November 15, 2018

What is Vitality Ballet?


With an aging population seeking more options when it comes to fitness, studies show that dance may offer powerful health benefits. Vitality Ballet offers older adults a fitness alternative that is more engaging than just the typical senior workout.

A professional ballet dancer leads the class through combinations of modified ballet steps and stretches all perfectly timed to classical music. Vitality Ballet is most unique in that the class can be taken entirely from a seated position. This allows participants in wheelchairs, patients with balance issues, Parkinson’s or anyone differently abled to enjoy the benefits of this program from the safety of their chair.

Adults who are fully ambulatory also enjoy this program as a unique exercise challenge. We practice classical ballet exercises and steps standing at the “barre”, or the back of the chair, just as if you were in a traditional ballet class. 

Vitality Ballet offers a fun and innovative way to stimulate the mind and invigorate the body. Our philosophy is simple: The benefits of ballet truly can be experienced at every stage in life.



Vanessa Woods

(Owner & Founder)

Performance Photo WebVanessa is the founder of Vitality Ballet and a current professional dancer with 24 years of classical training. Originally from New Jersey, Vanessa’s training includes the Conservatory of Dance at SUNY Purchase, Princeton Ballet, Miami City Ballet School and STEPS on Broadway in New York City. She has performed with ballet companies all over the country. Currently Vanessa dances with the Saint Louis Ballet performing soloist and principal roles. Vanessa is also a teacher on staff with the Saint Louis Ballet School and has taught at numerous ballet academies around the country.

Vanessa started Vitality Ballet in 2012 with the encouragement of her mom (a fan of ballet herself). Starting with just a handful of participating facilities, today the program has been taught at a wide range of senior facilities all across St. Louis City and County.

Vanessa graduated from Washington University in St. Louis with a degree in Integrated Marketing. She can be seen performing year-round throughout the community with the Saint Louis Ballet.



Our Team of Instructors:

  • Mollie Thomas
  • Mary Virtue
  • Mariko Kumanonmido
  • Ericka Goss
  • Emily Baker
  • Rachel Bodi
  • Katherine Williams
  • Laura Roth 
  • Claire Harrock
  • Stacey Locke
  • Kate Stewart (yoga)
  • Carly McElvaine (yoga)


Former Instructors:

Jessica Ruhlin

attitude derriere-2

Jessica has been teaching with Vitality Ballet since early 2015. She trained locally with the Alexandra School of Ballet in Chesterfield. Later, she attended the prestigious boarding school, Interlochen Arts Academy on scholarship. She was one of twelve dancers chosen to represent the Midwest as a member of the Regional Dance America Honors Company and was invited to perform at the International Ballet Competition in Jackson, Mississippi. Jessica received a Bachelor of the Arts degree in dance pedagogy at Butler University. Her studies have taken her as far as St. Petersburg Russia where she trained in Vaganova style. Ms. Ruhlin has danced professionally with various companies around the U.S. She has been teaching dancers ranging from beginner to professionals, ages 3 to seniors since 2008. She has experience working with special needs students and teaching movement therapy in eating disorder clinics. She was fortunate to participate in a study on the effects of dance on patients with Parkinsons’ disease led by Washington University in 2014. Ms. Ruhlin is also an experienced choreographer, arts critic, and has performed in theater works at the Muny and Stages St. Louis.


Pam Vouri

OdettePamela is a former instructor of Vitality Ballet before having her first child, Preston, in 2015. She trained with the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre School and the Pittsburgh Youth Ballet.  She has also trained at Chautauqua, BalletMet, the Joffrey Ballet, and the School of American Ballet in New York City. Pamela graduated Summa Cum Laude from Mercyhurst University in Erie, Pennsylvania with a B.A. in Dance Teaching/Choreography and a minor in Arts Administration.  She danced with the Lake Erie Ballet, and in 2006 she joined the Saint Louis Ballet, where she rose to the rank of Principal Dancer. Some of her roles have included Aurora in THE SLEEPING BEAUTY, the title role in CINDERELLA and the Sugar Plum Fairy in THE NUTCRACKER.