A passion to bring local ownership to an already-established fitness studio has brought two women together to bring a program that especially targets women to their home in DeSoto County. 

Nikki Courson and Kristin Bettis have restarted the Pure Barre Studio in a shopping center near the Target store in Olive Branch that was started in 2015 by its previous owners who were based out of Memphis.

Courson, who also teaches first-grade at Pleasant Hill Elementary School nearby, was already an instructor for Pure Barre at the time. But she, along with Kristin Bettis, an acquaintance she met through Junior Auxiliary, were confident that with ownership based in DeSoto County, the studio could grow and attract more women who wanted to shape and tone their bodies through a program that doesn’t pretend to be anything normal in the fitness world.

Bettis, when she is not teaching and operating Pure Barre with Courson, is a diabetes clinical manager with Medtronic.

“It’s using ballet-type movement to do a low-impact exercise,” Bettis said of Pure Barre, with Courson adding, “you do not have to know ballet. All you have to do is hold on to a bar. The fast-paced music kind of drives the class.”

Courson and Bettis added Pure Barre (pronounced as in bar) uses only low weights, or even no weights in the 55-minute class program.

“You’re focused on such small, isolated movements, so the exercise really firms up your larger muscle groups,” Bettis said. “When that happens, it forces the smaller muscle groups to have to wake up and help them out. That helps make everything become more streamlined, where you’re working your physique out like a famous ballet dancer would without using ballet terminology.”

Bettis and Courson have both lived in DeSoto County for more than 10 years. Bettis began ballet at age three and danced her way through school before she got into competitive cheerleading as part of the squad at Ole Miss. Courson also danced through her school years to become part of the dance team at Mississippi State.

The pair said they wanted to first open Pure Barre, but the location had already been taken by an owner from Memphis. But they persisted and as the Memphis owners, who also had studios there, tired to heading down to DeSoto County, Courson and Bettis saw their chance and took it.

‘I kept pushing them and pushing them,” Courson said. “I could see this could be better than what time they were willing to put into this. They didn’t want to drive down here every day and they were paying a manager from Memphis to come down here. I could just see that it needed a local presence.”

Since taking over the studio in December, a lot of work has been done to improve the facility, located in the Wedgewood Commons shopping center along Goodman Road in Olive Branch.

The Pure Barre owners also look to make sure that, while they are building bodies, they are also building a community.

“They like the social aspect of of everybody here, together, it’s almost like a lifestyle,” Courson said, with Bettis adding, “that lifestyle was not developing like it had in other Pure Barre locations. When we came in, we definitely wanted to make sure that a sense of community got down here.”

Social events are scheduled outside of the studio classes to foster that sense of community among the clients and Courson and Bettis point out that Pure Barre is not a female-only club. The program has benefits for men, as well.

“I think any time you work your body in these types of ways, you’re toning and defining your muscles in a different way,” Bettis said. “You’re not overbuilding the muscle, if you will, so yes, 100 percent guys can absolutely benefit from this. Can a football player benefit from a ballet class? Yes, they take them all the time.”

The studio offers various times for its classes throughout the day. Registering for a class can be done online at purebarre.com/ms-olivebranch or by stopping in at the studio location, 5338 Goodman Road in Olive Branch.

Bob Bakken is Staff Writer and may be reached at 662-429-6397 ext. 240.

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