Before there was Spynga (spinning and yoga), Barreworks (ballet and pilates), Hip-Hop yoga or any of the multitude of hybrid fitness classes that exist in Toronto, Amber Joliat was deep in a creative process that would yield a visionary new fusion of movement practices.
Professional dancer, intuitive teacher, inspired artist, nonconformist and free spirit, Amber is an authentic misfit in the best possible sense of the word. “Dance was the first thing that I took on as a human; it was my first means of experiencing and understanding the world,” she says, adding that dance led her to discovering yoga, which in turn led her to Pilates. “I began to the integrate multiple methods of movement that I loved and started integrating music into my classes, which was not happening at that time, and I even broke through the restrictions of the mat, inviting people to move their hands and feet onto the floor.”
At the time, there was nothing like this in Toronto, and soon people began to gravitate to Amber’s original offerings to experience a class unlike anything else. Thus began the evolution of the MISFIT method, a practice Amber describes as “rooted in yoga, informed by Pilates and inspired by dance,” and then eventually the birth of MISFITSTUDIO.
MISFITSTUDIO was created in the same way as Amber's signature Fusion class: out of a process of learning, experimentation, teaching and reflecting. From a tiny Parkdale space that held six students to a coach-house that perished in what some refer to as the great Toronto flood of 2013, Amber and her students (whom she lovingly refers to as her tribe) landed in the Queen Street West church that MISFITSTUDIO now calls home.
“There’s no such thing as a coincidence – we are here in the church for a reason,” says Amber. “It was a treacherous journey to get here, and all of the challenges I met was the universe asking me 'are you really going to commit to this studio, and these teachings?' I had created a tribe and realized that the decision to open the studio here in the church had nothing to do with me anymore; it was my role and responsibility to recreate the space for my tribe.”
Now, Amber, and the dozen or so teachers who bring MISFITSTUDIO to life every day get to gaze out stained-glass windows high above a busy street. There's a beautiful paradox that exists in this space: what once was home to a Western religion is now a container for Eastern practices and philosophies. But, in the end, prayer is prayer, no matter what name or title it is uttered to. Amber's classes continue to honour the original purpose of the building, while reflecting the values and desires of a modern spiritual community. “Landing in this church changed my teaching – dance was always about freedom and expression and then I learned about privilege and gratitude," says Amber. “I honour everyone who walks in the door."
MISFITSTUDIO offers a vast array of classes: Pilates, yoga, reformer, Ballet-ish, BodyART, Essentrics and, of course, the studio's signature class, Fusion. One unique aspect of every MISFIT class is how genuine each teacher is. Students will not find any cookie-cutter classes here; instead, every class is infused with the passion, humour, insight and intellect unique to its instructor, who has complete creative control over the content, making for an utterly refreshing experience.
Amber's creative musings show no signs of stagnation. She has developed a Fusion teacher training course, which continues to evolve, leaving students always curious as to what this imaginative woman will do next. “I think all great art makes you feel something," says Amber. “I use the body to tune in and feel something, so, in that sense, I've tried to make an art form out of movement." Be ready to be taken off the mat and into an intoxicating world of movement that takes exercise out of the mundane and into a whole new realm.