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) since2003, I was eager to spend a week eating the recommended mostly vegan diet.

For the five days prior to my appointment, in addition to cutting out meat and dairy, I also cut out gluten because it has historically been hard on my stomach. By the time Saturday rolled around, I already felt a million times better, having forced myself to eliminate all the foods that irritate my stomach. Each day leading up to my appointment, I engaged in a little bit of research on the pros and cons of colonics treatments. The reviews I read seemed to be split down the line: proponents who receive treatments raved about the benefits and doctors warned against it, citing perforations and future bowel movement issues. Luckily there were so many positive reviews, especially from those with IBS, that I didn’t let it bother me or dissuade me from going to my appointment. Instead, I made note of some of the concerns to ask Jen during my session and continued my preparations.

During My Appointment:

The day of my appointment I had a morning coffee and smoothie, knowing I needed to fast three hours prior to the appointment.  I arrived in some comfy sweats, feeling informed yet very nervous about what was to come. However, Jen’s warm smile and calming disposition immediately put me at ease. She was so chill about everything, which made me realize that it wasn’t that big of a deal since it’s something that she does multiple times a day for many clients.

Jen Gonzalez is a certified Colon Hydrotherapist in Jersey City.

I’ve walked by Doody Free Girl’s space on the third floor of the Brunswick Center multiple times a week for over two years and always assumed that the space where you get it all done was some dark, smelly closet.  When she walked me back into the “cleansing space” I was in awe at how open, bright, and big the area was. Oh, and it also didn’t smell at all, in case you were wondering. To start off my appointment, I went to the bathroom located in the back, took off my bottoms, and draped myself with the cotton smock that you see at many doctors’ offices. As I climbed on the medical table and waited for Jen to emerge, I started to sweat and worry about any potential pain that was about to ensue. Jen talked me through the process and told me what I would expect before beginning the treatment. Using a diagram of the intestines, she walked me through my insides and what exactly was going to happen. It was so evident that she was an expert in her field. Much to my surprise, the initial “starting” of everything didn’t hurt at all.  It was over with one deep breath and we were well on our way to cleaning everything out.

Jen used this poster in her space to explain to me exactly how the process would work.

While it was NOT painful, it wasn’t exactly like getting a massage either. Despite not hurting, there were two things that were slightly uncomfortable: occasional mild cramping (which she told me to expect) and the sensation of pooping everywhere, even though I wasn’t.  During the appointment, Jen and I engaged in casual conversation about work, life, and health.  A process that I thought would be incredibly awkward was actually quite fun and comfortable because of her overall Zen and relaxed vibe. While things were being flushed out, I was also able to ask her for clarification around some of the concerns around colonics that had resulted from my research. Her knowledge and expertise around the subject matter and popular areas of concern helped me to understand that those medical issues were not anything to worry about.

PHOTOGRAPHY AND CONCEPT: YLVA EREVALL (We can pretend that model’s bum is me during my session).

After the ebbing and flowing of water from my gravity colonics, some off and on cramping, and great conversation, my procedure was over.  I scurried to the bathroom where I was instructed to stay for 15-20 minutes to let everything finish. Overall, the whole session went quickly and seamlessly, and I was surprised when she said it was over.

After my Appointment:

In all my research about colonics treatments, I had read about how light you feel after the session.  I was surprised at just how accurate this was. I felt amazing. The deep down “rock inside my stomach” sensation and IBS symptoms that I pretty much feel 24/7 were completely gone.  I couldn’t even remember the last time my stomach had felt free of gas, bloating, etc. Following Jen’s recommendations, I refrained from eating for a few hours and then had a green smoothie and lots of water.  I knew it was important for me to go easy on my digestive system for the next day or two. Having made no plans, I was able to sit on the couch, stream some movies, and relax.  I did experience mild cramping for the rest of the evening, but Jen had told me that this might happen.

Funny enough, for some reason I was paranoid that I was going to walk around pooping everywhere, and I spent two days walking around squeezing my butt.  FYI- nothing of the sort happened. For the next few days, I continued to feel lighter than ever and had no stomach or bathroom issues. Wanting to get the most out of my appointment, I continued to eat gluten and dairy free and felt amazingly well.  It wasn’t until I started to add certain trigger foods back into my diet that those symptoms began to return. Even though the colonics appointment didn’t cure my stomach woes (which I didn’t expect it to) it did help me develop some mindfulness around how good I could feel with proper nutrition and a cleaned-out system.  Most importantly, the procedure allowed for a great reset with my eating habits and cravings. Bonus: for the last two weeks my skin has been glowing and blemish free!

Would I do it Again?

Definitely!…although only with Jen.  It’s not the most comfortable and relaxing experience and after having such a positive session with her, I can only imagine how bad it could go with someone who wasn’t so pleasant, experienced, and professional.  Two weeks later and my IBS symptoms continue to be mild, only flaring when I eat foods I shouldn’t. Because I think you should plan for a full day off where you can control your food and relax if you have the mild cramping, it’s not something I would do too frequently, but it is something that I will incorporate multiple times a year to help with my tummy turmoil and overall health. 

Key Takeaways:

– Just like with any other procedure, it is important to consult your physician first.

-Colonics isn’t for everyone.  While a fantastic approach to health, I know many of my friends wouldn’t be able to hang with the situation.

-Pre and post diet are essential to successful results.

-The person administering your treatment is a vital part of the experience. Choose wisely.

-Timing is key: you really need to set aside a full day without major plansso you can rest and have full control over what you’re eating.

