By Ethan Forman The Salem News, Beverly, Mass.
Former New England Patriots cheerleader and budding entrepreneur Michelle Nigro of Swampscott felt firsthand the disappointment on the field when the Patriots lost Super Bowl XLVI to the New York Giants in February 2012.
She and other cheerleaders watched as the confetti was being rolled out in Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, but the squad had a gut feeling the game would not go the Patriots' way. They lost, 21-17.
"It was heart breaking," said Nigro, who cheered for the Pats from 2010 to 2015, with a year off in between.
Nigro did get to experience redemption with the Pats before she hung up her pompoms for good though.
At last year's Super Bowl in Glendale, Arizona, she and the rest of the cheering squad anxiously watched as the clock wound down on the Patriots and Seattle Seahawks, battling back and forth, flashbacks of 2012 ever present on their minds.
"When that last play happened, it was so surreal," said Nigro, referring to the goal line interception by rookie cornerback Malcolm Butler to give the Pats the victory.
A 2008 graduate of Swampscott High, Nigro has now turned her love of dance and her ability to juggle a hectic schedule into opening her own boutique fitness business called Town Barre and Fitness, which she started in October. At the same time, she works full time for a public relations firm called InkHouse in Waltham.
The grueling pace isn't foreign to Nigro -- an athlete, dancer and cheerleader in high school -- she described being a Patriots cheerleader as akin to a full-time job -- team practices twice a week, promotions to attend and practice outside of regular workouts. She cheered for the Patriots while in college, and still later while working a full-time job after graduating from Emerson College in 2012.
Now, she hopes her new workout will capitalize on the growing popularity of barre, which blends dance, pilates and yoga. Nigro said barre is also part of a craze in which boutique fitness classes are replacing standard gym workouts of weight lifting and elliptical machines.
Older clients like barre because it helps them build their balance, while younger clients like to push it, she said. And the classes have been getting crowded as Nigro has built her business through word of mouth.
"It's not an intimidating workout, and you still see results," she said.
Since the workout is a dance barre, Nigro is limited to which studios she can offer classes at. She currently offers classes at Studio 21 at 21 Elm St. in Swampscott, where she rents space, and at the Marblehead Fitness Center at 14 Bessom St. in Marblehead.
The Studio 21 connection was also a personal one. One of Nigro's mentors, Danielle Beatrice, owns the studio and was an assistant coach of the Swampscott High Dance Team when Nigro was a member of the team. Coincidentally, Beatrice was also a Patriots cheerleader from 2007 to 2009.
Nigro noted that the commitment as a Patriots cheerleader was "so much more than game days" and in fact gave her some "crazy opportunities," such as a trip to China in 2012 to attend the Nike Festival of Sports in Shanghai.
At 25, Nigro says she gets her entrepreneurial spirit from her mother, Maria Freni of Swampscott, who owns her own business, Essential Friends Spa on Tulip Street in Salem.
"I think she was both excited and happy for me, and she had her concerns," said Nigro of her mother's sentiments about her opening her own business, especially when it came to the hurdles one can face starting up.
Nigro said she's not ready to open her own studio, just yet; she's taking the barre workout classes one step at a time.