Basic movement,” says Sal Anthony, Italian restaurateur and cofounder of Sal Anthony’s Scheffel Hall Movement Salon, “is like Neapolitan cuisine—a favorite staple around which all other dishes are built.” Anthony, 59, was struggling to learn gymnastics when he started taking one-on-one lessons with 29-year-old Daniel Giel. Because they did more than tumble—they studied basic principles of movement together—Anthony’s tumbling prowess grew fast, and his enlightenment faster.
Partners Anthony, Giel, and Momix alum Sandy Chase, 28, have opened to the public an enormous building dedicated to dance, martial arts, and movement for novices. They want to initiate adult beginners into physical experiences that fall between the “gimmicky gym and the mystical temple.” On the ground floor of the multistudio space, a statue of Flora—the Roman goddess of flowering—watches lithe, acrobatic Giel and catlike Chase guide students through a class called Play. (“Grab anything and dance with it,” says the course description. “Move your body in amazing ways.”) In Martial Movement for Beginners, Anthony shows his students their centers of power and stability. Demonstrating his interests to me later, he asks me to push him over. I do it once easily, but the second time a little arch of his lumbar spine and a powerful abdominal contraction make him impossible to move. Whatever the class, at Movement Salon the message is consistent: experience the basics and physical freedom will follow.
The building, though, is what really grabs you. Once a 19th-century German meeting house, the historic land mark boasts three floors of gorgeous studios. Wood paneling and art deco fixtures in the large ground-floor hall underscore the space’s other past in carnation as a speakeasy (most recently, 190 Third Avenue housed the jazz club Fat Tuesday’s). Anthony, who was born in the West Village and owns a string of restaurants on the East Side, bemoans the disappearance of the “social shopping environment” in which he grew up. He hopes Movement Salon’s street-front, retail location will draw ordinary people off the street and into “the moment of being.”
Can the new movement gallery survive and thrive, or will it meet the unfortunate fate of shut-down theme centers like the African-diaspora dance hub Fareta, and the Abizaid studio? Initial indicators look good. Anthony has signed a 15-year lease and Movement Salon recently became the world center for Juliu Horvath’s popular Gyrotonic System(also known as White Cloud). The Salon also offers classes in yoga, African and martial dance, salsa, massage, gymnastics for dancers, and the historical methods of Joseph Pilates. Anthony, Giel, and Chase, who bring prodigious energy to their project, are already dreaming of possible expansion into a few buildings up the block.