Opening her own Pilates studio and the only AntiGravity fitness facility in South Carolina culminates a 30-year, circuitous pursuit by Silja Burns, owner of the new Dancing Hammock Pilates and Movement center in Bluffton.

The studio will celebrate its grand opening starting at 4:30 p.m. June 20 at 162 Bluffton Road, Suite 102.

Raised on Hilton Head Island and a resident of Bluffton for the past 15 years, Burns has long been known for her fresh healthy elegance, her non-conformist ways, a detailed approach to challenges, and her nurturing spirit that makes people feel comfortable around her.

A gymnast and advanced ballerina as a teen, Burns had plans for a possible career in dance. She was among the original members of the Hilton Head Dance Theatre, which opened in 1986.

She also was the first student to perform as the Sugar Plum Fairy in the dance school’s annual production of “The Nutcracker” at what was then the Self Family Arts Center (now the Arts Center of Coastal Carolina). “The thing that inspired us to believe in Silja, and trust her with the role, was her ability to do her best and be always pleasant no matter what the pressure,” said co-founder and artistic director John Carlyle.

Burns went directly into advanced ballet training after high school, but while at the prestigious Joffrey Ballet School in New York City she realized her future was not in ballet.

Returning to South Carolina, she enrolled at Clemson University and, while earning a degree in outdoor recreation management, became a Class IV Whitewater instructor. She also spent 18 months working in western Montana as an instructor for a Juvenile Justice Wilderness Program.

“All along the way I kept learning how to approach new challenges,” said Burns. “The whitewater rapids experience was especially helpful because I was required to learn how to work within an element – the rushing waters – that I could not control on my own. I had to work within that element, and it gave me a new sense of confidence.”

Experience and confidence led Burns to Pilates, for which she trained at the famed Stott School in Toronto, then became a Stott Pilates certified instructor. She now has more than 20 years of fitness, Pilates and movement instruction experience with added certification as an ACE Certified Personal Trainer, and as a certified instructor for AntiGravity Fundamentals 1 and 2, and AntiGravity Restorative Yoga.

In addition to featuring AntiGravity fitness suspension techniques in flowing silk hammocks that can lift up to 1,000 pounds, the Dancing Hammock boutique will offer traditional Pilates and rebounding.

Burns said Dancing Hammock will offer both individual and group sessions at every level – from beginners to proficient athletes, from teenagers to seniors in their 80s.

“In our classes, students will stretch, swing, build strength and flexibility, improve their balance, invert with zero compression and have fun,” said Burns. “This kind of fitness is addictive. I would like to think we are bringing the future of fitness to the Lowcountry.”

Burns points out that the benefits of the hammock classes include muscular tension release and improved joint mobility. “Hanging vertically from the hammock allows for zero compression on the spine,” she said.

Burns empahsized that each student is taught how to handle the equipment and invert safely with each progression of the inversions, done at a pace that students feel comfortable.

Registration for classes at Dancing Hammock, as well as additional information about the studio and its fitness programs, is available at

Burns and her husband, Eric, live with their son and daughter in the Brighton Beach area of Bluffton. Her mother is Signe Gardo, owner of Signe’s Heaven Bound Bakery & Café on Hilton Head Island since 1972.

Longtime Lowcountry resident Edward Thomas is a veteran freelance writer.