When Sophie Latreille opened the Ottawa Circus School three years ago, she wanted to show that keeping fit doesn’t have to be boring.
The dancer turned circus artist saw a growing fascination with activities such as juggling, acrobatics, trapeze and aerial work — thanks in large part to contemporary circus companies such as Cirque du Soleil — and had been teaching some of those skills for a few years, working out of community centres and school gyms.
“We got to the point that opening a permanent training facility with all of the equipment was needed to really offer the in-depth circus training that wasn’t possible with just renting out spaces here and there,” said Latreille, the school’s 44-year-old president and director.
“It was the evolution of everything I had been working towards, starting from my career as a dancer into a circus performer into a trainer and teacher and then into a team leader of coaches.”
Tens of thousands of dollars went into initial renovations of a 3,000 square-foot space off St. Laurent Boulevard, but, after three years of teaching children and adults, the school was finally in a stable financial position with a schedule of 48 classes a week and a client base sufficient to cover operating expenses. Latreille oversees a team of seven coaches hired on contracts, as is standard in the fitness industry, and a part-time administrative staff member.
There were even plans to expand to a bigger space in the next two or three years.
Then the novel coronavirus pandemic hit, along with a provincial order shutting down all non-essential businesses. The Ottawa Circus School closed its doors on March 15 and pulled the plug on March Break classes. Clients received refunds or credits, but the coaches were not paid…
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