PHOTOGRAPHY BY KATHARINE CALDERWOOD
HAIR BY MARINA NIKAC, SALON MIMOZA, GREENWICH
PRODUCED BY VENERA ALEXANDROVA
BY NOW YOU’VE LIKELY HEARD OF COREPLAY, THE BUZZY WORKOUT TAKING GREENWICH BY STORM.
Founder Amanda Bartolomeo’s cardiovascular mat-based Pilates class has developed a cult following and has become a favorite workout for celebrities like Jenna Bush Hager.
Bartolomeo aspired to be a dance teacher from a young age and achieved that dream when she became a professional dancer for sports teams including the New York Knicks City Dancers, New York Titans and New Jersey Devils.
Despite experiencing the ugly side of the dance industry, she persevered and performed around the world for several years. However, in 2019 Bartolomeo underwent emergency surgery due to an ectopic pregnancy. It was there, at rock bottom, that CorePlay was born.
She set out to create a space where women can prioritize fitness, shine and feel connected—to themselves and one another.
We spoke with the thirty-four-year-old, who recently moved to Stamford, to learn about the trials and triumphs of her journey.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR UPBRINGING.
I was born in Texas and raised in Valley Stream, Long Island. My family [parents and a sister] was—and still is—the most important thing to me. I have fond memories of riding bikes, playing basketball until it was dark, kitchen dance parties with my mom and sister and, of course, Sunday family dinners.
My grandparents were big role models and influential in pushing me to achieve my dreams. My grandmother, Joan, encouraged me to see the world, dance the night away and never settle. They were the type of people that for Grandparents’ Day at school they would walk in with a smile and make all my friends feel special and seen. Years later that played a big role in the development of CorePlay.
I grew up with so much love, and I am extremely grateful to have had that type of support. I think it’s the reason why I’m able to work with people the way I do. I like motivating people to move in ways that feel good but also push them out of their comfort zone. I want to make sure you feel seen, inspired and supported when you take a CorePlay class.
WHEN DID YOU DEVELOP A LOVE FOR DANCE?
I loved dance as a kid, and I wanted to be a dance teacher or a school teacher like my mom. My sister started dancing first and had these big dance recitals. I was spotted in the aisles dancing at her recital, and the studio owner told my mom to put me in for next season—at only two years old.
Dance was everything to me and still is. When I hear music, it touches my soul, and I feel inspired to dance no matter where I am or who I’m with. As a shy young girl, dance brought me out of my shell. As I got older, my mother brought me to Ballet Hispanico where I trained in flamenco, ballet and Mexican folk dance. I attended Kellenberg Memorial High School, a private, independent Catholic school, where I started out as a cheerleader. I loved the acrobatics and stunts, and ended up captain of the dance team.
WHAT WAS YOUR EXPERIENCE WITH BODY IMAGE IN THE DANCE INDUSTRY?
After 2010, I didn’t make it back to the Knicks dance team. I was told that although I was one of the most talented dancers on the team, I had to watch my water weight. The dance industry can be a demanding one when it comes to booking jobs based on the way you look. I never let that bother me; I knew my love for movement and my talent would help me overcome any obstacles.
Six months after that incident, I was booked as a burlesque headliner for Ivan Kane’s Royal Jelly Burlesque Nightclub, which ironically celebrated the way my body looked. After that, I spent some time traveling in Europe—just as my grandmother had advised me to do—and when I returned home I decided to move across the country to pursue a dance career in Los Angeles.
In my first month there back in 2013, I booked a job dancing for Trinidadian singer-songwriter Machel Montano. I fell in love with the music and the community, and continued to dance for him for the next four years. After years on tour, traveling to perform at Carnivals all across the Carribean Islands, the U.S., Canada, London and Rotterdam, I was ready for some stability.
In 2016 I started my personal training journey [while still touring] at a renowned fitness studio in LA while teaching dance and performing. I returned to New York in 2018 and continued training clients in the City and the Hamptons.
HOW DID YOU COME UP WITH THE IDEA FOR COREPLAY?
In December of 2019 I had emergency surgery due to an ectopic pregnancy. That was rock bottom for me. Besides the emotional experience, it left me with an inability to do what I love. My whole life, my body had been moving, and now it needed rest. Then the pandemic happened. I needed to pick myself up and start recovering physically and mentally.
As hard as things can get, you can still choose to get up, move forward and be active in a way that feels good for your body. I started to do live themed workouts on social media—some with activewear retailer Bandier and others as virtual private sessions. The name CorePlay comes from this experience, I lost connection to my physical and emotional core and didn’t feel like myself. My goal was to help other women connect to their core, but do it in a badass, fun way, with safe, mat-based Pilates moves that aren’t too difficult but still make it feel challenging. I wanted to make women feel strong and confident in their bodies.
In the summer of 2020, I went out to the Hamptons and trained clients one-on-one and in small groups, doing beach workouts or backyard workouts. I also trained clients on New York City rooftops and at apartment gyms or dance studios. I had clients that lived in Greenwich, and I started coming out here in the fall of 2020. The ladies that started out with me gave me my self-confidence back by believing in me. I am forever grateful to them.
In September of 2022 I taught my first Full-Body Sculpt group class, and the classes began to grow so I added more days. The next thing I knew, CorePlay was the exciting new workout in Greenwich!
WHAT SETS COREPLAY APART FROM OTHER WORKOUTS?
CorePlay has grown into so much more than just a workout. It’s this community of women who show up for themselves and support one another. When someone tries out a CorePlay class, I want them to leave feeling a sense of accomplishment.
I’ve worked in my industry long enough to see toxic fitness cultures and fads. I’m against that in every way. The buzz in the room before a class starts is what gets me the most excited. To look around and see people that may not have known each other before and are now friends is a beautiful thing. I want CorePlay to always be a welcoming fun space for everyone.
WHAT CAN PEOPLE EXPECT IN A COREPLAY CLASS?
CorePlay isn’t about hitting twenty reps of a move—we move to the music. I want you to feel like you’re in a dance class—the music takes over and you go full-out. When the beat drops your leg is switching or we’re adding an arm while balancing on one leg. It really comes from my background as a pro dancer and knowing how to choreograph on the spot.
It’s more of a bootcamp style that ranges from beginner to advanced, depending on what class you sign up for. It’s a class you work hard at, and it reminds you that every movement should come from your core. If you learn how to properly engage your core and lengthen your spine, you can move like a dancer.
DO YOU HAVE A MOTTO THAT’S GUIDED YOU AS YOU’VE BUILT THIS BRAND?
I do: I don’t wish for it, I work for it.
CorePlay classes are taught six days a week at Fred Astaire Dance Studios in Greenwich.