A former professional ballet dancer and luxury spa innovator with Ian Schrager Hotels, Leila Fazel is Director of Operations at AEROSPACE High Performance Center.
Born in Utah and raised in Tehran, Iran, Leila started studying ballet at the age of seven. After returning to the United States at age nine, she continued her dance studies with the Cleveland and San Francisco ballet companies. At age 15, she was personally selected by the late Robert Joffrey to study at the Joffrey Ballet in New York City.
The daughter of two college professors (her father taught psychology at Purdue, her mother taught art history at Indiana University in Ft. Wayne), Leila attended Indiana University in Bloomington, where she studied under the direction of renowned ballet masters Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux and Patricia McBride from the New York City Ballet.
After earning performance and business degrees, Leila was invited by Bonnefoux to dance at his prestigious summer program in Chataqua, New York, where he gathers the world’s most influential teachers and students for intensive studies and performance. There, Leila was discovered by Walter Reins, the late director of the ballet school at the Dance Theater of Harlem, and she joined his school in New York. Six months later, the company’s director (and Balanchine protégé) Arthur Mitchell invited her to dance professionally with the ensemble and her performances included Rubies, Serenade and Allegro Brilliant.
“I was fortunate to have the opportunity to study with some of the best dancers and teachers in the world,” Leila recalls. “They taught me about the importance of determination, discipline and going for your dreams.”
When an injury forced her to retire from ballet, Leila channeled her education, experience and artistic passion into creating new business opportunities. She developed the concept and business plan for a new breed of luxury spas that would combine the sensibilities of Eastern philosophy and modern Western design. Partnering with Ian and Rita Schrager of Ian Schrager Hotels, the team launched the trendsetting Agua spas in Miami, London and Los Angeles. Leila says the inspiration for the Agua spas came from her childhood in Iran, when she would go to ancient natural baths, called Hamams, with her mother and grandmother. “The baths were a beautiful and sacred space where you could relax, connect with family and rejuvenate the body and spirit,” Leila remembers. “I wanted to bring the wisdom and healing of the baths to the United States.”
The concept worked and the Agua spas earned international acclaim, including features in Vanity Fair, Harpers Bazaar, Vogue (US, UK and Italy), Elle (Germany) and the New York Times, among others.
In 1998, Leila happened upon one of champion boxer Michael Olajide Jr.’s AEROBOX® classes at a sports club in New York City and was captivated by the excitement and athleticism in the room. “It amazed me how similar it was to dancing,” Leila says. “It gave me everything I missed from dancing – strength, agility, balance, coordination, musicality. I fell in love with training all over again.”
Olajide quickly recognized Leila’s dedication, professionalism and talent, and the two joined forces to develop and produce the AEROBOX®, AEROJUMP® and AEROSCULPT™ video workouts.
With the opening of the AEROSPACE High Performance Center, Leila and Michael are creating a revolutionary new fitness lifestyle that combines the techniques of professional athletes with a luxury spa experience to provide one of the most efficient, effective and rewarding approaches to fitness anywhere.
“AEROSPACE offers a complete fitness solution for people to realize their best selves,” she says.