Initiated by AGAME (the Mile-End Business Association) with members on a mission to support local business, community & positive evolution of the neighbourhood we love.

Dev by Barkas. Design by Wedge. Creative Direction by Sarah Di Domenico.

Ballet Hop!

Camille is the fierce feminist force behind Mile-End’s ballet-inspired fitness space.

#bh2Salut Camille!
Please describe Ballet Hop! in your own words.

Ballet Hop! is a small company with a mission to create a village around ballet. We give people all the necessary elements to become an accomplished dancer, according to us. It starts with food. Café les Impertinentes, my sister’s café (within the same space), is what you first see. The café is a place where girls can hang out and chat before their dance class. It’s a space that allows them to build new, fun relationships and friendships. Ballet Hop! offers classes, training courses, and private lessons as well as stretch and yoga for ballet. We organize summer camps for adults and kids camps too. Our boutique sells local products that are mainly made in Québec or Montréal.

“Everything here connects to create a small village of women who above all, stick together. Ballet is a pretext.”

#bh3Are you a ballet dancer yourself?

I’ve practised ballet all my life but not professionally. That’s why I wanted to create a space with a friendly and unpretentious atmosphere. I don’t have the experience to be a great ballet dancer nor the body of a ballerina. I’m an ordinary girl who loves ballet. Believe it or not someone once told me I was too brunette to become a ballerina. In this world, one usually pursues professional ballet or abandons it. I didn’t want to make that choice. I wanted to create a middle ground where ballet is fun and for everyone. That was the starting point for this project.

#bh4It sounds like you’re breaking down outdated ballet stereotypes to make the practise more accessible.

Exactly. Usually ballet has an austere or elitist appearance that doesn’t feel like it’s for everyone. It can easily feel like a world where a person is quickly rejected. I said to myself there must be a way to make this discipline beautifully accessible to a great number of people. Not just to rich, thin, white, blonde, tiny people.

“Ballet is very homogeneous and white. Non-white people are underrepresented. Same for diversity of body type and gender.”

For beginners who just want to dance for fun, not many spaces exist. We really tried to build something inclusive. The little things too, make this space more accessible. For example, our playlists intentionally don’t solely feature classical music. We also play Québecois artists and varied genres to create a different kind of environment as well as avoid the traditional. Another thing is the dress code. There isn’t one. You don’t need the classic jersey or tutu. Wear whatever you want. All of these things make the space and classes less intimidating.

#bh1#bh7How do you make ballet fun?

Simple things like hiring passionate people who want to share their passion. That’s obvious. Again, it’s about the details that create a positive atmosphere like handwritten signage. We adopt a familiar kind of language too which makes a difference. In class, our teachers have a sense of humour and make jokes. They don’t fall into ballet stereotypes like, ‘we eat celery and take ourselves too seriously’. Instead it’s, ‘let it go and at the end of class your glass of wine is waiting’. We don’t try to educate people, we just want to have fun.

Your t-shirt says, ‘Je parle feministe’ (‘I speak feminist’). How is feminism at the forefront of Ballet Hop?

It’s intrinsic and transparent in everything we do. The boutique strictly represents female artisans. We value their work. Photography around the space are another example. The yogi or dancers represented are normal women, not super yoga mannequins we’re used to seeing. We also organize events with feminist personalities, bloggers, writers, and other inspirational women. Women who inspire me on social media are the Stratis Sisters, Aurélie Lanctôt, Léa Clermont-Dion and Judith Lussier. We hosted a workshop, ‘How to Make Feminism Live in Our Daily Lives’ and our events always benefit RQCALACS, an organization in support of women who are victims of sexual violence. Feminism is important to me as it’s one of the values that are dear to my heart.

Earlier you touched on the role of reinforcing positive body image.

Ballet Hop! is a tribute to women of all ages and forms. Women come here for the first time thinking they might be too old or too curvy for ballet. Our role is to break convention, stereotypes or prejudices. We’ll never tell anyone they need to work on a ‘beautiful butt for summer’. It’s more about the functional beauty of the body rather than scrutinizing or comparing it. Another example is our summer challenge, Défi Fières, which sparked from the observation that few of our clients are trying new things in classes. They’re sometimes intimidated or too embarrassed to try a pirouette or a jump because it is a little more difficult and they fear public failure. All of the teachers choose a personal vulnerability or a technique to work on. We create a before and after video and instructors have thirty days to improve whatever it might be. Clients see that even instructors, who are ‘supposed to be perfect’, have their weak points.

“We don’t care about looking ridiculous and give ourselves the right to be imperfect. A positive body image is a vehicle for passing the feminist message.”

#bh5We all have insecurities. Everyone has a vulnerability. I noticed that particularly in girls, it can become incapacitating for some. Some girls aren’t afraid of ridicule and say to themselves, ‘I’ll try and at the very worst, I miss and it doesn’t matter, who cares’. Some girls love to put on tight jerseys, whatever their body type, but it’s really a minority. Most clients are super conscious about their bodies. They study themselves in the mirror and analyze their slightest movement, when really we’re supposed to be here for pleasure. Little by little we deconstruct. It’s the beauty of this place. Small differences are made that are so significant in the lives of many women. Clients often tell me about the positive impacts a class has had on their self-perception. Of course there are physical benefits but the main motivation is pleasure.

There’s a lot of emotional growth alongside the physical. You must have close bonds with many of the women who dance here.

We are simple, down-to-earth people and we want this to be part of our image. Clients see what we’ve built with our hands. We had nothing at the start and gradually became better with better storage, a room for coats, and many things added slowly. Our clients have been following us since the beginning. I am proud to tell them I spent the weekend laying the floor. They support me. It feels like friendship.

#bh6Why did you choose to open Ballet Hop! in Mile-End?

My sister and I always knew the Mile-End as visitors. We opened in Mile-End because majority of the people who already take classes at Ballet Hop! live in either Plateau or Villeray. Mile-End is in between the two which makes this place accessible to everyone. When we opened we had a few surprises in discovering the community. Our neighbour, Bar St. Louis, came by to welcome us and offered help with anything we need. The girls from Vestibule also came by our opening with a small plant. Mile-End has a fun, community spirit.

If you’re taking a walk around the neighbourhood, what are your favourite places to visit?

I get my haircut next door at Le Salon. The Caribou Gourmand to eat. St. Louis is our neighbourhood bar. We also go to Maïs and I buy all the things at Piorra Maison across the street.

Camille's M-E

Story by Caroline Desmartin
Edited by Sarah Di Domenico
Photography by Wedge
Illustration by Mathieu Dionne