REFIT Revolution combines fitness, community in ‘dance parties’

REFIT Revolution is a fitness center in Waco that strives to create a sense of belonging. Grace Everett | Photographer

By Ashlyn Kennedy | Guest Contributor

“Fitness is the vehicle for community, and community really is the heartbeat of what we do,” Catherine Ballas, CEO and co-founder of REFIT Revolution, said.

This represents the core mission of REFIT Revolution — a Waco fitness and workout studio that aims to create a sense of belonging, empowerment and transformation through dance parties that double as exercise.

The origin of the studio traces back to its three co-founders: Catherine Ballas, Angela Beeler and Emily Field, also known as ACE. Beeler and Field met when they began teaching fitness classes together in 2009. Beeler was a new mom of three who was looking for ways to stay fit, while Field was a college student who wanted ways to exercise other than just burning calories on an elliptical.

“It wasn’t until getting into a fitness class, in a group fitness format, where I discovered that working out could be fun,” Field said. “It didn’t just have to be putting in the hard work and tracking the minutes and the steps and the calories.”

Ballas, who comes from a “dancing family,” came into the picture when she moonwalked down a soul train during a class, where she “popped out” at the end right in front of Beeler and Field. She began attending their classes regularly, and soon enough, ACE was born. The three women began teaching classes together in churches and venues across Waco to growing crowds of participants.

After they had begun to create original fitness choreography, they decided to start posting their content on YouTube, a relatively new platform at the time.

“We threw up some videos, and we started to watch that channel grow, and it took off,” Beeler said. “It was just the right time for that kind of content.”

Views started to build up, as did the opportunities. Several people reached out to ask if they could teach the format from ACE’s videos. This led them to officially formalize REFIT as a brand and a business, creating an instructor program for others to teach their content. They started training instructors locally in Waco before traveling to places like Georgia, Florida and New York to continue building up their program.

“We were asked, ‘How many instructors do you think you’re going to train in a year?’” Ballas said. “And if we got 50, that would be huge. Within the first three months, we already had 50, so clearly we were onto something at that point.”

Instructors learn to teach two different formats: Refit and Rev+Flow. Refit is high-intensity dance movement to music, while Rev+Flow is a high-intensity, low-impact workout designed to focus on keeping mobility. The program, open to anyone who is interested, is a six-week process that also focuses on how to foster community and uphold REFIT values within classes.

Allison Malcom, REFIT’s content manager and studio instructor, started attending REFIT classes in 2018 during her time in Baylor’s graduate school as a way to get plugged into a community. She said she was immediately “hooked” and decided to become an instructor in 2020.

“Going from being a recipient and enjoying the community to initiating and taking leadership in the community, the impact that was made on me was really life-changing,” Malcom said.

After teaching in multiple venues around Waco, ACE finally opened its first REFIT studio in 2012. They stayed in the space for six years before moving in 2018 to their current headquarters on Washington Avenue.

According to its website, REFIT is considered “faith-infused.” While all three owners attest to having a personal faith, they take the approach of making sure that it is a space for everyone.

“It wasn’t closing one door and going in a different direction,” Field said. “It was taking our hearts and making them more accessible to more people.”

While they started out teaching “Faith and Fitness” classes, ACE found that this was not something every demographic wanted. Beeler said they consider themselves bridge-builders between those of faith and those not of faith.

“We want to stand in that space and hold space for both of those people,” Beeler said. “Hopefully, in that funny place of tension, people will feel loved by us no matter how they arrive or who they are or where they come from.”

Loving people has always been the REFIT founders’ mission, as evidenced by their mantra, “Everybody Belongs,” which is in big letters on a mural on the side of the studio.

Westminster, Colo., freshman Mattie Stevens began attending REFIT classes in fall 2022. She said it was one of the best decisions she could have made for herself.

“It’s a fun community full of a bunch of awesome people who are there to have a good time,” Stevens said. “Their commitment to making people happy and making other peoples’ day bright and changing the world one dance at a time is something that really stood out to me.”

It’s not just customers who feel this way, but the staff as well. Courtney Eastland is a recovery room nurse at Ascension Providence Hospital by day and an instructor at REFIT by night. Eastland said REFIT is a great outlet and source of comfort for her, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I love that I have a hobby, a place where I love the people and love what they stand for, to go to after work and unwind,” Eastland said.

Eastland said the way REFIT approaches fitness — by first creating a safe space that people feel free to workout in — was a huge part of why she started attending classes and eventually began teaching.

“They don’t care about your physical transformation,” Eastland said. “It’s from the inside out. We want you to feel good about yourself. If you have physical changes because of that, that’s great. If you don’t, that’s great too.”

Baylor freshman Brett Counsellor is a merchandise associate for REFIT. She said she loves not only that the classes are music-oriented but also that they are accessible to everyone.

“I feel like when a lot of people think ‘workout,’ they think squat racks and lifting, which can be very intimidating,” Counsellor said. “But when it’s a dance party, that’s not intimidating at all, and you get your cardio in. I think anyone can do it too. Not everyone can bench or hold a squat rack, but everyone can go dancing.”

Malcom said she encourages everyone to try REFIT and that the common excuse of “I can’t dance” shouldn’t stop someone from doing so.

“REFIT’s just a great way to get active, but it also brings so much joy, and I’m thankful that there’s a space that is so inclusive and fun,” Malcom said. “Who else gets to smile and dance when they’re doing squats?”