-The procedure is an overall exercise in mindfulness, allowing you the opportunity to feel how light and balanced your gut can feel.

Photo courtesy of Jen Gonzalez

Doody Free Girl is located on the third floor of the Brunswick Center in JerseyCity.  It is owned and operated by Jen Gonzalez, a certified colon hydrotherapist and a certified nutrition consultant and holistic counselor.  For more information please visit, email, or call 201-565-3447.

Faces of the Brunswick Center: Fleurdelis

By: Jennifer Belcher

Fleurdelis’ incredible transition.

A few weeks ago I was scrolling through Instagram when I found myself frozen in awe at a transformation post by Jersey City Kickboxing.  I knew immediately that I needed to feature the woman in the photo in our “Faces of the Brunswick Center” series. Her side by side transformation was nothing short of incredible.  After learning more of the story behind the photograph, I realized it was far more than just a “before and after” weight loss journey. Fleurdelis’ inspirational story is one of dedication, motivation, commitment, and family.

Fleurdelis first came to Jersey City Kickboxing 2 years ago as a parent who had her two boys enrolled at the academy.

“Both my boys are being trained by Coach Paul, Coach Ralph, and Coach Sosa.  My oldest started training 2 years ago,” she explains.

Fleurdelis’ oldest son at JC Kickboxing

In February of 2018 Fleurdelis started her own fitness journey.  At 210 lbs, she was fed up with always feeling tired and unhealthy.  She knew if she did not make a dramatic change in the way she was living her life, she could end up with diabetes, a disease which runs in her family.

“With having two boys I couldn’t bear the thought of them having to see their mom so unhealthy. I started going to the gym 30 mins a day for 7 days a week since this was all my body could tolerate. This went on for about a month,” recounts Fleurdelis.  

Her youngest son in action

As she slowly built up her strength and endurance she was able to add more to her weekly routine.  At first she added fitness classes such as Zumba and weightlifting. She kept this up until June of 2018 when she realized she needed to up the challenge even more for maximum results.  Familiar with her sons’ instructor Coach Paul, the owner of Jersey City Kickboxing, she reached out to him for advice.

“Once I realized I needed a more intense workout, I spoke with Paul and he suggested I try out the adult classes.”

Kickboxing proved to be exactly what she needed to push her mind and body and help her finally reach her health and fitness goals.  From February to June, Fleudelis lost 20-30lbs. However, her major weight loss and toning came from kickboxing where she lost a total of 50-60lbs.  It wasn’t always an easy and happy process, however. Halfway through her journey, her eldest son came to her and confessed that he was being bullied over his weight.  Kids were telling him that he was heavy because his mom is heavy. This was exactly what she needed to give her the will to continue what she had started.

    “A mother will do anything to always protect her children,” she said.

Love for her sons drove her to lifelong change.

Along with working out, she also focused on changing her eating habits.

“Losing weight and toning are not all about working out. It also comes from the kitchen. A year later I have been able to keep the weight off and am healthier than ever,” she proudly states.

Currently Fleurdelis attends classes at Jersey City Kickboxing Monday – Friday.  The best part is, she’s been able to make it into a family affair. From 5-7pm each of her family members is involved in a class.  Her youngest son attends the 5pm class, her teen attends class at 6pm class, and she rounds out the evening by taking the 7pm adult class.

For Fleurdelis, kickboxing is more than just a challenging workout.  It is a special part of her life that helped show her what exactly she was capable of, mentally and physically.

“Kickboxing has changed my life, especially when it comes to my fitness level. I was never into any type of physical workouts, but kickboxing doesn’t feel like a normal work out. It is intense and fun at the same time. I was never one to exercise as the commitment necessary to make it work was somehow never attainable. However, that all changed when I met Paul Clark and started to attend kickboxing classes.  JC Kickboxing has shown me how to incorporate the art of Muay Thai and the correct form of boxing.”

Changes happened both inside and out

Fleurdelis finds the classes to be strategically structured and having the ability to take both cardio kickboxing and Muay Thai classes is a great experience. She speaks highly of her coach and owner Paul, complimenting him on his ability to train a variety of clients, regardless of their fitness level.  

“He works on your strengths and weaknesses, improving all aspects of total body fitness.”

Complimenting the obvious benefits to her weight and physical fitness, her classes have proven to make an impact in other parts of her life.  

“Being a teacher, kickboxing has helped me in lowering my stress level, given me more energy, burned calories, has boosted my confidence to a very high level, and toned my entire body.  It also helps me learn self-defense moves which is something all women should learn.”

In addition to being able to take part in an activity with her actual family, Fleurdelis has also developed a second family through Jersey City Kickboxing.  She applauds the staff’s ability to create a welcoming, warm, and friendly environment which has enabled her to create loving relationships that make her feel like she has known her coaches and classmates for years.  She even was able to meet the owner of Worry Woo’s, another Brunswick Center business, who she attends morning classes with and has given her advice for her teaching career.

Through group classes, she was able to make lasting connections.

Motivated by her two young sons and her desire to turn her life around and get healthy, Fleurdelis set herself on a determined path of change and devotion.  Through a local community of expert teachers and students, she found exactly what she needed to spark her transformation and to continually push her past new challenges and obstacles each day.

Jersey City Kickboxing is located on the 3rd floor of the Brunswick Center and is owned and operated by Paul Clark.  For more information on Kickboxing, Muay Thai, and other services visit

Paul Clark (left), owner of Jersey City Kickboxing