Rooted is all about the people and the places that make us proud to call our community home.
They’ve become part of something you expect to see at every charity and fun run in the city of North Bay – Zumba warmups led by The Studio.
“I discovered Zumba a couple of years prior to opening the studio. I've always loved to dance, and it was introduced to me at a local gym. And after my first class I just thought, ‘This is the best thing ever,’” says Kindra McMillan, who co-owns The Studio, on Delaware Avenue in North Bay, with Macrina Perron and Shelly Ortepi.
“I started going because I loved it, and I noticed a lot of changes, not only in my body, but I noticed changes in my confidence and my mental health as well”
That led to the trio exploring the possibility of opening their own space where Zumba was the focus.
“We were all instructing together and had a similar vision for what we thought a fitness facility or Zumba studio could look like,” she says.
“We are all mothers who had full-time jobs, who had found this thing called Zumba and it was a mutual passion. It wasn't a job. We didn't want it to feel like a job either, but we wanted somewhere to dance with a community of people where we got to create the rules and that’s where The Studio was born.”
The group found a space and started offering three classes a week so they could cover the cost of rent. “It had nothing to do with making money. It just had to do with finding somewhere for the three of us to dance because we needed it for our own health, for our mental health.”
McMillan says one of the things she’s most proud of is being able to provide that space not just for themselves but for many others who need something similar.
“Over the years we've noticed people who come for various reasons, whether it's the community piece or having a group to belong to. People have grieved the loss of family members through Zumba. They have, started out in the back row in big baggy T-shirts and eventually are in a crop top on stage and coming out of their shell and discovering their power and their beauty,” says McMillan.
“I feel like it heals you from the inside out, which is an awesome experience to have happened to you, and then to witness in other people has been pretty magical.”
McMillan says there’s also been a bit of magic, or luck, that came their way when the pandemic hit and people weren’t allowed to be in those kinds of spaces for quite some time. She says they started cancelling in-person classes, but very quickly found a way to be online.
“I think within three days we were online, we transitioned fast. I am thankfully technologically savvy and it was something that made my brain on fire, as I was able to figure out all the pieces, and it was a learning process for many reasons to get it to be the ultimate experience, especially as people were at some point going to be paying for this service,” she says.
Once the tech side was worked out, they offered classes online for free. “Let's just keep people happy and doing the thing that keeps us happy and mentally well and we'll share it with other people. We were having people from all over the world join.”
But the pandemic persisted, and McMillan says they needed a way to keep the lights on and set up a "pay-what-you-can" system. “People's generosity was wild, like nothing we'd ever imagined. Which was an emotional moment because we realized how much it meant to other people for us to do this. How much keeping moving and music and dance all these things meant to other people as well, which was overpowering.”
Eventually, they made their way back to offering in-person classes as COVID-19 restrictions were lifting. They transformed their studio space on Lansdowne Avenue to accommodate the ability to offer live stream classes, providing people with the option to attend in-person or virtually.
“Kyle Selle from Sellebration Productions, has always been a huge supporter of ours and made that whole process easy for us,” she says. We could not have done it without him. “We have one faithful member from Sudbury who joins multiple times a week and she can do that because we stream live. We also have a huge library of recorded classes where people can have an on-demand option for whenever they want.”
The Studio has been in demand for ten years now, and McMillan says, “I can't believe that we're still going. Through a pandemic, our children growing up, and all three of us have changed our full-time careers. It's been a pretty, awesome journey.”
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