How a Former Rhythmic Gymnast Created a Stretching and Strengthening Program Just for Dancers

November 8, 2020

For most dancers, rhythmic gymnasts are revered as sort-of superheroes. Think Elastigirl, from The Incredibles: Rhythmic gymnasts are the kind of flexible you usually only see in the movies. So even for us dancers, they’re #FlexibilityGoals.

But what if you could train like a rhythmic gymnast? Or, better yet, with a rhythmic gymnast? Well, that’s why Iryna Yemengulova founded Farfalla Fitness, a stretching method specially designed for dancers, created by Yemengulova herself, a former rhythmic gymnast. For all the deets on how you can achieve your #FlexibilityGoals with the help of Farfalla, read on.

The Farfalla Story

Yemengulova is originally from Eastern Europe, Ukraine to be exact. Growing up, she wasn’t one of those girls #Blessed with natural flexibility. In fact, she was the opposite. “My mother originally signed me up for rhythmic gymnastics because I wasn’t flexible,” she says. But it just so happened that she loved the class—and over time, became incredibly passionate about rhythmic gymnastics.

She trained and competed in rhythmic gymnastics competitions across Europe and around the world. But by the age of 17, Yemengulova’s rhythmic gymnastics career was over, as is typical for the sport. So, she came to the U.S.

“When I first moved to the United States, dance had nothing to do with rhythmic gymnastics. There was nothing similar,” Yemengulova says. But over time, she started to see the art form shift. “Today, dance is moving towards more elements of rhythmic gymnastics. They’re starting to look much more similar.”

Yemengulova was inspired: She saw dancers mimicking elements of rhythmic gymnastics, but she also saw that something was just missing. “They lacked the elegant posture, and their extensions just weren’t there,” she says. “That’s why I decided to create a program similar to rhythmic gymnastics stretching and strengthening, to give students the strong base that they need to look amazing onstage.”

(Olia Luis, Courtesy Farfalla)

How Farfalla Works

Now before you get ahead of yourself daydreaming of needle turns and oversplits, you need to understand one thing: Farfalla Fitness isn’t just a stretching program. It’s a stretching and strengthening program.

“The program is built on flexibility and strength. We don’t do just one or the other,” Yemengulova says. “Stretching and strengthening are like coffee and cream: They need to go together.”

This focus on both stretching and strengthening comes from Yemengulova’s rhythmic gymnastics background. When she was in training, back in Ukraine, they did two hours of total body flexibility and strength training, every single day. This experience helped her understand that flexibility is nothing—if you don’t have the strength to back it up.

Which isn’t to say that Farfalla Fitness won’t help you achieve the needle turns and oversplits of your dreams—all it takes is one glance at the Farfalla Insta to see that those goals are well within reach. But it means that you’re going to be achieving those goals safely, over time. And, you’ll be developing valuable knowledge of your own body’s anatomy and alignment in the process.

“So many dancers try to achieve elements of rhythmic gymnastics, but they don’t have the proper strength and flexibility,” Yemengulova says. “So they end up performing it incorrectly, or injuring themselves. The purpose of our program is to give dancers a better way of understanding their bodies.” Through Farfalla, Yemengulova not only helps dancers with their competition scores, but also gives them the tools to succeed throughout their entire dance careers and beyond.

(Olia Luis, Courtesy Farfalla)

Try Farfalla at Home

In the age of COVID-19, no dance program is complete without a virtual component that we can try out at home. For Farfalla Fitness, that’s where Farfalla Go comes in—a completely digital version of the stretching and strengthening program that has made Farfalla so popular.

“We have a lot of dancers from around the world, and even across the United States, who can’t come to our studio, but they want to train with us,” says Yemengulova. “That’s why we decided to create Farfalla Go, so everyone has a chance to try it at home.”

To break it down: Farfalla Go is a subscription-based program that grants you access to virtual stretching and strengthening programs created by Yemengulova herself. Every program is a combination of cardio, total body flexibility, and total body strength.

There are Farfalla Go videos that help improve your turn out, videos to help you improve your leg extensions, jumps, turns—you name it, there’s probably a video for it. Yemengulova even does weekly live lessons for all subscribers, so she can help her students with their form, and talk more about their progress.

“This program is made for dancers who want to stand out from the crowd—who want to have not just an OK leg extension, but a ‘wow’ result,” Yemengulova says. “With Farfalla Go, when you’re onstage, the judge is going to notice.”